Aikens on Throws: Week 3 – Finally, we look a little like throwers

ITCCCA Coaching Blogs, Discus, Illinois HS Track & Field, Opinion, Shot Put Leave a Comment

by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School

Well, it’s been four weeks now and we have been working pretty much five days a week. I am pleased with how my athletes have been coming along. Last Friday, my athletes were going through the glide drill series that I went over in last week’s blog Throws Coaches Blog #4, Week 3. I was watching them do the drills and then suddenly I realized hey, these guys actually look halfway decent doing these drills. So I said to a few of the kids, “Hey, you guys are finally starting to actually look a little bit like throwers.” One of the kids answered back, “Coach we have been working for almost a month now and we are just looking a little like throwers?” I said, “Yeah.” Then one of my more astute juniors says, “Hey guys, you realize that this is the first time coach has ever complemented us on our throwing form?” It was funny, you could see the other athletes thinking about it. Then they all got smiles on their faces, and one of them said, “Hey, we must really be getting better if coach actually gave us a compliment on our form.” You see I have always been very positive with my athletes, but honest. I compliment them on the hard work they are putting in, the effort they put into practice and a number of other things. But, whenever they have asked me about their shot put or discus form the answer would usually be, “Well, it’s better than it was before, but were not quite there yet.” You see, I have a vision in my mind of how they should look, and I really want them to understand that vision, so until their form is acceptable I won’t say anything. So, the other day when I gave the group the compliment they really appreciated it. My point is that this is an example of positive coaching without giving numerous compliments that are hollow and that the kids will eventually quit listening to.

I made this video of one of my throwers using Hudl Technique, which is a free video analysis program that I use with my athletes. It is an app you can download, and the free version does everything you would ever need to do when analyzing videos. I have used Coaches Eye and many other programs, but Huddle Technique has worked the best for me. When you are recording on it, you can draw a number of different things: lines, angles, timings, just about anything. You can also record your voice on it as well, perform side-by-side analysis and overlay throwers on top of each other. I also find it very easy to import and export videos from almost any device. All of this can be accomplished to help you create a very useful video analysis of your throwers. The videos you have analyzed are easily shared with your athletes if they download the app as well.

I think a prime example of the improvement in my athletes is best displayed in one of my throwers named James. James is a kid who works hard and has bought into the program. James usually stays a half hour or so after practice to work on his technique. You can see for yourself by looking at the video that his hard work and dedication is starting to pay off. The video on the right was taken at the end of the first day of practice on January 22nd. The video on the left was taken at the end of practice on February 14th. I could spend a lot of time going over the differences, but for the sake of brevity I am just going to hit some of the key points.

Stand Throw Comparison:

Notice his starting position in the picture on the right, how high he is and the position of his hand and the placement of the shot as well as his head, not to mention how high he lifts his left leg. In the video on the left he is back with a pretty good power position and the right leg properly loaded. As he begins his throw in the video on the right everything in his body is driving forward and not creating any power off of his right leg. In the video on the left, he is staying back much better while still creating a stretch across his chest that will aid in the release of the shot. As he is about to release the shot in the video on the right all his weight is forward and no weight is on his right leg, so even though he is pivoting his right foot and hip his weight has already been transferred to the front side of his body so the pivot does him no good. Also, he has no arch in his back so he is not engaging any of the large muscles of the hips, glutes and back. Finally, his left arm hasn’t opened up so he has closed his chest and created no stretch reflex to help snap the shot out on release. Whereas if you look at the video on the left, he is doing a pretty good job of staying over the right leg and creating a “C” position. As a result, he is doing a much better job of engaging his hips, glutes and back muscles. Another big improvement is his upper body in the delivery of the shot. He has used his left arm much more effectively, creating a nice stretch reflex across his chest that will help to snap the shot out upon release. His right arm delivery is also much improved, although not exactly how I want it yet. He has the right elbow high and is actually putting the shot as opposed to the video on the right where he is throwing the shot. A verbal que that worked well for him was the idea of bench pressing the shot off of his chest. Finally, notice the video on the right where there is absolutely no block of the left side. The left arm flies back and the left leg is not properly posted. Looking at the video on the left, he has a solid left side block from his arm down to his left foot. I am not saying that James’ form is perfect by any means, but it is sure a heck of a lot better than it was 3 and a half weeks ago.


Monday 2/12: I changed up the lifting days this week for no other reason than to introduce some variety into the workout plan. We are doing pulls and legs on Monday and Thursday this week, and presses and upper body work on Tuesday and Friday with no lifting on Wednesday. We have been having pretty good weight sessions with the athletes form coming along. With a few of them, I might have emphasized form over weight lifted a little too much. I had to encourage some of them to start adding more weight.

I had the kids start doing unit turns from “step arounds” to “360’s” and wheels & 360 wheels for our daily drills. I realized the kids were not very good at the movements they will need for rotary motion in the discus or shot so I wanted them to become more proficient at these skills so that they will be ready when discus begins. Today we did a circuit of drills with the girls throws coach and myself. The stations included a station where the athletes performed the step back power “Storl drill” while using the Video Delay App. I had the athletes themselves watching each other on the video delay app performing the drill. They would then make corrections for each other. I felt the kids knew enough now that they could start helping each other. I feel it is important for the kids to understand the technique they are trying to perform and try to help their teammates improve. Seeing the drill and working with each other on it is how they learn it even better. There is nothing like teaching something to help a person fully understand it. The second station was the athletes performing powers with mini med balls and Coach Barnes was working with them on their proper form. The main emphasis for these powers was proper right leg pivot and drive. The third station was me taking the athletes through the glide sequence I went over in last week’s blog, Throws Coaches Blog #4, Week 3.


Tuesday 2/13: Today was a back to basics day. I am trying to make a conscious effort at least one day a week to review the basics (grip, placement, release, power position as well as glide sequence basics). In the past I have taught these basics and then infrequently went back over them. You know how it is, you get those skills introduced and kind of like what you see and then move on to other skills like teaching the glide, rotational shot or disc and don’t go back and focus on those basics. As a result, I would occasionally find some of my throwers had issues that I couldn’t quite figure out and it turned out to be a result of some flaw in their basic skills. So, this year I decided at least during the indoor season I would spend at least one day a week reviewing the basics of throwing the shot. Today was that day, and then I spent a lot of time going over the glide sequence with the athletes.


Wednesday 2/14 & Thursday 2/15: There is a reason they call it drilling. I love kids–they get the drill down fairly well and then they think they’ve got it down. You know what I am talking about! Well, I made the kids do the same technique portion of practice for two days in a row. We did our daily rotational drills, our release drills and then our glide sequence drills. We then went to powers and step back powers using med balls because I wanted the athletes to really focus on their legs and footwork. Using the med balls helps to take the arms out of the equation and forces the kids to rely on their legs and torso more. We then did what I call ¾ glides. I have also heard them called partial glides. Essentially imagine doing a Wall Glide 2 without the wall and actually throwing the shot. Since the athlete is not as low in the back of the ring this is a great little drill to help the athlete focus on the proper leg action, driving of the power leg hill, timing of the left leg extension, etc.

¾ Glide drill:

Don’t get confused when you look at this athlete. This is not a perfect performance of this drill by any means. It is just designed to give you an idea of what the drill should look like. After we performed some ¾ glides I had them load their power leg and try some full glides. Needless to say, we still have a ways to go.


Friday 2/16: Today was a half day at Central so we had practice from 11:30 to 1:30 pm. One of the advantages of me no longer teaching is I do not have to go to those wonderful in-service days that teachers love so much. The wrestling team could not practice at that time so we went up to the gym shelf where the wrestlers usually practice. This is a great spot because there is a tarp we can let down between the shelf and the gym that we can throw discus’ into. So of course this day we worked on discus. I think this is only our 3rd or 4th time that we have focused on the discus at practice. By the time we got finished with weight lifting, letting the tarp down and peeling back the wrestling matts we had about 45 minutes left of practice. So we went through bowling and skimming of the discus to work on their releases. It was good to see their releases were much improved over last time.

We then went to work on our stand throws. We were trying to work on the rhythm of the throw and the concept of slinging the discus. The discus is more of a fluid motion than putting the shot and rhythm is so important. We have been doing some stand throws with mini med balls prior to today. So we focused on having the athlete wind the discus back while still trying to keep their weight over the power foot. I told them to visualize the roman statue of “Discobolus” and that’s the position I wanted at the end of the wind up. Once they feel the discus is wound back they need to initiate the throw with the pivot of the power foot and knee. They should be focusing on driving the hip around and ahead of the discus arm’s shoulder. If they can do this properly, they should feel a sling or pull of the discus. You as a coach should be able to stand on the side of them and witness the separation between their discus shoulder and power side hip. As you can see from the video that I took of my thrower, we haven’t quite mastered the form yet–but they’re working on it.

Central Throw discus stand throw:

I am heading out of town for the weekend and won’t be back until Monday night, so I am sure the athletes will enjoy their nice long weekend. Next week promises to be entertaining with our first meet as a team on Friday 2/23 at Huntley, Illinois.

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