Aikens on Throws: The Best Laid Plans Sometimes Just Don’t Work (Week 3)

ITCCCA Coaching Blogs, Discus, Opinion, Shot Put 2 Comments

by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School

Well, this is week three of my coaching at Burlington Central High School and I am still enjoying it but my detailed practice plan is shot to hell due to circumstances beyond my control. My practice plan for the early season (See blog #1) was an excellent plan–in a perfect world. As we all know, things rarely turn out as you plan them. Due to time restraints, facility restraints, everyday issues that arise, me yapping too much and any number of a thousand other reasons, I have yet to run one practice like a planned. I am sure this is not an unusual issue for any coaches. I have had to prioritize what I get done in practice. For us at Central, since all our throwers are so new, we are focusing on technique #1, Weights (strength development) #2, and athletic development #3. As a result every day we get in technique work. We also get our weights in four days a week. Most days we get in running drills and medicine ball work, but I have yet to implement the other components of my early season practice plan: plyometrics, core work, body strength work, flexibility and visualization training. My hopes are that as the athletes improve we will have more time to fit everything into practice.

Monday 2/5 & Tuesday 2/6: These were pretty good days. We finally began Olympic lifts. We did Hang Cleans on Monday, and their form wasn’t great but it wasn’t that bad for the first time. Of course some of them are pulling with their arms way too early. Overall though, not that bad. I think the two weeks prior that we spent on Clean & Snatch high pulls has helped to set up the feel of pulling the bar. I also think the two weeks of doing front squats has helped set up the position of racking the bar. My instruction was simply to do a high pull and then to drop under the bar into a front squat. It wasn’t perfect but it provided a frame of reference for them.

These two days we continued to drill our stand throws. They aren’t perfect, but they are improving. We did a lot of work with med balls that required two hands for the kids to hold them. I did this on purpose to force the kids to focus on using their legs properly in the power throw. We also continued to work on our step back powers (Storl’s). We have a lot of work to do. You know how it goes…you focus on working on one thing and then they aren’t able to do the other thing you were working on well.

I am very excited for this week. Dan McQuaid, throws coach at Wheaton North, has let us enter their first meet on Thursday 2/8 and on Saturday 2/10 we are going to the McHenry Throws Invitational. John Beerbower is the throws coach up at McHenry and does a great job there. He has done a great job coaching Brian Keyes, one of the favorites to contend for the discus state title this May. Coach Beerbower puts on a great meet. He has a ring for Frosh-Soph putters and a ring for the Varsity. He handles about 10 different school,s and we all get to throw. There is music playing, laser measuring devices and live online results. Not to mention a bench pressing competition after the meet which the boys really love. I know my throwers are not ready for this meet but I feel they need to see what really good throwers look like so they can realize what they have to do if they really want to be good.

Wednesday 2/7: Today we spent most of our time introducing the glide technique. Now I know they are not physically ready for it because their powers (stand throws) still aren’t very solid, but I can tell they are getting a little restless and really want to do some different things. So today we also actually had some gym space in the Elementary school, and we practiced with the indoor shots. Below is the sequence I like to use to teach the glide technique. First thing I did was show the kids videos of gliders and pointed out some key phases of the glide. I think they need to know the big picture before you can break it down into individual pieces. Then when I am teaching each individual drill, I can explain where and how it fits into the larger scheme of the throw.


STEP BACK POWERS: I talked about and showed this drill in last week’s blog. Click: See week #2 blog for details. I really like this drill for all the reasons I stated in last week’s blog.


BACK OF THE RING DRILL: This drill teaches the athletes to correctly load their weight in the back of the ring. This is to help them prepare for proper balance and position in the back of the ring. Notice how the hips are stacked over the back foot.

T POSITION DRILL: This drill teaches the athlete to load their back leg properly for the glide in the back of the ring. The key points are the athlete keeps their back foot flat for balance. Also, long left arm to counterbalance the extended left leg. Remind your athlete to bend at the waist and keep their hips over the back foot.

GATHER DRILL: This drill helps teach the athlete the balance and the strength needed for the athlete to gather in the back of the ring. This gather is important in order to load the back leg properly so the athlete can drive off of the back leg and get across the ring. Even if you like to teach a more active start to the glide this is a great beginning drill.

LEFT LEG “A” DRILL: This drill helps to develop the proper drive and extension angle of the extending left (blocking) leg. The leg is kicked down toward the toe board, not up in the air (notice the left foot lands facing 9 o’clock, this help the athlete balance). The athlete must be reminded to stay down. I use the key, “stomach on thigh”. Finally this helps the athlete realize that they come off their heel of their foot and not the ball of their foot in the glide. Athletes who come off of the ball of their power foot will either hop across the ring or have a difficult time getting their foot into the proper position.

RIGHT LEG PULL DRILL: This drill helps the athlete to develop the concept of coming off of their heel in the back of the ring and turning the foot slightly as it lands on the ball of the foot. The athlete will try to rise up in order to try to get their foot underneath them. They must learn to stay low and focus on getting the foot under them in a proper position.

WALL GLIDE #1: & WALL GLIDE #2: These drills are great for starting to tie it all together. The athlete faces the wall and performs a slight left (blocking leg) leg drive. They then must focus on coming off the heel of the back (power) foot and landing on the ball of the slightly turned power foot. This drill also helps to reinforce the timing that the left leg initiates the glide. The athlete doesn’t move very far off the wall. The athlete keeps the hands on the wall, this helps the athlete feel the “X” tension that is created as the shoulders keep facing back while the hips face sideways. The Wall Glide #2 is the same as #1 but this time the hands can leave the wall, but keep them facing the wall. The athletes should try to gain some distance from the wall on this drill.

Wall Glide #1:

Wall Glide #2:

CHAIR GLIDES: This is a nice drill to follow up with the wall glides. Athletes should not lean on the chair just grab a hold of the chair to help keep their shoulders back. This drill really helps put it all together. They can go through the entire set up to the glide and then grab onto the chair and perform a more forceful wall glide #2. A nice variation to this drill is to have the athletes hold on to the chair with their non-throwing hand while holding a shot in the other hand. .

Thursday 2/8 thru Saturday 2/10: This blog is titled “The best Laid Plans Sometimes Just Don’t Work”. The reason I titled it that is thanks to Mother Nature who needed to show us who was boss. The kids were excited to actually compete. We had gone over all the rules and how a competition works, how I wanted them to warmup and prepare. They were ready to finally get some competition marks in a real meet. We were supposed to have the Wheaton North meet on Thursday 2/8 and the McHenry Throws Meet on Saturday 2/10. The plan was on the Friday between the meets to do a film study session work and on one thing to improve their throw from Thursday on Saturday, but the district cancelled all extra-curricular activities for the entire weekend. Burlington Central high school draws from a very large geographic area with a lot of open land, and chances are all the roads might not get cleared properly or stay cleared due to drifting. I think this is why they were concerned about people coming back and forth to school, and as a result all activities were cancelled for the weekend except for the wrestling sectionals. As a result the kids had a nice long break and enjoyed some hot chocolate and cookies. I sent them videos of throwers and told them to look at them several times. Who knows if they did. I do know the ones who wanted to get better did!


Now onto week four!




Comments 2

  1. I’ll be doing your glide progressions today in practice. What’s your go-to drill for “snapping” the ball? (And don’t tell me snap-down drills). 🙂

  2. My whole program is all new throwers this year (well, 25 of 27). I’m really glad I came across this. I’ve been looking for a different progression to follow. Thanks.

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