Optional Practice Throw Before Each Round — Explained

How many times have we seen that first throw fly right into the dirt, or the dog run perpendicular to the field the wrong way?

Back in the old days, when Friskies and Alpo sponsored local Toss & Fetch events around the U.S. in the late ‘80s, they allowed a practice throw before each round.  It was great – it helped you orient your dog as to which way to run, burned off a bit of frenetic energy, and let the handler test the wind and adjust their hyzer while getting one last practice toss in.

K9 Frisbee Toss & Fetch League embraces that old Optional Practice Throw custom as a way to help Teams be as successful as possible when the clock starts. Here’s how it works:

  • Once you and your dog are at the line for the start of each round, you must announce “Practice Throw” to the Line Judge so they know when to start the clock or count the throw. We also encourage Line Judges to ask if the player wants a Practice Throw before beginning.

  • If you elect to take a practice throw, you make 1 throw downfield to your dog.

  • After a Practice Throw is completed, a handler may switch ends of the field, but they may not take another practice throw for that round.

According to Mark Vitullo, if used wisely, Practice Throws can be a real benefit. “I always encourage everyone to take advantage of the Practice Throw, particularly beginners, “ said Vitullo. “We use it as a coaching tool here in Ohio to remind new players to keep their edge down, get the disc out in front of the dog, or any other helpful critique of that Practice Throw.”

There are many reasons why new players as well as veterans benefit from a quick toss, particularly to their dog, before they begin:

  1. It’s a great way to orient your dog in the right direction. Some dogs need this, others don’t. However, on the wide-open fields we often play, it’s not uncommon for a dog to take off in the wrong direction on that first throw resulting in either a miss or lost time. With a leisurely practice throw downfield, a handler can help minimize this from happening.

  2. It burns off a bit of over-excited dog energy.  If you’ve got a disc crazy, hyped-up, shaking, spinning, jumping and/or barking with anticipation dog, a quick throw before you begin can help let off a bit of that built-up steam. Often, it will help them settle in for the official start as well as helping them to be more focused and gathered when the points are on the line.

  3. It reduces over-nervous handler energy. We’re all confident, cool as cucumber superstars in our backyards. However, once we start approaching the line, the nerves kick in and our minds can go blank, forgetting everything we’ve practiced. Just like a practice swing in golf, an easy, purposeful practice throw can help settle you down, remind you of your mechanics and mentally prepare you for making the first throw once the clock begins.

  4. It allows the handler one last test of the wind and other conditions. When we’re at events, we’re not all out there before competition begins working on our throwing technique – it’s too late for that.  We’re testing the wind, the humidity, how our discs fly in that temperature. However, by the time our round starts, everything could change. In League, the practice throw gives you one last chance to test the conditions.

A wise man once said, “You can’t have a perfect round if you or the dog screw up that first throw.” Taking a practice throw won’t guarantee that won’t happen, but it can’t hurt and often does help.

If you use the practice throw, why and how do you use it? If you don’t, why not?  Please share your thoughts and experience with the rest of the League in the comments below or on our Facebook page.