You’re going to catch a disc that’s flying quickly past you to your right. It’s a stretch, and definitely will be one handed. Which hand are you going to use?
You might imagine that it’s simply the nearest hand; that the reason you need to be able to catch comfortably with either hand is so that you’re able to use the nearest limb to quickly reach out and grab. And perhaps sometimes that is the case – if someone throws it at you from a couple of yards away you just stick out a hand. But I’m interested in the ones where you have had the time to turn your body, such that neither hand is obviously much nearer to the disc¹.
Perhaps you’re thinking about the spin – that it makes sense to catch with with whichever hand allows you to have it spin into the palm rather than spinning out. There’s an element of truth in that – if you’re catching near the ‘front’ of the disc as it arrives, there is for sure a correct place to put your hand, and if you get it wrong then it may well spin out of your grasp. But I’d argue that 90% of the time, if you have options about where on the rim you grab the disc, then there is little excuse for not going two-handed.
If someone throws it straight at the middle of your chest then there is indeed an easier or harder catch with one hand or the other, depending on the spin. But who cares? Use two hands.
What I’m talking about is those discs where you can only just get a hand to the edge of the disc as it travels past you. You need to snag the edge nearest you as it passes, not somewhere around the front of the disc where spin is important.
As ever, I think there’s a lot going on that most of us haven’t thought about. The shape of the hand is far more relevant than you might have thought.
Reach your right hand out to the right, with the pad of your thumb pointing directly downwards, and then close your fingers to your thumb. You’ll see it’s not some robotic clamp where the pads of the fingers are exactly opposite the pad of your thumb – rather, with your thumb facing directly down your fingers are pointing significantly forwards.
This first picture shows me trying (and not quite succeeding) to get the thumb facing down and the fingers facing up – it’s neither comfortable nor natural. Imagine a disc flying INTO the screen from where you’re sitting – this is NOT how I would catch it.
This next picture shows what happens if I aim my thumb down and just close my fingers naturally – as weird as it might look, this is much more what my hand would look like just before it closes on a fast-moving disc. I’m not looking to have it hit flush in my palm – I’m looking for the edge of it to go between my thumb and fingers, the disc just touching the very edge of my palm between my fingers and thumb, and for the rim to get snagged on my fingers.
If the disc is flying quickly at waist height to your right, and you go to grab the nearest point of the disc with your right hand as it goes past, your fingers will be pointing slightly forwards. If the pad of your thumb tries to catch the top of the disc, the pads of your fingers will be facing forward – and will catch on the rim².
And unless the disc is travelling very slowly and spinning very fast, the forward motion of it will make the direction of spin irrelevant – all you have to do is snag the rim, on the side nearest to you, as the disc goes past. The forward momentum of the disc will ensure it doesn’t spin out backwards, even if it does have the ‘wrong’ spin. It will stick, giving you plenty of time to close your hand properly and complete the catch, even if your timing is a fraction off.
But now imagine that the disc is up over shoulder height, still out to your right, such that you go with the fingers on top. Reach out for an imaginary grab now, and I pretty much guarantee that you’ll have the pads of your fingers pointing basically down.
Just like before, the only way to generate stopping power on the top of the disc is with the flat – and grippy – pad of the digit making maximum contact, so the fingers must point down³. But now, for a high, right-handed catch of a disc to your right, your thumb is pointing away from where the disc is coming – and now it’s your thumb that is under the disc where the rim is.
You won’t usefully snag anything – the disc will just run over the knuckles of the thumb and disappear, unless you happen to time the catch exceptionally well. It looks more like this…
Surely we’ve all seen those drops? Reaching out for a high disc, coming past you at pace, and it just doesn’t stick? This is why it’s hard.
Or rather, this is why the ‘correct’ catch is easy – the fingers or thumb will snag the rim, even if your timing isn’t perfect.
So what is ‘correct’ for that high disc out to your right? The left hand! Reach out from where you’re sitting right now, left-handed and high to the right, with your fingers on top. Look at that thumb! Wiggle it and see which way it bends. You could snag anything on that. If the rim of the disc hits the pad of that forward-facing thumb, your chances of making the catch are hugely better than the right handed attempt.
Conclusion – which hand you catch with often depends largely on whether you are thumb on top (lower catches; use the obvious hand) or fingers on top (higher catches; reach across your body with the other hand)⁵.
And the secondary point is that some of you might not even have tried snagging the disc at all – it isn’t always taught. People can go for years trying to always manage the spin, or focussing on the middle of the disc. But that rim on the disc is a very useful thing, so why not see if you can’t develop a catching method that makes better use of it?
If that all sounds mad, and wildly different from how you’ve been taught, then go out and try it. You might just catch some things you never believed you could.
There is a best way to catch for every situation, and the ‘snag’ is something you need in your toolbox. It isn’t the only way you will use, or even anywhere near the most common (2 hands, dammit!). But it will get you 90% of your ‘Wow!’ catches.