Aikens on Throws: Week 6 – Starting to Get Better

ITCCCA Coaching Blogs, Discus, Opinion, Shot Put 1 Comment

by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School


Monday 2/26:

We maxed out in the Bench, Back Squat and Hang Cleans today. I want to go more into a power phase for the weight workout right now, so I would like to use percentages and to do that I need their max weight lifted. I also got two new throwers out from the freshman boys’ basketball team. One is a good-sized kid. Probably about 6’ 1” and over 200 lbs. He seems like he can move pretty well. I have to admit that I am more than a little excited at the prospect of working with him. I sure hope he works out.  I had my two juniors that stay after practice working with the two new guys to teach them the grip, placement, release, power position and the stand throw.  I knew that it would also help the older guys to teach the younger guys.  There is nothing like having to teach what you do in order to really understand it.  While the older guys were teaching the new kids, I decided to take some time and show the athletes the basics of rotational throwing.  We have been doing unit turns and wheels for the past few weeks, and these served as the foundation to teach the basic rotational throw.  I wanted to see if maybe any of the athletes had any natural propensity for rotational throwing.  I first showed them proper shot placement and the importance of keeping the shot tight with the elbow high so it won’t fly out during the rotational movement.  I then showed them how the delivery was different than the glide. I simply related it to the hang cleans that we have been doing.  I decided to teach the whole movement first from the back to the front, similar to what I talked about on blog # 6.  I taught the wind with weight over a flat right foot, and then the unwind onto the left leg with a shifting of the hips to the left.  Then I went wind into a 90-degree turn out of the back. Then I went to a wind into a 180-degree turn out of the back. Then I went into a wind into a 270-degree turn out of the back, but when you land in the middle you must be looking the way you are going to throw with your weight shifted onto your right foot (make sure the heel of the right foot is off the ground). After they did the 270, then they had to wheel into the power position. Then they could put the shot. We did this progression in a walking movement with pauses in each position. Then we went to walking through it with no pauses, and finally walking through it with no pauses and throwing. As I said in my last blog, this by no means passes for teaching them rotational throwing. I just want them to grasp the big picture of the complete throw and a better understanding of why we have done some of the drills and why we will be doing other drills in the future.


Tuesday 2/27: Today was a Dumbbell workout to focus on speed and to give them a little break from the max lifts of yesterday.  Today was a good drill day as some athletes were finishing the weights I had the kids do 20 slow-motion powers. I wanted them to think and feel each part of the throw.  After yesterday, when I had introduced the rotational throw to the athletes, I had some who wanted to continue to work on it. Today, we divided the athletes up into three groups. The first group was about four kids who had just come out for the team yesterday and they worked on Powers with Coach Barnes.  We divided the other kids up into rotational throwers and glide throwers.  The glide throwers again went through the glide sequence and then I had them do 20 glides into the power without throwing. Then we did 10 glides into the power position. They were then checked by their partner for a correct power position and performed a 1-2 power throw video. Then the athletes did 10 complete glides and released the shot. The rotational throwers performed the same rotational sequence as yesterday. Afterwards, we had them do 6 wheels to a throw. The key on the wheel is to not raise up and not let the weight shift off the power leg. I cue my athletes by telling them not to change the angle of their power leg.  Then they performed six South Africans, and finally a movement through the throw with no stopping. After today’s drills the athletes have a concept of what the throw should be. Now we must work to refine the specifics of the throw.


Wednesday 2/28:  It didn’t take me long. I finally screwed up. As I have talked about before, Central is getting this new field house that from what I understand will be fantastic.  I have found a hallway where one side of it is the weight room and the other side of the hallway is the entrance to the new field house. It’s a great wall! It’s cement with a fairly high ceiling so it has been perfect to throw the mini med balls that I have talked about earlier against this wall.   Everything has been fine. We throw those against the wall while we are waiting for people to finish up before everyone walks down to the Elementary school gym for the remainder of practice. On this day, we didn’t have weights and we can’t walk down to the gym until 4 o’clock because we need to wait for the elementary kids to leave.  Today, I wanted to do some regular medicine ball work. So, I found some new black med balls in the storage area that I decided we were going to do powers with so that we could really focus on the action of the lower body and legs.  So the kids are doing a good job working on the pivot and push of their right legs (power legs) while trying to produce the proper blocking action with the left leg. I am working with this one athlete when I look up and say “OH ****, STOP THROWING!” There are black marks on the wall from the medicine balls. Mind you, we have thrown medicine balls against this wall a lot in the past and never left any marks. So, we stopped, and everyone put the med balls back and we headed down to the gym because we needed to have a throw-off for the meet on Friday and time was running short.  Young coaches, please learn from this. Yes, I made a mistake but my bigger mistake was not telling anyone. I was in a hurry to get to the throw-off underway and decided I would tell my head coach, AD or someone higher up than me when I got back.  The problem was being an old fart like I am I forgot and went home after practice.  Later that night, I am sitting down relaxing watching a little Amazing Race on my DVR when I get this wonderful text from my head coach.  “What happened to the wall?” I was like, “Oh ****, I forgot!” and this is where the important lesson is. If you make a mistake, let your superior know ASAP.  The one thing superiors hate is surprises.  I should know. I was a head coach for almost 30 years and I always hated getting little surprises like that. Needless to say, people were not happy to have their nice new wall marked up with a bunch of black marks.  I will admit though, that everyone has been good about it. I have gotten a well-deserved ribbing for it, but my superiors are really good and I need to be more careful and remember don’t leave something like that until later. You see, young coaches, even when you are an old coach like me there are going to be screw- ups, so don’t worry when you make them–just notify your superior and do your best to correct them.

By the way, the throw-off went very well and the new freshman from the basketball team won the throw off for the Frosh/Soph level.


Thursday 3/1: Today was a half day for Central, so we actually had practice at 11:30 until 1:30. It was great! We had the weight room and the wrestling shelf (where we can actually throw shot) to ourselves. I had the kids break up into four groups, two working on discus throwing into the net and two working on shot putting.  My discus group was divided into groups of three and were working on the discus power throw. They were working on the rhythm and trying to feel the slinging effect produced by the discus. They had to watch each other and offer critiques.  Some of my athletes are actually getting pretty good at it VIDEO OF DISCUS POWER THROW.

I have three shot putters who were having a hard time getting their right foot underneath them in the glide action, so I had them doing banded glide throws against the wall. This is a great drill if someone is having trouble getting their power foot in the proper placement in the glide.  You simply tie a theraband onto each ankle and have the athlete perform the glide.  The slight pull of the theraband helps the right foot get into a better position.  I would do 4 with the band and 2 without the band.   YOU TUBE VIDEO OF BANDED GLIDE THROWS.

The other group of shot putters were all pretty new so we had worked on power throws, but I wanted them to get a little more momentum into their throw so I worked on teaching them the power position shuffle throw.  I know the shuffle throw gets a lot of grief, but it is a reasonably easy technique to teach and it helps the thrower to develop the feel of moving back words and being in a decent power position to then put the shot.  The thing I stress with the athletes performing this is to look back and not open up. You know how many athletes want to open up to the throwing sector way to soon? This technique can also help with that. This is a video of one of my freshman doing SHUFFLE GLIDES.

I have to admit, today I was not feeling my best. It started last night probably because of the issues with the marks on the wall, but I was feeling like my guys just are not coming along like I think they should be.  I understand that all coaches have this feeling during the season–it’s just the way it is, but it doesn’t make you feel any better when the feeling hits you.  After practice I wasn’t feeling any better. These athletes have been working very hard, and I was worried that at the Batavia meet they would not have the improvements that they should and they would become discouraged. You know how it is, working hard and investing in something doesn’t always guarantee success, and I know that is a lesson that sports and coaches help to teach young people, but it was not a lesson that I felt like giving them on Friday!


Friday 3/2: We had our second meet today. It was at Batavia, IL. There were some pretty good schools and some pretty good throwers there. Batavia has Green who went 55’ 05” and Kaneland has Hannula who went 59’ 05” and Mavros from West Aurora who went 52’ 10” and there were another 2-3 guys over 50 feet as well.  Before each competition I meet with the throwers and give them the warm up routine that I write down for them. As I have said in an earlier blog, I feel the warm up helps prepare them mentally as well as physically.  So I was passing that paper out before the meet and sat the guys down to talk a little about goals for the competition.  I again explained that we are outgunned at this meet and it is another learning experience but I still want them to learn to compete. So we decided to set the goal of each thrower finishing higher than their seed going into the meet and they should throw a personal record (PR).  We were able to take 6 throwers. Four throwers were in the open division and didn’t count for points while two throwers were able to count for points.  My two juniors, who are my only upperclassmen, were in the counting division and my other throwers were in the open division.  The goals set were realistic and attainable for the kids, so they had a purpose to their throws.  I also added a little more hard to reach goal of if two kids put over 40 feet and one over 36 feet I would take them to Steak & Shake.  Needless to say, my wallet was safe. But, every athlete except one threw his PR and all finished higher than their seeds. So, the meet was a success–the athletes feel good about what they accomplished but realized that they have a long way to go still, which is exactly how I wanted it. They also had a cannoli race for the throwers in this meet. It’s a 4 x 100 relay and the winning team gets a large platter of cannolis. We didn’t win, but the kids had a blast running the race.


Saturday 3/3: Picture day. Man, I don’t like picture day! It wastes so much time! But I know the kids and the parents like the pictures, so what are you going to do? Maybe I would like them better if I had more hair.


After pictures the baseball kids had the wrestling shelf, so we walked down to the Elementary school gym. At least I know my throwers are getting plenty of fresh air and exercise.  I again broke the kids up intro groups of discus and shot.  I had them working with each other critiquing each other just like Thursday.  This time the discus guys again worked on the rhythm of the discus power and feeling the sling of the discus. Then they advanced to wheels and South Africans. Of course they were terrible, but I wanted them to feel more of the total movements.  With the shot, we went back to basics and did a lot of work with grip, placement, and trying to get the hips around properly in the stand throw.


We are definitely getting better, I just wish it was faster. I need to continue to remember to be patient.

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