Inside breaks are relatively hard. But do you find that I/O forehand breaks are even more challenging than I/O backhands? That’s certainly the impression I get, though I don’t have the stats to back it up.
Jim Parinella mentions in this blog post that forehands were turned over about 50% more often than backhands in his team’s matches.* That’s likely related to the shorter, snappier throwing motion, which gives less time for adjustments and corrections than you would have on a backhand.
[Interestingly, if a little off-topic, a biomechanist I talked to explained that consistency in expert performance seems to be much more than the ability to repeat an action. Tests on truly elite athletes, in relatively closed skills (like bowling in cricket), show that they don’t really do it the same each time. What makes them expert is that when (for example) the elbow is in a slightly different position, they can compensate with the wrist, or whatever – they can achieve the same outcome for the skill despite differences in the way they do it. They seem to make adjustments during the performance of the skill. I’m prepared to believe this is more difficult for a forehand than a backhand.]
So perhaps a large part of the apparent problem is simply that all forehands are more difficult. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that inside flick breaks are an additional challenge.
But I think there might be something specific going on as well. My impression is that many of these I/O flick turnovers result from a lack of touch – lasering the disc past the receiver such that any slight error in the direction of the throw renders it uncatchable.
In order to lead a receiver more easily, you generally give yourself a margin of error by having the disc stall a little – floating† it in the space in front of the receiver rather than hitting them at a hundred miles an hour – which should if anything be easier when we throw I/O, since the majority of such breaks will be thrown from low.
A low-to-high flight path is a strong recipe for a disc that will decelerate, as we generally achieve that flight path by lifting the front edge. The angle of attack to the air will stall the disc for the receiver to run on to.
Is there some reason it would be harder to achieve this leading-edge angle on a forehand than a backhand? Very possibly. Try it. Reach down in a low backhand stance, with a backhand grip. Now try to turn your wrist (without moving the elbow or body from your normal low-release stance) and lift the front edge so that the disc is vertical. This is easy and natural. You can probably come close to turning the disc completely upside down, in fact.
Now do the same on the forehand. You’ll find it much more challenging. Most likely, your elbow will want to come forwards and you’ll feel your weight shift slightly backwards. Obviously you don’t need to turn the disc that far to throw, and it’s certainly not impossible to lift the front edge of the disc a little, but it will nevertheless affect your technique and your balance in ways that simply don’t happen on the backhand.
I had a theory that most players would naturally hold their wrist, at the start of the throwing motion, at a comfortable angle – low-release backhands with the front edge up, low forehands with the front edge more down. So this weekend, I popped down to a match between Glasgow and Edinburgh to take some photos of how players were holding the disc in a low-backhand or low-forehand stance (without, of course, telling them what I was hoping to see).
But almost more interesting is what happened to some of the other people. I photographed half a dozen folk, and the two others shown here (Shaun and Jonny, respectively) are the two whose photos show the most front-edge lift on the forehand.
You might think it looks like they’ve disproved my original idea – they’ve managed to get the disc into what looks like a goodish position (one with an in-front-of-the-knee technique, and one from behind the knee, interestingly). But look at Shaun’s balance in the forehand photo – you can see his weight is backwards to make that throwing position easier.
That was a consistent theme across all participants – everyone was either well-balanced or leaning very slightly forward on the backhand, and everyone was leaning back on the forehand.
Jonny looks almost balanced in that last forehand photo, and has the disc at a nice upward angle – but that’s actually his second attempt (sorry Jonny!). He was one of three players (50%!) who fell backwards when attempting to hold that low forehand posture, waiting for the photo to be taken. Nobody had any trouble holding the backhand stance.
And it’s worth pointing out that these three shown are all very good throwers – two GB U23 internationals and the individual stats leader from UK Nationals this summer. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the techniques these guys are demonstrating – merely that it’s inherently harder to get into and maintain good posture for those low forehands than for the low backhands.
Most people, I suspect, will need to compromise their balance and/or technique more than they would like. Few of us are able to stay down in that position, or make late adjustments to our throw, because our balance is fleeting in a way that just isn’t the case on the backhand.
That’s not to say that you can’t get really good at it, but it does offer a possible reason why it’s that bit more difficult to complete these throws. And it offers something to work on, too – once you’ve developed the ability to throw a low forehand, perhaps you should spend some time working on your balance in that position, while still having control of the disc angle. Shaun might look like he’s leaning backwards a little, but actually he’s done this enough that he is able to maintain that posture comfortably – he wasn’t one of the guys who fell backwards.
Good balance might be the only way to develop consistency on these throws, and it’s dangerously easy to overlook.