Throwing Progressions for Game Situations

author - mario o'brien skills

Overview, Intro and Context

Reading patterns, making it instinct

Being a great thrower is mainly about 2 things, decision making and technical ability. One comes before the other, and that's where we're starting. We're going to create a mental framework for recognizing patterns, for how and when we make decisions.

The greatest players don't think while they're playing, it's almost entirely instinct. That means we have to train our capacity to recognize patterns and act. We can train our thoughts to become instinct, to in turn become muscle memory. We need to train ourselves to read and react. The first step is grooving and learning the patterns.

We need to know and dive into the the most common patterns, and come up with a consistent way to think through those situations. We'll call this idea a throwing progression. We'll apply different throwing progressions to different situations, so that when we see those patterns start to unfold on the field, the decisions we make feel natural, trained, instinctive.

Defining a Throwing Progression

A throwing progression is: A way to organize our throwing target priorities (aka where we’re looking) based on game-situational context (the what and why) and the stall count (the when).

Very Basic Example:


It’s not a rule, it’s a guideline. Think of a throwing progression as a default that’s always modifiable and changeable. The goal is to eventually make our defaults instinctive, so that we can focus more attention on the reading situations and reacting.

Understanding and applying nuance. The example above is an extremely rough guideline, our goal will be to eventually get into the nuance of each stall count, especially early in the stall count when looking downfield.

We'll look at 3 key situations that cover a broad range of offensive roles:

  • Aggressive handler progressions
  • Ball movement throwing progressions
  • Cutter throwing progressions

Once we have a framework for those progressions, we'll train them with repetition. Then we’ll apply situational context and nuance of our own role within our own system to get into the details of how and why we make decisions. With every situation we'll ask ourselves questions like:

  • Where on the field should I be looking? when?
  • How can I best create an advantage, but minimize the risk of a turnover?
  • What is the defense likely thinking or trying to do in this situation?

Below is an example of what it looks like to practice some ‘aggressive handler’ progressions with lots of nuance, multiple looks. These are basically ‘walkthroughs’ of different decisions you can make, all starting from the same situation, but all rooted in the same throw progression.


I'm so excited to share some of the things that have given me the confidence and expertise to be my best self as a thrower. Please join me this month in the Ultimate Skills Project for more drills and progressions