This post mainly deals with the fundamentals of catching, the things you need to insure you never drop another easy dump or swing. I plan on going into more complex catching, such as laying, skying and catching under pressure in a later post.
Catching is the single most important skill in Ultimate, no argument, there has and never will be a more important aspect of the game. However for some bizarre reason, it is also one of the least practised and most overlooked despite being possibly the simplest.
To even stand a chance of beating the worst Ultimate teams, every single member of your team must be able to catch both efficiently and consistently. Therefore, for you to beat the best teams that consistency needs to be >95%, and yes, I’m being deadly serious.
So, what is the best way to catch?
The answer is simple, it’s the clap catch, the pancake catch, the crocodile catch, whatever you call it, this is the technique that has been drilled into you since you were a wide eyed fresher. Do you really think we would have wasted all that time if this wasn’t the answer?! Now, I know there are scenarios where the clap catch is not the optimal catch or even possible, but if the disc is anywhere in the 2m x 2m box centred at your navel, then statistically the clap catch decreases the likelihood of a drop. Simply put, the clap catch is always BEST.
But I always try to clap catch, but still drop it, what can I do to improve?
The simple answer is just to practise, over and over, the problem is likely in your technique so it will be beneficial if I went into a bit more detail.
Keep your eyes on the disc. As someone who prides themselves on their catching, I find the greatest cause of my drops come from taking my eyes off of the disc and I have noticed I am no the only one who falls into this category. How can you expect to catch anything if you are guessing where it is at the moment you try to catch it?! This is the first thing taught in every sport which involves hand-eye co-ordination and is universally considered the most important skill when it comes to catching.
Get your body in line. Obviously, this applies to side to side movement, it’s a lot easier to catch a disc under your nose than at full arms length, but this tip also applies to up and down movement. One of the most “popular” ways to drop the disc is to lazily bend down and try to catch it one handed, sure it looks great, if you pull it off, but if you don’t, you’ll have let your whole team down. Why not put the effort in and slide, this gets the disc at chest level under your nose increasing the chances of a catch massively. By the same principle, don’t be afraid to jump to catch high discs at chest height, not every catch has to look great, catching ugly is often the best way. Basically, anything you can do to minimize the need to reach out with just your arms, is going to help your consistency.
Take you time. There’s no point trying to throw the perfect disc 0.5 secs after catching it, if you just end up dropping it in the first place. Take your time, make sure you’ve secured the disc before attempting the flick grip, take a breath, wait a second, you have plenty of stall count left and someone else will probably get free.
What’s the best way to practise, without just throwing it with a friend?
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn, catching live discs in match situations will always be the the best way to improve consistency. But there are also very few opportunities to experience this, so here is my list of things you can do in your own time to help you improve.
Carry a disc around with you. Get used to the feeling of it in your hands, hold it in different grips and positions so your hands will start to feel comfortable, try throwing it when walking, it adds a bit of pressure if you do drop it.
Throw a disc to yourself. No, not MTA, just simply throw one up and down. It doesn’t even have to be full sized, any flat object will help improve timing, I’m throwing a coaster while writing this.
It doesn’t have to be a disc. Bounce a ball off of a wall, it might be a slightly different technique and annoy your house mates, but you quickly get used to the feel of catching, plus Frisbees don’t bounce very well. Bonus tip: Learn to juggle, get better at catching and gain a “super cool” party trick.
Strengthen your grip. You can use anything that provides resistance, I find squash balls and tennis balls work extremely well.
Practise reaction grabs. Start with your eyes closed or your back turned and get your partner to let you know when the disc is coming.
Play Guts. Firstly, I’ve always wanted to play, secondly, obviously a game where you have to catch one handed will improve catching and thirdly, who know, you might make GB.
No one is perfect and everyone has the occasional mental lapse, but drops do not just happen, if you concentrate on each catch and are not afraid to catch ugly then there is no need to drop anything.
“Just a bad day at the office”
As mentioned above, drops do happen and so do slumps, catching is such a vital skill that it is imperative that you get yourself out of that slump as quickly as possible. The last thing you or your team needs is you second guessing yourself every time the disc comes your way. Don’t make excuses, don’t try and over-think it and don’t just trust you’ll get over it, pick up a disc and don’t go back on the pitch until you’ve caught 20 consecutive passes, with flawless technique.
“My hands are cold/wet”
This one can be difficult, particularly during long points at the end of a cold or wet day, and naturally when it’s raining the likelihood of drops increase. But you should be making sure your hands are warm and dry on the sideline, if it is raining or cold gloves and a towel should be staples in your kit bag.
“Don’t worry, I’ll/You’ll catch it when it matters”
I hate this phrase and I’m going to finish with a bit of a rant about it, because you hear this one a lot in drills and at practise. I mentioned earlier that we should be aiming for a >95% completion rate in games. Now consider training, a non-pressure environment, that number should be 98-99%, dropping in drill is inexcusable and telling someone it’s OK is doubly so. For some reason an atmosphere of mediocrity and complacency has leaked into trainings and it stretches further than just catching. The mentality that catching in drills and practise doesn’t matter needs to stop immediately. It is an incredibly dangerous and cancerous mindset to have, if you drop a disc you should have caught, you should feel like you’ve let yourself, the thrower and your whole team down, even the team on D will feel cheated. When it comes to catching every single catch, whether your playing a match, at training or just in your room, should require 100% of your effort, otherwise 95% will forever be a fantasy. Rant over.