Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - There is a certain artistic quality to the soccer flip throw. When the player launches herself from solid footing into a front hand spring balanced on nothing more than the soccer ball, then snaps her legs forward while launching the ball over her head, it's not just impressive. In a way it's...beautiful.
"I just kind of pick out the person and I throw it as hard as I can," said freshman defender Jessica Nelson. So much for poetry.
The flip throw is a tactic used more for function than fashion.
"The ball can go a lot farther," said junior midfielder Jaden DeGracie. "Actually I'm more accurate when I throw it with a flip." And she's not alone in that assessment.
DeGracie, junior forward Paige Crouch, and freshman defender Jessica Nelson all fancy themselves flip throwers.
"I guess we just kind of got lucky with all the talent for it," said Nelson. Talent that goes back to each of their childhoods spent as gymnasts. That's the common thread. Before they could perfect the flip throw, they had to first know how to flip or, more specifically, how to do a front hand spring.
"I would do front hand springs in a row," said Crouch. "Then I would take the ball and flip on the trampoline. It's really not the safest thing."
Safe? No. Productive? Absolutely. Eventually Crouch (and DeGracie and Nelson) grew comfortable enough to attempt the move in a game.
"I just remember the neck almost hitting the ground," said Crouch. It could have been worse. Like the way it was DeGracie who accidentally threw the ball straight behind her rather than in front of her. Or Nelson who, after seeing it done at a Wildcat match, attempted the move only for the ball to land a couple feet in front of her. Still, for all three, practice made perfect. And now here they are.
"It's just like instinct now," said Crouch.
For a flip throw to work, there must be a balance between power and momentum.
"The way you're lined up is basically where it's going to go," demonstrated Nelson. "Where you release it is how high it's going to go."
"It's like how a quarterback throws a ball," said DeGracie. "They can naturally throw it to who they want to. Same with a flip throw. We can just place it to who we want it to go to."
One problem with that comparison. Unless the quarterback is sacked, he stays upright and has a visual of the field in front of him. He's not supposed to purposefully make himself perpendicular to the ground while looking behind him. But hey, whatever works. And it does work. Most of the time.
"I would love to be a hundred percent accurate," said Crouch. "I would give myself an A. Maybe a B-plus."
It's rare for a team to have a flip thrower. Even more rare to have more than one. For a team to have three, that's kind of unheard of. Yet here they are and it's working out just fine.
"I would say it's really unique," said Crouch.