4 December 2006

The first step of helping a beginner...

...is of course, make Ultimate fun so they come back for more.

But the next "first step" is GSWAP.

I took the time to throw with a beginner on my Hat team on Sunday morning. After two throws, it was time to help him with the most fundamental thing - throwing.

And the most fundamental step is grip.

The guideline for teaching throws is the acronym GSWAP.


Grip comes first in this list. Because it is the first step in the throwing action, and the most important.

Advise beginners to use the power grips for forehand and backhand. See here.

Folks with small hands are allowed to use beginner's grips. But tell them to try the power grips on 20 throws first.

So back to our beginner. With a proper forehand power grip, his wobbling 6 metre throws became stable 15 metre throws. Improvement -> confidence -> enjoyment.

And of course, don't forget that with beginners less is more. After you offer advice, let them practice and play with their new grip/cut/stance/endzone play. Ask them how it is going.

You need to offer more compliments than criticisms or suggestions. Every time.


  1. It would be interesting to do a study of which grip is better to learn on - the power grip or a beginner's grip. There seem to be advocates for both methods, but very little hard evidence. Has anyone done a test by splitting a group of beginners in 2 and seeing which group improves the most over certain timeframes?

    I favour starting with a beginner's grip. It prevents some of the problems with wobble as the disc is much easier to stabilise.

    I'm not sure about this whole GSWAP thing. Grip and Stance I get, after that it all sounds a bit like a phone thingy. Wrist? Angle? Point?

  2. A study would be very useful indeed.

    We might want to look at 2-5 year timeframes as well as short term timeframes.

    How do you determine best practise without doing a study? You talk to and observe the best exponents of the skill.

    GSWAP has the following endorsements:
    - Piers Truter as AFDA National Coaching Course discussed grips with a number of elite Ultimate and disc golf players
    - GSWAP is included in the AFDA Level 1 Ultimate Frisbee Coaching Course content

    GSWAP is not only a guideline to teaching a beginner to throw, it is also a diagnostic that reduces the millions of tips you have heard down to 5 effective tips to choose from.

    Rather than self-appointed "experts" offering all kinds of tips from "tuck your elbow in" to "hold your elbow" to "visualise a table" to "turn your hand over" to "throw under your leg", coaches now have a simple menu of 5 points, from which they can select one to help a beginner.

    It would be good to put a full outline of GSWAP (rather than my brief blog post) online.

    One concern I have with the beginner's grip is that it is less powerful. And once your "beginner's wobble" is gone (as it usually does), you are left with the habit of using a less powerful grip.

    An analogy: an under-arm donkey drop serve produces better results for beginners in tennis. But I would recommend an adult tennis player to start learning a proper overhead tennis serve ASAP. Because, before too long, the donkey drop just doesn't cut it any more.