Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Random Spew on Catching

So Brodie just posted a video about catching.  It got me thinking about writing a post on catching, but without a way to structure a bunch of random thoughts, I just have a mess of ramblings on catching, both obvious and non-obvious.
  • Catch the disc however you feel most comfortable.  That said, get comfortable catching the disc in a lot of different ways.
  • Actively open your hands and spread your fingers.  I notice as I fatigue, I sometimes don’t open my hands up as wide and am more prone to not take the disc in cleanly.
  • Watch the disc all the way into your hands.  It enhances hand-eye coordination to see your hands.  I have a tendency on low passes to reach down without looking down, and the disc is actually out of my field of vision at the point of the catch.
Soft Hands and Claw Catching
  • In football, people talk about receivers with soft hand – treating the ball like an egg.  Not as much of an emphasis on this in frisbee, but I remember when I first started using the claw catch (took me a while to get it), watching Billy Rodriguez play and being amazed that I couldn’t hear the disc hitting his hands.
  • On the other side of the spectrum, I see a lot of players stab at the disc when they’re claw catching on an incut.  There’s something to be said about being aggressive – attacking the disc and all, but I would prescribe trying to be smoother in bringing your arms up.  Less of a punching motion will decrease the net velocity at which your hands meet the disc, and that will lead to fewer drops.  That fraction of a second your hands are up in front of you also will enhance hand-eye coordination.  On top of that, having your arms up half a second early better shields the disc from the defender, whose arm is gonna be punching into that space at the same time.
  • To elaborate on that last point, one advantage of claw catching is your arm and hand is more likely to be in the path of a laying out defender.  If you’re clap catching, the side of the disc is exposed.  If you’re claw catching, the defender has to get an inch further out in front of you or get their hand in between yours to get the disc cleanly.  So claw catching makes it more likely the defender will have to go through you to get their hands on the disc.  Think about how many times you’ve made bids and been an inch away or got your hand on the disc but the receiver still caught it.  These fractions of an inch matter.
  • Oh, and claw catching will  make you more likely to square your shoulders to the disc and force you to take a direct line to the disc (which for most, though not all, scenarios is desirable).
Clap Catching
  • As for clap catching, i feel more comfortable with my dominant hand on the bottom, which seems less common.  Again, I think you should do what feels right.  Regardless of which hand you have on top, I am a proponent of clap catching the rim, rather than the middle of the disc.  You always hear people saying to attack the disc and catch out in front of you.  Well, if you’re gonna do that, you shouldn’t wait to catch the middle of the disc.  Catch the rim.  This will also speed up your transfer to throwing.  For me, since I catch with my throwing hand on the bottom, the disc is already properly oriented in my hand when I catch (assuming a right side up throw).  But even if my throwing hand is on top, my off hand is on the rim and can facilitate a more secure grip transfer than if it's flat against the bottom.
  • To return to the idea of losing sight of the disc, another time the disc passes out of my field of vision is on clap catches to my side.  If you reach to your left at belly height with your right hand on top, your right forearm is actually blocking your vision of the disc.  So I prescribe catching left hand on top when clap catching to your left and vice versa.
  • A counter argument to that point I heard recently was from Leon Chou, who was taught by Ricky Chung to lace your thumbs on those side clap catches so the disc doesn’t slide through, which requires right hand on top for left sided catches.
One Hand Catching
  • There was a tip on Zip’s tips about catching hammers up high by having your thumb over the top of the rim with the rest of your fingers rather than underneath.  I’ve not had success with this, though i'm not great at catching hammers up high.  I'm curious how many players catch this way.
  • When I first started playing someone explained to me the idea of catching the leading edge of the disc v catching the trailing edge of the disc.  Somewhere along the line, I even read an explanation of the physics behind this (written by Mooney?).  Do people still teach this concept?  If you’re gonna catch one handed, you can catch it normally on the leading edge, but if you try catch it on the trailing edge the same way, the disc will spin away from your hand and be harder to catch.  You either have to speed up you arm speed to neutralize the speed of the disc or, as the ever eloquent Jay Brown once told me, “just grip it tight like you’re jerking off.”
  • A mistake I see all the time that shows a lack of understanding of the physics here:  someone’s making an angled incut on the open side against a force flick.  The thrower throws an outside in righty flick a bit outside the receiver who reaches out with his left hand and grabs the far side (leading edge) of the disc.  Simple enough.  Where I see this principle applied wrong is when the cutter is making this cut but the force is backhand, so the throw coming out is an inside out backhand.  The receiver still reaches wide with his left hand, but now the wide side of the disc is the trailing edge.  The disc spins out of their hand into their body; if they’re lucky, they just bobble it and recover.  In that situation, the safer and easier spot to catch the disc is the near side.


  1. 1. My favorite "catch thought" is "see the sound your hand makes when it hits the disc".

    2. I like to practice both loud and quiet catches. Not only is it fun to toss with someone while trying to make lobster catches as loud as possible, but sometimes you're really reacting like that to get in front ofa defender or to get a pas before it sails away.

    The interesting thigh about this is that if you think about what a disc does when it impacts with something (bends), by increasing the veocity of the impact, you would, in fact, increase the amount of time the disc wa in contact with your hand at initial impact. This should provide you with enough time to swipe your monkey arms forward in order to get the disc to throwing positions.

    3. I like to catch to set up my first throw. If I'm just completely relaxing, I chose right hand on top. I assume this is because I'm right handed and when I'm pancacking (meaning I have enough room/time o make the catch near my body) I keep my bottom hand still and close with my top hand. I would hten want my dominant hand on top, controlling the situation 'n' shit.

    4. Definitely caught people's hands as their hands caught the disc. Pretty sure those would be d's with a pancake.

    5. Soft Vision.

  2. I'm not sure i buy your contention that increasing the velocity of the impact increases the amount of time the disc is in contact with your hand. As both of us have worthless liberal arts degrees, we're both underqualified to discuss the dynamics of plastic impact. That said, given the elastic nature of plastic, i'd venture to guess that the faster the impact, the faster the rebound (think a bouncy ball). Does the nature of a disc's elasticity change with an increase in temperature? Sure. But take away the reaction time element, and a faster throw is still harder to catch than a slower one. Increased hand speed still equates to a "faster throw."

    All this talk makes me want to play some guts.

  3. BTW, what's 5. Soft Vision?

    I have been wondering for a while about the advice to "make (sure) you have eye contact with your receiver." I recently did a random poll of some club players and it seems people actually do this.

    I never have eye contact. I generally have "soft focus" in that area. That's probably a topic for a future post after some more polling.

  4. Well, the disc bends when you throw it and when you catch with any significant impact. Pics have shown this clearly. Compared to a football, basketball or baseball, the amount of time it would be "Impacting" your hand would definitely be greater.

    I agree that in general, less total velocity adds to less overall energy in the equation. What I'm more interested in is ho the energy is dispersed during impact.

    Soft Vision I meant in both the way you describe (w/r/t throwing) and in terms of catching. Just keep the disc in your soft vision and catch it. This works best for dishies and other easy catches. The disc, in that case doesn't need to focus, it is a routine act. The less you think and the more you just do, the better.

  5. I can't find the paper where I read this (could be on my other hard drive), but one of the important things about catching a disc has to do with angular momentum. Imagine you're cutting in and the handler throws you a righty flick. We can say that this disc is spinning left to right. The point on the disc that's closest to you is 0 degrees and the angle increases as you go against the spin (to the left). In this case, the ideal places to catch the disc are at 45 degrees (halfway between the front-most point and the left-most point) or 225 degrees (trailing-edge catch, directly opposite the 45 degree spot, only works if you accelerate your hand toward the disc from behind). The worst places to catch are at 135 degrees and 315 degrees (front-right or back-left). The reason for this is that when you catch at 45 degrees, the angular momentum of the disc pushes it directly into your hand. It sometimes feels like the disc just sticks there. When you catch at 315 degrees, the angular momentum twists the disc out of your hand, making the catch way harder. I'm sure you know that feeling too - you have your hand on it but it rips itself loose. Catching a righty backhand (spinning right-to-left) is the exact opposite. Front-right and back-left are the sweet spots, front-left and back-right are tougher catches.

    This analysis is one of the best arguments I've heard for (almost) always catching claw-style with both of your hands at the same time. Regardless of the spin, one of your hands will always be in the ideal spot to catch the disc. When the disc isn't moving very fast (a floaty pull, a gentle swing out to space) it doesn't really matter and clap-catching may even be preferable to set up the next throw faster. But on a hard in-cut when you don't have time to think about the best way to catch, reflexively catching with two hands gives you the best chance of grabbing the sweet spot. Combine that with what you said about getting layout Ded, and I'd argue that this should be the dominant catching strategy for most throws. Then again, I'm a cutter so I'm biased towards catching hard in-cuts.

  6. If you were a good cutter, you'd be biased in favor of catching easy in-cuts.

    Any thoughts on the ease of catching a flat or angled throw? What of the one-hand-up/one-hand-down two-handed claw catch? Which I find great for discs to my lower L or lower R.

    The thing I don't understand is folks saying things like "more drops occur with a claw catch". Catching with a 2-hand claw gives two hands a chance to make one of three types of catches: L, R, Both. How is this not better than one type of catch for two hands?

    I know I'm simplifying this to the point of near-absurdity, but... I like having more chances to catch the disc as opposed to fewer.

    Thought on claw-catch: Do you think people with little tiny carny hands have a harder time claw catching? I've always thought that my ability to palm a basketball helps me catch. Similar question but w/r/t little-boy-weak hands?

    Tangential Response to MikeG on RSD: Most of the drops I notice are players who go to pancake and easy catch and just forget to do the "Catch" part, as the disc bounces off of their bottom hand and gets struck by their other hand leading to a disc fluttering quickly from ~hip-height to the ground as the receiver looks like he just took a dump on the field. Which he did.

    (Aside: I think claw-catch drops give a better/longer opportunity for a second-effort grab) The other is reaching for a pass above the navel with your thumb up. This is one of the dumbest and least effective ways to catch a disc that I've seen. I understand what Zip's point is, and there is truth to it in certain scenarios (Think of a Righty hammer which doesn't flatten out coming down toward your right shoulder-- you would choose to catch this thumb-up, but the other way can work too.) but this is dangerous advice to overuse.

    Last thing about catching: JTF said it best: "There is no right or wrong hand, and there is no spin. Just put a palm on the rim and close your hand." This is similar to the old football saying that if the ball touches your hand, you should catch it. I agree on general principle rather than studied observation.

  7. Dusty, thanks for keeping with the title of the post and being completely random with your thoughts. I'll do the same.

    I'm a big fan of the one hand up/one hand down claw catch. Though there's not much rhyme or reason as to when it comes out. My pancake catch is essentially this motion with my hands over each other. That is, when i clap catch, at least one thumb is closing on the rim of the disc.

    I am vaguely aware of the thread on RSD now about catching and someone said more drops happen with 2 hands than 1. I don't buy that. Most frisbee players are idiots.

    I have to say, i'm a bit surprised you're on the side of 2 hand catching considering you are a big proponent of not only 1 hand catching, but 1 handed off-hand catching.

    Small hands. I imagine having small hands equals a smaller finger "wingspan," and thus a smaller window in which to catch the disc. But many defenders will be scared of carnies or at least put off by the cabbage smell, affording them time to slow down and clap catch.

    As for hand strength, i'm sure it comes into play, though reflex is probably as big or bigger an indicator of good catching.

    Hand strength is important for throwing, which i think affects younger players and also accounts partially for why men can generally throw further than women.

    On the point of women throwing, I have also hypothesized that women's breasts makes it hard (or impossible?) for women to pull their long backhands in a straight line across their chest (a la the way Mike G teaches the PVC pipe concept/lawn mower style of backhand). Do flat chested women make better backhand huckers?

    RE: Reaching for passes above the navel with thumbs up. Funny enough, Grin's a fan of this one (and DBaer i think?). Is thumb down claw catching below the solar plexus equally dumb? I do that all the time.

    JTF... technique was not his strong suit.

  8. Well, the thing with the one-handed catch is that not only is it entirely natural, but it is easy. My few drops do not tend to be one-handed. They tend to be ankle-height two-handed drops or pancaking the disc consciously rather than claww-catching unconsciously.

    The other thing is that I (and you) can reach one arm out longer than two arms.

    The last bit on the off-hand catch relates to the thumb-up catch. What, exactly, does one do next after catching like that? Thenatural motion of your ams catching that way is to go up. This is not moving the disc into a throwing position. If you catch thumbs down, you naturally bring the disc back toward the center of your body. Similarly, if you catch the disc with your off-hand, the transition to throwing is faster than if you catch it with your throwing hand. There is no readjustment of grip, but rather just grabbing the disc with your throwing hand from your catching hand.

    I really do not understand how anyone would feel comfortable catching with their throwing hand. I think baseball has something to do with this, but I'm not sure. I am sure that I hate catching right-handed, and as such, practice it constantly.

    Grin looks like an idiot when he catches thumbs up at chest height. This is because he shrugs his arms up intheir shoulder sockets to adjust for any height changes because there is no other way to do it. This is a truly limited catching style.

    I don't think thumb-down below the plexus is equally dumb (the physics/mechanics work out better) but it is definitely still on the dumb side of the spectrum.

    JTF was too busy catching to worry about technique. Like Danny was too busy jumping to learn how to read.

  9. Feeling more comfortable catching with your off hand is almost certainly a bi-product of a baseball upbringing. The other possibility is that you're just an idiot. Most people are considerably more dexterous in all things with their dominant hand. Those who have played sports that required them to be amphibious are more likely to be more comfortable doing things with their offhand.

  10. The offhand catch leads most effectively into a glorius one-step backhand or flick bomb:

    Extend pivot foot in concert w/ offarm (wideopenhand)->
    catch (flexwristdown)->
    rip arm ((nailsfirst) down to "ready" position" ->
    step (forward/sideways/backward) to flick/backhand w/ offoot depending on what you have/where your mark is ->
    throw deep w/ momentum.

    Soft Vision.

    Good. Glad we covered that.