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Seven Habits of Highly Effective Throwers: How to Plan a Throwing Practice

by Melissa Witmer

Practice planning isn't just for the team captain. Every player should take it upon themselves to have throwing practice in addition to team practice. Make the most of your practice hours by incorporating these habits into your throwing regimen. 

1. Choose the right throwing partner(s)
Before you can even practice, you need a throwing partner! 

Find a good throwing partner or several partners. If you're serious about becoming an all-star handler, you will probably need more than one partner to get in the amount of hours required. Your ideal partner should also be on a mission to become a better thrower. Your partner may or may not be your best friend on the team. You are not going out to toss around and socialize. You are going out to practice. You need a partner that shares this mindset. 

The rookies on your team may be your best bet for a consistent, enthusiastic throwing partner. If you are an upperclassman, they will be flattered by your attention and less likely to bail on your scheduled throwing times. Furthermore someone who is just learning to throw will be more likely to have the insatiable appetite for throwing hours that you need. They will make sure that you keep your throwing appointments even when it's rainy or you just don't feel like it. 

2. Warm up
If you want a quality session, it will be physically demanding. Killer low release throws require a killer range of motion in your hips. Big hucks require big time rotational forces at a high rate of speed. This is practice, so treat it like one and prepare your body accordingly. 

basic warm up sequence:

3. Choose a Focus Throw
While you will hopefully be improving all of your throws, I have found in extremely helpful to have one particular throw that I am intent on improving. The mind has limited resources and a limited ability to focus. Having one focus throw will enable you to use those limited resources more effectively. Your focus throw should be specific. 

Not, "forehand" but "flat forehand." Or "low release inside out forehand." 

4. Variation
One of the most important concept of practice is variability or practice. The more variety the more efficient the learning process will be. Instead of throwing 20 of the same exact throw in a row, you will learn better if each throw is different from the one before it. This is counter-intuitive, I know. But it is one of the most robust finding of motor skills research. 

So how can you have a focus throw and still have variability in practice? I recommend breaking up your focus throw trials with other throws in between. You could throw three low release backhands, two forehands, three low release backhands, two high release backhand, three low release backhands, two hammers. Using this method, you will still have more trials of your focus throw while still having variability and minimizing the effect of contextual interference. 

5. Visualization
Have a crystal clear picture in your mind of what you want your focus throw to look like. Many of my signature throws are based on the throws of others. It can help to have a model in mind. Pick your favorite handler. Do you like their low release backhand? See if you can replicate it. The throw will, of course, end up looking slightly different because everyone's body is different. Still, having the idea in your mind of what you want your throw to look like will help. 

When you're throwing visualize the trajectory of your throw. Just as you're being specific with your focus throw, be specific in visualizing the trajectory you want. How much angle? What velocity? Where are you hitting your target? Visualize the trajectory you want before each and every one of your focus throw trials. With practice this will become second nature and not take any extra time. Don't spend too much time thinking, the visualization is a millisecond snapshot or film clip of the throw. 

6. Have a pattern to your practice session. 

This is what mine looks like:
  • warm up
  • mess around for about 5 minutes with whatever throws you feel like. (This is part of your warm up.)
  • Get to work. Focus on the details. This is the time to work on any biomechanics you are trying to change. This is the most mentally challenging part, so we do it early while our focus is best.
  • Conditioning. Here is where you want to get stronger in the motions that are specific to throwing or just gain some endurance. Throw harder, faster fakes. Throw longer throws. Do some give-n-go drills with your partner.
  • Cool down. Decompress. This will often happen naturally when you reach the point of mental fatigue. This is when you’re allowed to throw your silly throws. Socialize a bit with your throwing partner and leave the field happy so that you want to come back for more!

7. Know when to stop
As I've said, the focus of the brain is a limited resource. Engaging in deliberate, focused throwing practice is work. Eventually, your ability to focus will wear out. Don't fight it, accept it. If you start feeling frustrated, you'll become tense and your movement patterns will be affected. Frustration also prevents objective evaluation and adjustment of each trial. If you cannot recenter yourself, it is best to stop and try another day. As you gain experience with throwing practice you will naturally gain a better feel for when you are mentally done. 

How long this takes is the length of your throwing sessions will also be influenced by your level of conditioning. If you aren't used to lunges, your legs will wear out before your brain. Your shoulder can also wear out quickly if you do too much hucking too fast. For learning motor skills, the more you do the better. However, you still need to respect your physical limitations. Start with shorter sessions and build up to longer ones to allow your body to adapt. 

Final Thought
Putting a large chunk of time into throwing practice early in your career will have a huge impact on how it unfolds. Fitness can come and go but motor skills stay with you for life.


huddle issue031

Mon February 28th, 2011

Practice? We Talkin' About Practice?
by Jeff Eastham-Anderson

Full Focus, Full Effort
by Greg Husak

Practice Planning Musts
by Tyler Kinley

Take Control of Your Practice
by John Korber

Managing Intensity, Concepts, and Fun
by Peri Kurshan

Getting More Out of the Practice Warm-Up
by Pat McCarthy

Planning Youth Practices
by Shannon O'Malley

Parts of a Whole
by Shane Rubenfeld

Three Easy Targets
by Ben Slade

Planning Ahead
by Ryan Thompson

Minutes Are Precious
by Ben Wiggins

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Throwers: How to Plan a Throwing Practice
by Melissa Witmer




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