I love throwing. I knew I had fallen for this game when, on a downtown YMCA basketball court during gym class in ninth grade, I realized that I could make a disc fly OI and IO. Not in an “oh man, I’ve been trying to do that forever and I finally did it!” way. I mean, like, “Whoa. This exists.”
It’s hard to pin down exactly what produces the mechanics of an ideal throw, or what those mechanics are in the first place. An understanding of what actions produce what results is a big part of making something fly the way you want it to, especially if you want to do it consistently. But on the other hand, overthinking can kill performance.
What’s fascinating to me, though — what leaves me wide-eyed and grinning and saying “whoa”— is that proper mechanics do exist. Every human body is capable of doing what it intends to do in the most efficient way possible. When you see it, it makes sense. It’s logical. It’s perfect.
Nolan Ryan. Randy Johnson. Orel Hershiser. Drew Brees. Tom Brady.
“Hall of Fame pitchers and quarterbacks” is an accurate way to describe this bunch. So is “dudes who are really, really good at throwing things.”
A lot of that is natural. The best these guys’ bodies can do happens to be among the best in the world. But people like them usually get where they are through maximizing the nurture side of the coin as well. And in that vein, there’s a common thread through all of the names above: Tom House, aka The Throwing Doctor.
Just watch House’s demeanor as he works with Brees and you’ll agree that he has an extremely advanced eye for body mechanics. It wouldn’t matter if you were looking to up your beer pong game or throw a better flick. I’d bet he could spot the way your body did it best and coach you to replicate that movement.
Himself a former pitcher (whose career, he readily admits, was “marginal to below average”), House’s calling card as a baseball coach was having pitchers throw footballs. The practice raised some eyebrows, but it made perfect sense to him: since you can’t make a football spiral if your mechanics aren’t right, so throwing one is a good way to get guys to make and repeat their ideal body movements.
Later in his career, House moved from baseball to football in large part because he got that he could apply his thinking across mediums. Thinking big picture, he wanted “to chase better information and instruction and deliver it to athletes in all sports.”
I just think it’s wild that a guy like Tom House is out there.
Aside from inducing swoons over the way Nolan Ryan talks, the video makes me think of the throwing tidbits I’ve picked up along the way and consider to be universally useful. In high school, I learned that lower throws work better when it’s windy. In college, a med student taught me that when you’re throwing downwind, tilt the nose of the disc up a bit; when throwing upwind, keep it flat. I recently ran into Stephen Poulos, which reminded me of an RSD post of his about exhaling when you throw (if someone can find it, I’ll happily throw the link in here!). People mocked him for sweating such a small detail, but he pointed out that people you’re probably familiar with, like Roger Federer and Serena Williams, get taught to do it when they’re hitting forehands and backhands. Ever heard of those movements?
I hear a lot of talk lately about how with the way ultimate is progressing, kids can dream of growing up to play professionally rather than just fantasize. What’s really great is that the possibilities go beyond just playing.
Hey, you. Kid who wants to be a super nerd who obsesses over making the best throwers even better. You can do this.