by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School
Monday 3/5: I decided over the weekend that we are just not getting enough time in practice to work on everything that we need too. I told the kids today that we are going to start staying until 5:30 pm instead of 5:00 pm. We are just not getting enough done in practice. As I have talked about earlier, we have to walk down to the Elementary school for the throws and drill portion of practice every day and that is eating up way too much practice time. I mean darn, by the time the kids get their stuff together and out of their lockers, than put on coats, etc. then walk down to the school and get into the gym, then change into their throwing shoes and get organized for drills it is anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes of wasted practice time. That just isn’t going to cut it anymore! We are not progressing at the rate I feel we should be, and quite frankly it is pissing me off! So we are staying longer! I thought I might get some push back from the kids or the parents but I didn’t and honestly I didn’t give them much of an option.
This is a weird week. We have meets on Wednesday at Sycamore where I will take my 4 best throwers–the others will lift and go home. We have another meet on Friday at Wheaton North only for the throwers who are not going on Saturday to our Invitational at Byron, Illinois. The schedule had a Wednesday meet and a Saturday meet already, but I added the Friday meet. I know having so many meets in a week really screws up practice, but I now have 12 throwers and only four of them have ever thrown in a real meet. So when I got the chance to take the kids to Wheaton North to a meet, I jumped on it. Nothing sucks more than training for almost six weeks and never getting to compete. This was a back to basics day. We went back again to doing basic power position and stand throw drills. I am trying to get these athletes to pivot their hip and push off of the ball of their power foot. So far they can do it in drills occasionally but still can’t seem to do it in a full stand throw. So we go back and work on it again. We are also working on trying to develop a more proficient glide. This is also a work in progress.
Tuesday 3/6: Today we hit the weights pretty hard for the kids who were not going to Sycamore tomorrow. We then headed down to the Elementary school where it was a big drill day on the glide. I went through the entire glide sequence with everyone and then let them do some Glide/ Check/ Put drills. This is where the athlete glides to the power position and stops. You then have the partner or coach check their power position and make the appropriate adjustments. Once the adjustments are made then the athlete completes the movement with a stand throw. This drill helps the athlete to learn to land in a good position and over time hopefully your adjustment time becomes less and less. I do suggest that you also do some full glides mixed in with this drill, so the athletes do not become too mechanical in their glide. We then finished up with some full glides because I want all the kids on Friday to throw with a full glide. I must say, some glides were passable and others…well, we just won’t talk about the others. This is a video of the Glide/Check/ Put Drill. https://youtu.be/kfA3Oxofgfk
Wednesday 3/7: We had an invitational at Sycamore today. I was able to take 4 throwers. Two varsity and two junior varsity throwers. I was looking forward to this meet because a lot of teams that we are going to see in our sectional meet were going to be at this meet. I brought my two juniors for varsity and two freshman for the junior varsity competition. I was also excited for this meet because I knew my juniors were ready to throw over 40 feet and my two freshman were ready to throw over 35 feet.
Well, that’s not exactly what happened. The varsity competition was first and the powers were going well. My athletes complained a little that the ring was slick. I gave my typical answer, “Well, its slick for everybody.” Needless to say, they threw terribly at the meet. They were ready to throw over 40’ and they should have thrown over 40’ and they didn’t. I was not happy! As I told my guys, I wasn’t disappointed in them–I was disappointed in their distance. They know I am honest with them. I let them know when they work hard and do a good job and I let them know when they didn’t do such a good job. Today wasn’t such a good job. The results were a little better for the freshman. One of them threw 35’ 9”, but the other one was well under his potential. So, after the competition the Sycamore coach was throwing some of his guys who didn’t get to compete in the meet. I asked him if we could jump in and throw some more. He was kind enough to let us join him. Due to the meets, we were only going to have three practices this week so I saw this as an opportunity to practice our powers, which we needed a lot of work on. I went and got the guys, and they were not real thrilled to have to go throw again but got up, got their throwing shoes on, and went over and threw about 8 more powers each. After we finished our second round of power throws, I talked to the guys. I have been coaching long enough now that there are some days when things just don’t work. You just perform poorly and can’t seem to get it together. I used my classic line with the guys “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want and today we got a lot of experience.” All of us agreed to forget how they threw at this meet, but not to forget how bad they felt by not performing well. Interesting side note. Later in the night the meet was going on and the ring was open in the middle of the field house. I decided to get in the ring and try a glide. Oh My God! That truly was the slickest ring I have ever seen. It had some black surface that was extremely slick. I think that surface definitely had something to do with the guys’ performances, but I didn’t tell them that. I don’t want them getting in the habit of making excuses.
Thursday 3/8: Today was pretty much a repeat of Tuesday’s practice. We also added a little more stand throw work into the practice.
Friday 3/9: As I said earlier, my young throwers haven’t had a chance to throw in a real meet so when Coach McQuaid said we could come over and throw I jumped on it. It was a great opportunity and the kids took advantage of it. Seven of the nine athletes I brought to the meet threw personal records. I have had inter squad meets back in the elementary school gym so I had some numbers to compare their performance too. I am really going to enjoy watching this group grow and develop over the years. During the meet I told the guys if they all got Personal Records (PRs) that we would stop at White Castle on the way home and I would pay for it. So, when only seven of nine got personal records they weren’t happy. I like to do little things like that for fun and motivation. Unbeknown to the guys I had asked the bus driver to stop at the White Castle on the way back. The kids did a good job of competing and preparing for the competition so I was pleased with their efforts. You should have seen the kids’ faces when we pulled into that White Castle–they were pretty happy! I went in and bought them a crave case and they ate it on the way home. I told them don’t be getting used to this. The coolest thing was I was listening to the guys on the way home and they were off and on talking about throwing. Two of them even came up to the front of the bus by me and were asking me questions about the state meet and what were some good throwers they could look at on Youtube. I was glad to hearing talking like this because I know now that the kids are really starting to fall in love with throwing and that’s a big part to having a successful program.
Saturday 3/10: The team had the Byron Preview Invitational meet today. We were competing against a bunch of 2A and some 1A schools, which are more our size. We did very well as a team and won the meet. We were allowed to enter two varsity throwers, so I entered my two juniors. I was hoping that we would not have a repeat of Wednesday’s performance, then I would start worrying. I didn’t have to worry, though. The guys performed very well. They bounced back nicely after Wednesday’s performance. One of my junior’s threw a personal record. It wasn’t quite 40 feet, but it was close. My other junior also threw a personal record. He finally put the shot over 40 feet. It was 40 feet and a ½ inch but it was over 40 feet and it was on his final throw, which was cool. A funny story with him is that he has a major issue on dropping the elbow of his putting arm, so he ends up actually throwing the shot put. He was doing that again in the competition and was throwing around low 36 or high 35 feet. In between throws I pulled him aside and told him, “I don’t care about anything else in your throw just keep your damn elbow up when you put the shot.” The next throw he did. The throw wasn’t very pretty, but he kept his arm up and put the shot 39’ 9”…a sizable PR for him. He came over with a big old smile on his face and said “Wow, It’s amazing what happens when you listen to coach. I know you said keep your elbow up coach, but I had no idea it would help that much!” He kept it up on the next put and threw over 40 feet. Imagine that. It’s amazing what happens when you listen to coach!
I think that is a prime example of when kids know what they should be doing and know why they should be doing it, but until they actually do it in a meet it doesn’t really sink in. It’s also an example of how I think coaching technique in field events works. You work on something over and over again in drills and in practice throws, but they just can’t seem to get it done in a meet. Then, suddenly one day it clicks and the kids perform that skill in competition. Those are the days that make me feel good as a coach who teaches a technical event.