Teaching Beginners How To Throw Forehand.

(Taken from the rec.sport.disc newsgroup. Full credits at end)


This article is intended for experienced players teaching beginners how to throw their first forehand (sidearm) throws. The most important thing is that the learning experience be fun. If progress is slow some bad habits can be tolerated if they lead to immediate results (eg. throwing from too close to the body).

People are different and learn differently. Tips one player sees as the golden ray of enlightenment will be completely worthless to to another. Sometimes there's a tendency to give constant instruction and adjustment. This works for some people, but it frustrates others. Take your cue from the person you are teaching.

Additionally, heap on tons of praise - especially every time they throw it flat or with lots of spin - regardless of where the disc goes. Once they get that, the accuracy will eventually come. But they don't know that, yet; they're looking at where the throw is going. So lots of positive reinforcement for "mere" spin and throws that don't turn over. An important milestone is when the beginner can throw skip curves (ie. curve to the right for a right handed thrower).


Show them what your grip looks like, with the disc and without. The middle finger is straight and flat against the inside rim. The outside rim of the disc makes contact with the web between thumb and index finger. The grip should be firm and probably uncomfortable for a beginner's unmolded hands. The top of the disc may bend slightly under pressure of the thumb.

Fig 1. The Forearm Grip (See ``SKILL AND DRILLS'', The Ultimate Handbook for New Players, by UPA)

For advanced throwers, the index finger may be together with the middle finger so that the middle finger can extend straight out in line with the palm of the hand, getting more wind-up and therefore, more spin. Beginners may need to keep the index and middle fingers separated to gain more control of the disc. The pad of the middle finger must still be against the rim of the disc.


Assume a stance with the balls of the feet a shoulder width apart. Initially it appears easier to learn to throw side on and/or with the elbow close to the hip. This may be a crutch later when you have to look up-field and extend around a marker.

The thrower must have the disc cocked, ready to impart spin before throwing. It can either start wound as far back as it can go or the thrower can cock the disc by a small whip of the fingers immediately before the throw.


The main trick is to keep the outer tip of the disc down. For the more advanced beginner the following points may help. The motion of the disc while in the hand should not be so much as an arc-like swing, but a whiplash. With increasing speed, motion towards the target starts from the shoulder, to the elbow then wrist and finally the fingers. Stepping forward with the non-pivot foot may help. The pivot should be on the opposite side as the throwing hand.

With arc-like swings, the time of release heavily influences the direction of the throw. By using the arm in a whiplash motion rather than a swing, it should be possible to move the centre of the disc to the target in more of a straight line, rather than an arc, so the direction in the horizontal plane is easier to master.


Until now, there has been little spin in the disc. The whiplash effect of the swing should culminate in a ``snap'' imparting maximum spin to the disc. The flight plate of the disc should be spinning within one plane. [Ie. if the spin axis is not perpendicular to the flight plate, the disc will wobble.] Unless an air-bounce is intended, the direction the disc is launched should lie within this plane.

The time of release is when it all must come to together. The last motions imparted to the disc are the ones it takes with it to combat the wind and gravity. Yet this instant happens so quickly and beginners have so many things to concentrate on, that it's hard to tell what went on.


Any action by the thrower after letting go of the disc cannot influence the flight of the disc. Nevertheless, some specific follow-through tips are suggested in the next section as an aid to correct specific problems in a throw.


The single most common fault is that the disc will turn over hitting the ground by your feet and roll off past you, where upon you must run after it cheerily shouting back ``No worries, I need the exercise''.

This fault is caused by one or more of the following:

  1. The angle of release is wrong.
  2. Not enough spin, esp. with unstable discs or into the wind (change places).
  3. The disc wobbles too much.
  4. Turning the wrist over during the release.
  5. Using a circular swing rather than ``straight'' at the target.
  6. Not enough distance.
  7. Not enough accuracy.
  8. Can't remember all of the tips at once.


      Usually the edge furthest away from the thrower is too high. If a beginner thinks he's releasing it level it generally has the outer tip up. Try:

      1. Lifting a leg and throwing under it. As well as forcing the release to be lower this also tends to keep edge furthest away from the thrower lower. It can also help get more flick into the throw. This not only works 75% of the time but also gets beginners psyched as hell; not only did they learn a new throw, but, in their mind, they learned a "trick" throw as well.

      2. Stand closer and downwind so that they don't have to throw it harder.



      1. Using a motion similar to flicking a towel.

      2. Start with the disc cocked (or ``wound up'') as back as it can go. Check the grip. Maybe the fingers are not extended, but at right angles to the palm, so the disc is not cocked just before throwing.

      3. Using more wrist rather than arm (stand closer too?)

      4. Focus on the ``catapult'' feeling that one gets in the middle finger.

      5. Pulling the disc forward with the fingers on the inside rim.

      1. Keep the disc flat during the swing. Discourage wind-ups where the disc is not in the horizontal plane.

      2. Pull the disc rather than push it onto its flight path. Pulling the disc keeps the flight plate of the disc trailing behind the axis of the motion.

        Note that more spin may lessen the visible wobble, but by itself does not fix the source of the fault. Wobbling makes a disc turn over. This is probably due to the increased air resistance pushing the centre of lift on the disc forward? Due to precession, a centre of lift forward of the centre of the gravity with turn a disc over to the roll curve side. However, those words have never helped anyone. Scientific principles are not easily transformed into the quick, precise and yet fluid motion required.

      1. Encourage a palm facing up follow through. (Not a recommended technique for advanced throwers because it puts too much sideways force on the finger joints)

      1. Lead the throw with the elbow.

      2. Follow through by pointing throwing hand at the target.

      1. Don't worry about it with beginners. Just more practice is required to get those those finger muscles strengthen and the flick automatic.

      2. Most beginners try to throw the disc rather than flick it. Thus, if they concentrate on proper release angle (arm and disk) and imparting spin on the disc, a flick of the wrist, they tend to get the basics down quickly. When teaching someone, stand close to them (3 to 5 metres, 10 to 15 feet) to reduce their tendency to "throw" the disc rather than flick it. Once the basics are there, the distance will follow.

      1. Check that the grip is not finger tips only and the swing is not circular, but in line to the target.

      1. Return the basics. To remind yourself what it was like to learn, try throwing opposite handed for a while.

      The most effective way of instructing often comes down to experienced players working exclusively on throwing one-on-one before or after practice with a new player. We are still a young sport and good coaching techniques are yet to be discovered. Just let them work it out and have you as a role model.


      Compiled by Maurice Cinquini with input from:

      See also ``SKILL AND DRILLS'', The Ultimate Handbook for New Players, by UPA.


      Dave Lewis
      Swarthmore College Swarming Earthworms
      [email protected]