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Handling: Doing The Little Things

by Jon Remucal

There's a lot more to being a great handler than meets the eye. Being one of the better throwers on your team is important. But there have been plenty of teams on which the best thrower is not a handler, especially when it comes to hucking. This isn't say that being a great thrower doesn't help a handler be great. Rather, there are a lot of factors and skills that make some handlers particularly effective. 

Getting the disc
Any good handler can deliver a disc after receiving the first pass after a pull. But the best handlers are able to get open during the normal flow of a point a high percentage of the time. Of particular importance is being able to get open for a relatively easy dump throw. A number of factors contribute to a handler being able to get open, though a few a especially important: 

Know your position. Great handlers are able to more effectively get open by actively positioning themselves in relation to the both the disc and their defender in a way that makes it easier for them to cut or receive the disc. One player that I learned the value of positioning from when I first arrived on the club scene was Dan Rydel (Surly, Sub Zero). Dan is not your typical fast-twitch kind of handler, but he is able to get the disc often and easily because he positions himself so that the person with the disc can see him and his defender is forced to choose to take away perhaps one cutting option, leaving others options open. 

Cut to get open. We've all heard someone on the sideline yell "Stop dancing!" before. Getting the disc as a handler is much easier if you sell your cut. In other words, cut like you mean it. Driving 4-5 steps (as opposed to 1-2) in one direction puts your defender on her heels and, ideally, forces her to turn her hips because she believes you're actually going to keep going. As soon as this happens, you'll be much more likely to be open when you cut in the other direction. Someone who does this better than anyone I've played with or against before is Kevin Cissna (Jam). His reliability as a dump was due in part to his ability to drive his defender in one direction before switching directions and being open by a couple of yards. 

Go deep! One of the best ways to put your defender on her heels is to go deep to be on the receiving end of a huck from time to time. Doing so forces your defender to respect the deep cut option, which will help to free you up around the disc more. Think Kobe Bryant driving to the basket the first couple of times down the floor in order to put his defender on his heels and set up an easy pull-up jumper the next time down. There are a lot of handlers that are willing to go deep, but among the more effective that I've seen are Jeff Cruckshank (Furious George) and Fortunat Mueller (DOG/Boston). 

Getting rid of the disc
Once you've got the disc, being a great thrower only gets you so far. The best handlers do more than hit deep cuts in stride or slice through a zone defense. I've been fortunate to play with Damien Scott (Jam) for a few years, and the things I mention below (as well as those mentioned above) are all things that Damien does superbly. 

Break the mark. The best handlers in the game can break the mark effectively, and do so often. Breaking the mark opens up the field and forces both the mark and downfield defenders to play more honest defense. It also leads to my second point here... 

Set up your teammates for success. Putting a huck out in front of a teammate so she can catch the disc in stride for a goal is an obvious way to set up a teammate. But often, really great handlers aren't necessarily the ones throwing the goal. They make the throw that sets up their teammate to throw the goal. Breaking the mark is one really effective way to set up your teammate. Once she gets the disc on the break side, she will have a second or two with a great look down the field for an easy throw to the break side while her defender is trying catch up and put the mark on. 

Do the little things right. I'm stealing a favorite of Team USA coach Greg Connelly here. But it's absolutely true. There's no doubt that great handlers have physical skills that allow them to make great throws. But often the thing that separates the best from the rest is the fact that the best often do the little things right. Among the many little things, here are a few: 

1. Don't forget to fake with the disc, especially when you first receive the disc. This immediately puts the mark on her heels. 

2. Take the easy throw to keep the disc moving. Some handlers with great throws hold on to the disc, looking off easy under throws in hopes that a great look deep will open up. This often hurts an offense more than it helps. 

3. Face your dump and look to your dump early. Facing your dump allows you to establish eye contact with her, lets you see how she means to get open, and puts you in balance and ready to throw from either side of your body. The less time you give yourself to get off a dump throw, the greater chances the exchange will result in a turnover. 

huddle Issue 21 Team USA On Specialities

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Well-Rounded Deep Threats
by Gwen Ambler

What Else Makes A Good Handler?
by Cara Crouch

Handling: Vision
by Deb Cussen

Defensive Handlers I Admire
by Kathy Dobson

Schwa's D-Handler
by Chelsea Putnam

Handling: Doing The Little Things
by Jon Remucal

D-Line Handlers
by Adam Simon

Deep Cutting
by Dylan Tunnell

Cutting Thoughts & Techniques
by Bart Watson

Defense From The Handler Spot
by Seth Wiggins





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