Matt Demonstrates Learning the Center Nail Delay

The center nail delay is the basis for much of Freestyle Frisbee. It is the act of spinning the frisbee on your finger nail. Matt explains how to practice so you can master this skill.

First, give yourself a two handed throw. Be sure you choose the spin, clock or counter, that you want to practice. This throw is good because the disc comes to you perfectly flat. Now, let the disc land softly on your finger nail. Most people use the index finger, but any finger nail works. In fact sometimes I use two, or all five (the claw). Keep the disc above your head so you can see the center. As the disc slides on your fingernail, move your finger so it stays in the center. This may mean moving your feet to pursue the disc. Stay loose and chase it around. If it falls all the way to the rim, no problem. That’s called a rim delay. Just let it spin there, trying to keep only your fingernail contacting the disc. The rim delay is also a useful skill. As you get better at both the center delay and the rim delay, bring your arm down until you have control while looking at the top of the disc.

Have advice for someone trying to learn this skill? Let us know in the comments.

Rim Delay to Center Delay

Lori Daniels demonstrates going from a rim delay to a center delay. This is a critical skill that marks a new level of nail delay control in one’s game. It is used all the time since the disc may come in at and any angle. It is also used if center control is lost. As this skill improves so will center control and eventually you’ll be able to set and angle you want.

Here Lori uses a technique swooping down and then lifting upwards. As the disc travels up push across at a right angle to the center. This will cause the disc to tilt and flatten outs. As it flattens spiral your nail in towards the center and gain center delay control. For an in-depth written description of this skill, check out this article I wrote back in the 90s.

The Under the Leg Pull Set

Ryan Young demonstrates the Under the Leg nail delay pull directly into a set. With clock spin, start with a center delay. Set it up flat a few inches. Then reach your right hand under the inside of your right leg. Aim for about 9 o’clock on the rim. As the disc lands on your nail, pull it under your leg using the rim. This will cause the disc to pivot on a rim delay for a fraction of a second. Rim swoop the disc to your right side and set it back into the air. Timing here is key. The longer and / or faster the swoop, the steeper the set will be. So, you can set it perfectly flat, or you can set it on a steep angle. This set is very useful for going into other restricted delay pulls, spins, chest rolls, or catches as Ryan demonstrates.

Nuances of Spinning a Frisbee on Your Finger Nail


In this video I talk about the basics of a flat nail delay and a rim delay.

In Freestyle Frisbee, a Delay is when the Frisbee is kept spinning on one’s finger nail. This can be done either in the center of the Frisbee on in the rim of the Frisbee.

Most people want to learn the Center Delay immediately. However, it can take many hours of practice to get it down.

The way I learned was by starting with the Rim Delay. This kept me from getting frustrated by not mastering the Center Delay right away. I learned to pass the disc under my legs and behind my back, all with a rim delay.

Over time, I began to understand how the disc progressed naturally in a circle and how to control it better. And then, one day I could keep it in the center.

So, don’t overlook the rim delay as you’re learning new tricks.

Paul Kenny expounds on the Center Delay

Beyond throwing and catching, which are the most fundamental
tools required, initial tooling in my mind has a couple paths.
The outer rim and the center. With the center, you will want
to learn to spin the disc keeping your finger, specifically the
nail, under the center of the disc and in contact with it as
best as you can. This is called a delay. With the outer rim
you want to learn to keep the disc in the air as best you can.
This might include brushing, rolling or kicking and can involve
alot of running around. I will leave the outer rim skills to
one more proficient than I.

When I first learned to delay a disc, I had trouble. I already
knew how to spin a basketball, but had trouble figuring out how
to spin a disc. A spinning basketball, because it has so much
weight away from the center, has a stable center. When you spin
it correctly, the finger “locks” in the center. In fact, I could
spin a basketball on a pencil and hand it to just about anyone
and they could hold it spinning. With a spinning disc, the center
is not stable and the finger wants to drift off center on it’s
own. It takes very small, very quick corrections to maintain
center. It can take some time and repetition to get there.
Further complicating the development of this feel is the gyroscopic
effect intrinsic to spinning objects. When you touch a spinning
disc off center, the disc will “precess”, or turn 90 degrees
from where you touched it. Thus the small corrections discussed
above need to be in the direction of the spin. It will seem
you are always trying to catch up to the correction which wants
to stay 90 degrees ahead of your finger! This results in the
finger seeming to be doing really small circles near the center
of the disc. As you get more proficient, these “circles” and
the corrections get so small that it appears the finger is staying
still in the center of the disc!

Higher level functions such as skids and turnovers will use this
precessive property of discs in a complicated way to achieve
the moves. Skids, or “against the spin” moves work against the
prevailing precession while turnovers are done with the spin
in one direction until the turnover and then with the spin in
the other direction. What complicates it is the need to work
at non-flat angles and switching your brain from one spin’s thinking
to the other.

Paul Kenny

Going from a Rim Delay to a Center Delay

For most learning to go from a high Z rim delay to a center delay marks a whole new level of understanding in disc control. It means being able to bring most any angle throw back to the center, increased center control, and leads to understanding angle changes and off center tips. For me this skill took some practice.

To accomplish this task it helps to be able to throw a high Z steep angle to your self. To learn clock right hand throw a right handed backhand throw with tons of spin. It should come off on a steep angle, nearly perpendicular to the ground such that the bottom is pointing more downward than the top and the nose is pointing to the right. It should also be perpendicular to your chest plane. Now that the disc is in the air use your right hand and take it on a rim delay. Your palm will be facing to your left and your finger(s) should be curled under the rim. Let the disc hang in this position long enough to get it under control but not so long that it tilts around so the nose is pointing to your body. From here there are two common methods of getting to the center.

1: Give the disc an upward tug. As it lifts up hold your hand still so that the bottom of the disc rides along your finger nail(s). Once your nail is near center push hard to the left. The ideal location is it about 6 o’clock halfway between the rim and the center. As you push to the left the disc will flatten out. Once it is flat get the center delay under control.

2: Gently swing the disc forward. As the disc swings forward the rim will pull against your nail forcing the disc to level off. Once it is halfway flat move your nail to the center and gain delay control.

To learn counter left reverse the right/left directions as if looking in the mirror.

Once you become proficient at this maneuver try it on a different angle or the opposite hand. Example, once the disc is on a rim delay let it drift around on your nail until the nose is pointing upwards to the left perpendicular to your chest plane. The motions are the same. Give it a tug so it rides up your nail. Now push right at 12 o’clock between the rim and the center. It will flatten out as before. Note: you may have to duck your forearm below it to keep from knocking it off your finger.

The biggest thing to learn is that the location to press in with changes based on the direction of the nose. It’s always 90 degrees ahead of the spin from the nose. So, with clock spin, if the nose is pointing away from you (12 o’clock) push it out so the disc rides up your nail, then push towards you at 3 o’clock. With counter spin you’d push at 9 o’clock.

Once this becomes second nature try flattening the disc directly from the throw with a tip. The physics are the same. Just tip it up 90 degrees ahead of the spin from the nose. You can also try to flatten it out from a rim delay to a flat set. This set it the beginning to many moves and catches such as a scarecrow and a one and a half btb.

Jake Gauthier

Learn to Center Delay

Practice, practice, practice. 🙂

Well, beyond that, here’s what helped me in the beginning. You can do
this by yourself.

1) Develop a two handed throw to your self that is flat (parallel to the
ground) and floats down gently. Start by placing each hand on the outside
of the rim, one hand close to you, the other on the far side of the rim.
Throw your hands and arms out to the sides, popping the disc gently up in
air, about a foot or two in height above you head. Practice this skill
alone, without attempting the delay, until you get the disc to float very
horizontal and with as much spin as possible. Like a spinning top, the
more RPMs the disc starts with, the more stable and easy to control it
will be. The flatter it is, the easier it will be to balance and delay.
Once your self throws are stable, you are ready to proceed. Side note: If
your right hand is the one close to you, your spin will be
counter-clockwise. If you left hand is the one close to you, the spin
will be clockwise. One spin may be easier for you to throw and one spin
will be easier to delay at first. Make observations about your tendencies
and what works best for you.

2) Make sure the contact with the disc is with your fingernail, however
small it is (artificial nails are not necessary in the beginning). Hold
you finger, slightly bent, so that the nail itself is close to parallel
to the surface of the disc. This way the spinning disc will slide on your
nail. Apply a silicon spray lubricant to the disc to further reduce
friction between the disc and your nail. As soon as the disc contacts
flesh, there’s major friction involved, usually leading to loss of spin
and control.

3) Next, connect the above two skills. After you release the disc into
the air, reach up to the disc with your delaying hand and try to make
contact with the disc as close to the time when it is transitioning from
popping up to floating down. The disc is traveling slow at this time.
Spot the center of the disc as it’s above eye level. Keep your finger
kind of springy to absorb the contact of the disc with your finger at
this time and follow the disc’s descent with your arm to slow its further
descent. If you can keep the disc above eye level at this time, you can
continue to spot your finger on the bottom of the disc and track your
centering attempt. Eventually your eye-hand coordination will develop,
allowing you to stabilize the disc below eye level, without seeing your
finger on the bottom of the disc. A clear or translucent disc can also be
helpful at this stage.

4) Finally, make small circular motions with your arm and finger, in the
same direction that the disc is spinning. This motion will help correct
any non-horizontalness of the disc and helps you track to the center of
the disc to maintain the delay. Over time, these motions become so
refined that you will not even realize that you are making them.

Eventually you will replace step 1, with that of a throw from a partner.
Make sure your throwing partner is throwing you the same spin that you
practice with or everything will seem awry. If your partner can make a
hovering throw, again try to make contact with the disc at a point in its
flight where it is transitioning from flight to fall. Let your finger and
arm give with the disc as you receive it, acting as a shock absorber to
slow its momentum to a standstill.

The whole process is learning this eye-hand coordination. Players have
reported different lengths of time to learn the skill from less than a
week to maybe six weeks. A youthful age and athletic tendencies will tend
towards the shorter time. Practice every day for at least fifteen minutes
and you will see results of increasing delay times.

Once you’re comfortable in maintaining a delay, ask questions about the
next level you want to attain.

And most of all, have fun.

Doug Korns
#beginner