A couple Spring Reigns ago I noticed a guy with a laptop and video camera offering to analyze kids’ throws for free. I watched briefly over his shoulder and thought it was cool that he was able to quickly give some feedback to the passing players by comparing their backhand or forehand throw mechanics side-by-side on the laptop with an “ideal” thrower (typically footage of an exceptional adult player).
It turns out the guy was Kyle Weisbrod, head coach of University of Washington’s women’s ultimate team, Element, using Dartfish software. Kyle is based in Seattle and I later learned that he offers a rigorous “expert video analysis” to any player for a fee. The service is described on the DiscNW web site where you can register for analysis of your forehand, backhand, or both. Analysis of one throw costs $50, while both costs $80 (2016 prices).
I signed my 13 year-old son, Liam, up for analysis of his forehand and backhand as a birthday present last spring. He likes to handle so I hoped he’d put the feedback to good use. Plus, as a youth coach, player, and scientist I was curious to learn more about what information Kyle and his technology could provide.
It took us a while to find the time to get down to a local field with Liam’s 30-fps 1080-pixel video camera on a tripod and a stack of 10 discs, but once we got there the filming went fast. We set up the camera following Kyle’s guidelines (after a little confusion about the spatial arrangement which the following sketch should resolve). It would have been better to borrow mom’s new iPhone to get 60-fps footage, but it worked out.
To actually acquire the footage, a friend pressed the record button. Liam took the stack of 10 discs and tried to throw consistent throws aiming to maximize their distance (not accuracy). I ran around about 30 meters down-field and fetched the discs. The actual filming took less than 10 minutes. The total door-to-door time to set-up and get the footage took no more than an hour.
When we got home, we uploaded the videos to Youtube without editing the footage. Later in the fall, Kyle sent over two links to Youtube videos containing his analysis — 13 minutes on the forehand, 14.5 minutes on the backhand.
From initial registration on the DiscNW site to delivery of the videos took about 4 months, but that was due to multiple delays on our end trying to get the filming done between summer vacation activities and a few busy periods in Kyle’s schedule after we submitted the footage. Apparently a more typical turn-around time is 2-4 weeks.
Here are the resulting videos. In each analysis, Kyle chose 4 throws from the 10 we filmed. First he compares them side-by-side synchronized on the release moment. Throughout, he talks about best practices, throwing mechanics, and provides both observations and recommendations for improvement.
Second, he analyzes a single most-characteristic throw more deeply, overlaying it with an elite thrower’s mechanics. In Liam’s case, Eddie Feeley, a handler for the Rainmakers in 2016 is overlayed for the forehand; George Stubbs of Revolver fame is overlayed for the backhand.
Observations and tips:
- Remarkably consistent form! If you can improve it, your throws will likely be consistently better.
- As throw begins with planting foot, flatten disc more (and earlier) and drive off-side elbow back (with arm bent and turning shoulders more) a little later
- During release, raise wrist (or lower elbow) OR tilt axis of core more to achieve closer to a 90-degree angle between forearm and core axis (it’s about 100-degrees in the video)
- Think about getting chest to face more forward and less up through throw, especially at release moment.
Observations and tips:
- Good consistency across 4 throws. You maintain both hands on disc during wind-up which is considered best practice.
- Try to maintain downfield view throughout throw as much as possible.
- Aim for a straight, smooth swing of your throwing hand, ideally in a plane that is aligned with your forearm line at the release moment
- Keep your core strong throughout throw, trying not to bend over so much at the release moment.
- Let your trailing arm continue around, as you do with your throwing arm, to get even more power into the throw.
A few months later, Liam reports that he enjoyed the process and feels like he’s been able to incorporate Kyle’s feedback during the subsequent season. I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference when watching him play, but I look forward to having his throws re-analyzed in a year or two — just to see if the same issues are present or have been trained away.
Next spring I’ll ask Kyle to analyze my daughter’s throws. I hope if we do the filming mid-January that she’ll get some feedback during the spring season and have lots of opportunities to consider and incorporate it.
And I’m thinking that I, too, would benefit from some feedback about my throws, especially my forehand that seems fine when throwing with my kids, but often bombs when I’m playing under pressure. And then there’s the question why it seems so tough for my old body to significantly increase the max distance I can throw… The soreness I feel after a session of throws suggests I could definitely build stronger throwing muscles, but how important are mechanics vs strength?
Thankfully, Kyle is ready and willing to share his insights and detailed observations to help us all improve.