Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dust your shoulders off

Was trying to think of a good title about shoulders, and that led me to Jay-Z (... cause I'm straight with the Roc). By the way, who knew that Jay-Z played disc golf - let alone that he'd be a Roc fan?! Wonder if he throws old CE Rocs? Anyways, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking on shoulders and something started "hmmmm'ing" in my brain. To the video archive I went, to start going frame by frame to really figure this out.

I eventually grabbed a pen and paper and drew up a sketch and the cogs kept turning, then the paper turned into a mess and I went to the computer for some high-class photoshopping:


Looks pretty normal, but then something jumped out at me: notice how on the second line - the angle of the shoulders to the upper arm DECREASED? Did I just screw up the image?

No. The timing of the shoulders opening (turning to face the target), will actually be a part of where the power comes from.

Bear with me on this, because I believe it's one of the hidden secrets that rarely gets talked about, because honestly it's sneaky and not readily visible (and it happens really fast).

As you guide the disc to your center chest or even the right pec, the proper timing will have your shoulders aimed right along the line you're throwing on. As you start extending the disc forward, your shoulders are still coming though, catching up to a point where the upper arm is at a 90° from the shoulders.

At that point, you have a muscle base of shoulders/lats/triceps that are going to create a natural frame that will hold that position. MikeC below demonstrating what I'm talking about. Specifically, let's check out frame 5, 6,7, and 8 to see how much the shoulders open as the disc pretty much stays put.


The shoulders open, but the disc stays put... building up a natural constraint that gets loaded up full of potential energy. In screen shot 8, I put the discs in there to show the full power pocket - and in my mind, this answers a question I see all the time: what is the thing that allows you to throw faster?

For a very long time I was thinking that it must have been the bracing that delivering all the power, but while EXTREMELY important, there was something else going on because I was able to throw some long drives with no x-step and no real shifting (just good posture).

You hit an elasticity constraint when your upper arm is fighting to stay at 90 degrees, being compressed and then pushed open by the opening shoulders. The shoulders are driving the lever system open.

If you're right handed, reach back and feel your right lat (side back muscle) and then feel your left one. Right one is going to be more developed. We use that muscle to lock the arm into the 90° position, and swing that sucker open. I have quite a bit more "meat" on the right side.


Let me warn you: it's easy to over open. Over opening would be getting the shoulders open before that disc is at the center chest/right pec. Paul McBeth, above, keeps that upper body closed until that magic 90° angle is locked in, so that the opening will drive the full arm open. Open too soon, and you're going to drag the disc and lose the rigidity of the system that you need to take advantage of to get the goods.


Wanted to also tell you guys what's been up with me, personally. I resigned a job that I'd had for the last 8 years and took a new gig. It's been pretty difficult balancing the new job and then immediately contracting for the old job after hours, trying to play disc golf / field work and keep the kids on schedule for piano practice, classes, play dates and then of course doing my taxes. I do get quite a few emails from you awesome people, and lately it's been much harder to write back very quickly, so please be patient with me. If you're looking for specific form analysis, I strongly suggest DGCR as a fantastic resource of very wise players - and they even have a dedicated section for form review.

Things should hopefully settle down in the not-so-distant-future, but right now I'm barely keeping my head above water. But a blizzard just arrived in Denver, so it's okay - I was needing a forced rest anyways!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Mental Game

By Brian Castello

I usually talk form technique in my articles but I'm taking a small detour to talk about the most important, yet most often overlooked part of disc golf: the mental game.

Tournament season is now in full swing and after an offseason of taking an extended time off from playing rounds and just doing field work I decided to play in a tournament. I am a very competitive person and love playing in tournaments. However, playing tournaments while your making swing changes can be rough. I found out first hand. Enter the fragile mind of a disc golfer if you dare.

I started the round out great for me I was shooting par through 9 holes and I was on track to shoot within a few strokes of par. I was exactly where I wanted to be, but then I made a dumb decision. My tee shot landed about 15 ft from the basket. Sounds great except I had putt through a gap between two trees for the birdie. My gut instinct was to lay up  around the trees and take my par. I ignored that went for the birdie and it kicked off one of the trees. I then preceded to miss my par putt. Bogey. I was angry at myself and I made the crucial error of taking that anger to the next hole.

The next hole was tricky. Distance wise it was driveable but its way too technical to get there on your drive. The smart play is a placement shot to the landing zone. That's exactly what I did. My tee shot landed a little bit right of where I wanted, but when I got to my lie I realized I was actually in good shape. I had about a 150 ft forehand upshot to the basket. I'm usually very comfortable with this shot. I'm better at forehand upshots than with my backhand. I sawed off my shot way early into the woods.

"Not again! You're just going to keep making those stupid mistakes aren't you." That's what entered my mind and my solid round snowballed out of control. My day was over from that point on. The mental onslaught continued the rest of the day. I ended the round with 4 bogies and 2 double bogies. The second round was worse.

Anger leads to doubt; doubt leads to mistrust. Play disc golf like that and your toast. There is a great book for golf called "Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect". We have talked about it here on Heavy Disc before and for good reason. Here is a great excerpt from it that summarizes things nicely.

Getting angry is one of your options. But if you choose to get angry, you are likely to get tighter. That's going to hurt your rhythm and your flow. It will upset you and distract you. It will switch on your analytical mind and your tendency to criticize and analyze everything you do that falls short of perfection. It will start you thinking about the mechanical flaws in your swing. and trying to correct them.
A strong mental game is what separates good players from great players. Let take Paul McBeth for example. Why is he the best player in the world right now? Let me tell you it's not because of any physical skill he has. What?!?! He's one of the best probably in every disc golf category you could think of. That definitely is a part of the reason and helps make him a great player; however, you could find other professional players with similar skill sets. His mental game is top notch and that is what sets him apart. Watch any commentary on him playing and you will hear comments like he's got "ice water in his veins" and the like. In other words, he's got a strong mental game. He keeps himself focused only on the next shot at hand and lets the previous shots go.

The author continues.
Alternatively, you could train yourself to accept the fact that as a human being, you are prone to mistakes. Golf is game played by human beings. Therefore, golf is a game of mistakes.
The best golfers strive to minimize mistakes, but they don't expect to eliminate them. And they understand that it's most important to respond well to the mistakes they inevitably make. 
Did I make mistakes in the 1st round where started off playing well? Absolutely. The difference was my mindset. There is power in positive thinking. Don't think so? Play a round and completely dog yourself whenever you make a mistake. The next round whenever you make a mistake be uplifting and positive. I'm sure you'll find the results more satisfying and the round more fun. A strong mental game helps keep a good round from going bad, and can help turn a good round into a great one. You just have to trust in the preparation and work you have put into your game.

Lesson learned again the hard way. I'll work on not being so stubborn next time.

Here is some great resources to help improve your mental game.
"Golf is Not A Game of Perfect" by Bob Rotella
"Golf is A Game of Confidence" by Bob Rotella
"Zen & The Art Of Disc Golf" by Patrick McCormick