On Catching (Part IV) – Where to Clap?


As we saw from Brodie in a previous post, it’s possible to catch way out in front of you with a clap.

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There are lots of times when this might be correct – not least when the disc is going nowhere near your chest, and that’s the only way a clap catch can reach it!

You might sometimes do it in Brodie’s exact situation too – standing still, catching a lowish-speed pass. Presumably you’re a handler in this situation, so you’ll want to get it in your hands early and get on with the game. The catch is so simple that you’re not really likely to drop it, so you might try to take it early.

But I certainly wouldn’t recommend this style when the disc has any kind of zip on it (and/or when you’re sprinting towards it) and you are able to get the chest at least somewhat behind it. And therefore, I wouldn’t coach people to catch out in front as a first foundation, but rather I’d advise them to get the body behind it as a backboard and then catch it as late as possible. They can learn to reach out later, but their first instinct should be to catch it right under the eyes with the chest as a backboard.

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Look at some catches from the world games match we looked at in Part I. First, a real zinger to the gut, on a sprinted in cut – caught as late as possible, right under the eyes, with the stomach as a backboard:

Colombia Catch

Then here’s a sequence of USA catches, where each time the player gets the body behind the disc, even though in some cases they may be approaching it at an angle or the disc is travelling fairly slowly:

Going frame by frame to see when the hands close, here are the catching points in that sequence.

They’re mostly pretty close in – not all as close in as the Colombian catch on a much faster disc, but pretty safe and in close to the body. In particular, they’re nothing like the picture of Brodie above, or like Brummie’s suggestion to have both arms ‘pointing in front of you’. None of those four stills above has both arms pointing forwards, or even particularly close to it – Dylan’s is the closest, as he tries to take it early and get ready to throw quickly, but still it’s not far off 90 degrees. And yet lots of coaches seem to teach clap catches to complete beginners in the way that Brodie and Brummie demonstrate. Personally, I absolutely agree with Felix (see Part III) on the value of a backboard, and that means bringing the arms in close to the body – and therefore not having them parallel to each other.

The only reason to have the arms close to parallel is when you’re reaching way out in front. But fundamentally, you have less control when your arms are extended than when they’re close in (more strength is needed in the shoulder to control an extended arm, with its centre of gravity away from the body, than is needed for arms held closer to the body). So when you don’t need to reach – just don’t.

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If you mistime it, way in front of you, it will just zip through. If you do manage to catch a rebound off your chest, it will be a separate catch requiring major adjustment. Whereas, if you originally try to catch really close in, just as the disc is about to hit the chest, then the chest will stop the disc in roughly the same place for a fraction of a second – and so a mistimed catch is still likely to succeed without any ‘second effort’ being needed.

An interesting one is Lien Hoffmann’s catch at the end of that same USA possession:

hoffman 2

Hoffmann catches this fast disc much too far in front, in my opinion. She’s under no pressure to take it early, and there’s plenty of time to get the chest right behind it, so there’s no reason at all not to make the safest possible catch – which this is not. By doing it this way she has no backboard if it goes wrong. She’s fortunate that she’s standing still – indeed, she actually jumps backwards a little bit in order to make the relative speed of the throw lower – because she knows she’s not comfortable making this catch on a zippy disc. I would suggest she’d be much better off catching it right in at the chest.

Most players clap catch close to the body when they can, and only reach out for the disc when they have to. This is such a default option that many people will catch closer in even when the disc is going across them and they have no backboard. Look again at Sandy Jorgensen catching under severe pressure:

This disc isn’t travelling towards her but alongside her – the chest won’t form much of a backboard here. And there’s a defender right there. But STILL, she doesn’t reach way in front of her, but catches with elbows bent 90° or so. Even without the backboard, she knows that reaching out far in front of the body is harder to control so she catches close in when she can.

Reaching out for the disc is always less controlled. There will be many, many times you need to do it – for example noticing late on that you’ve misread it or that a defender is closing, or simply because its flight path will never bring it close to your chest – but it should never be the default catch for the majority of people. Get it in close, where you’re comfortable, and where there might even be a backboard – and if you’re coaching, coach them to do that as a default.

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