Baseball may be America’s pastime, but if there’s a quintessential American sport, it’s Frisbee. Born out of Southern California beach culture, the Frisbee is as integral to the idealized summer vacation experience as the convertible, drive-thrus and bikinis. The story of the Frisbee (also known as a flying disc, since the word “Frisbee” is a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company) is one of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship, while the modern incarnation of the flying disc includes everything from the ultra-competitive and highly aerobic Ultimate Frisbee to the slow and precise Frisbee Golf. While disc sports mean many things to many people, one thing is universal: At some point this season, a Frisbee will be tossed in your direction. You better know how to toss it back.
Few people can pick up a flying disc for the first time and throw it far, straight and accurately. That’s because tossing a disc is unlike throwing any other type of ball or object. “The weird thing about the Frisbee is that right-handed throwers step with the right foot, which is completely opposite of every other throw,” says Kerry Karter, a physical education instructor at Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif., and head coach of their Ultimate Frisbee Club.
Here, Karter lays out some tips to make a counterintuitive motion feel more natural.
It’s all in the wrist: Unlike throwing a baseball or football, there is very little arm involvement when you throw a disc. Instead, the flight of a Frisbee depends more on how fast you spin it rather than how hard you throw it. “You don’t use your arm to throw a Frisbee,” Karter explains. “The arm is just a delivery system. Most people want to snap their wrist down like the way they throw a ball, but with a Frisbee, you want to keep it parallel with the ground. If you roll your wrist over, it’ll be like an airplane wing turning on its side and crashing. The idea is to keep it level and create that lift and spin by snapping your wrist. The more it spins, the farther it will fly. If the spin is greater than the speed of gravity, it’ll fly forever.”
Step with it:When most people pick up a Frisbee, they push their hips back, lean forward and try to push the disc forward. But when you transfer power from one object to another, you have to get the hips involved. As you prepare to throw, step forward with the same foot as your throwing arm. Keep your front foot pointed in the direction you are throwing in and step it across your body to the opposite side. Just as you snap your wrist quickly, open your hips to help transfer more power to the disc. Keep your elbow close you to your side the whole time.
Try a forehand: The backhand throw instinctively feels better than a forehand, but that doesn’t mean the forehand is more difficult to master, Karter says. He feels that the forehand throw — a staple in Ultimate Frisbee — is just as easy; it’s simply underused.
For a forehand, make a peace sign and put it under the Frisbee, touching the inside of the rim. Keep your thumb on top. The other two fingers are outside the rim stabilizing the disc. If you are throwing with your right hand, step to the right side and bring the throwing hand behind your body. Snap your wrist, keeping the Frisbee parallel to the ground. Release the disc before the hand travels in front of your body.
Lastly, Karter advises keeping a strong grip on your Frisbee. “Hand grip has a lot to do with how far you can throw,” he says. “A 98-mile-per-hour fastball is not coming with a loose grip.”