Aikens on Throws Outdoor Week 6: Conference Week

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by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School

MONDAY 5/7: Today was a full practice with everyone who is going to throw at the conference meet. This week we are focusing on specific aspects of the kids’ throws to help prepare them for the conference meet. My one junior shot putter needs to work on getting his right foot underneath him, slightly turned, and facing roughly the 10 o’clock position. He also needs to get his right heel up. He also needs to develop a better angle of release–his current angle of release is way too high, mostly because he drops the elbow that supports the shot put. To work on these things, he is going to do slow motion, five-count perfect powers followed by a regular power. To help on his right foot, he is going to do a series of double glides and straight leg glides. My freshman thrower needs to keep his left arm facing the back of the ring during the glide action. He also needs to get his right foot under him when he hits the power position. He is also pulling his head away on release of the shot. He is going to work the same drills that my junior shot putter is doing. In the discus, he needs to continue working on creating a fluid movement out of the back of the ring into the middle into a wheel movement to the front with a strong finish. He is going to work on his movements through the ring by doing multiple shadow spins landing in the power position, and then doing a stand throw. My hope is that if he can do enough of these he will be able to recreate this movement in the meet, just a little faster. My other junior discus thrower needs to work on the entire spin motion with a good finish on the release. He needs to work on making his movements less robotic and more fluid. He will be doing the same discus drills as my freshman discus thrower. My other freshman JV discus thrower currently over- rotates out of the back of the ring. He needs to work on driving out of the back of the ring.  To help this, he will be doing more than a few South African drills. He also has this weird habit of throwing his left arm over his head in the middle of the ring. This causes him to hit the power position slightly off balance. In the shot, he needs to create a faster and more fluid movement across the ring. He will be performing multiple glides to work on making that movement more fluid. My other freshman JV thrower needs to work on getting his right foot into a better position in the shot put. In the discus, he needs to work on the same things as my other freshman JV thrower. He also needs to chase the discus out at the end of the throw. He tends to pull with his left side too much, and this affects the amount of force he applies to the discus on the end of the throw. They just need to keep working on the same things–I don’t want to change anything to major this time of year.

TUESDAY 5/8: My good freshman has got back issues, so I sent him to a sports chiropractor that I know in Geneva, IL. It figures, when it gets down to crunch time you’ve got to deal with another hurdle. I think his back will be fine, though. Today, I really worked the shot putters on trying to get that right foot under them in a good position so that they can drive off of it. We did a lot of straight leg glides so that all the work is required by their right leg and right foot. I alternated them with regular glides where they really tried to drive their left kick leg to the toe board. I have always believed that the hard kick of the left leg facilitates getting the right foot under the hips in a good position. For my discus throwers, we worked on trying to create more drive out of the back of the ring. We worked on this while also trying to create a wider right leg out of the back. I like a wider leg out of the back of the discus ring. I feel it helps create more torque and separation of hips and shoulders in the middle of the ring. I had the discus throwers doing shadow spins landing in the power position, and continuous South African turns in the grass. I also had them doing about 15 full spins.

WEDNESDAY 5/9: Today was an easier practice since it is the day before the conference meet. We had some bad weather coming in, so I tried to get everything done before the weather hit. I got my shot put practice in. They worked on the same thing that we had been working on all week, getting the right foot under them in a good position. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the discus practice in before the rain hit. We had just finished powers, and then the skies opened up: rain, lightning, wind and a little hail. We couldn’t make it to the school, so we ended up in the shed where we store the implements and the ground guys store their work carts. It’s an aluminum shed and with the wind, rain, and hail we could barely hear ourselves think, let alone talk. But, we needed to get practice in, so we cleared a space in the middle of the floor and proceeded to do spins in the storage shed. It was kind of funny. It felt like the world was ending outside, and we are in this shed doing discus spins. They couldn’t hear what I was saying to them very well, so I was trying to demonstrate what I wanted them to do–I felt like a mime. After the storm passed, most of the guys had to get going home as it was a little late. My good freshman who had missed Tuesday decided to stay late and work on his discus some more, so we went out and threw full spins for about twenty minutes.

THURSDAY 5/10: Today was the Kishwaukee River Conference (KRC) Meet. The throwers did really well. The meet has both a varsity and junior varsity level, and Burlington Central won both levels. On the varsity level, my shot putters performed really well. In the preliminaries, my freshman thrower had three throws in the high 41’s and low 42’s. That was good enough to get him into the finals. My junior thrower, on the other hand, who was the number one seed going into the meet had fouled his first two throws and was in danger of not making the finals. He had some great warm up throws but kept fouling in the prelims. I talked to him before his final throw of the prelims and told him to stand in the middle of the ring and perform a stand throw. I felt this would be good enough to make finals and I didn’t want him fouling–that’s why I placed him in the middle of the ring. Well, he did make finals, so he lived to fight another day. He and I had a short chat. His issue was that he had never had any expectations before. All the meets that we had been involved with this season, he was never expected to do anything and now all of a sudden he is the front runner and favored to win. It’s a scary place if you haven’t been there before. This is what he needed to go through to mature as an athlete and a person. He has improved a lot this year, and I am confident that next year he will be a state qualifier in the shot put. So the finals start, and my freshman on his second throw goes into the lead with his PR for the season–43’ 0.5 inches. My junior throws two throws in the mid 41’s and doesn’t improve his place. So, it’s the last round and my junior decides he finally wants to compete. On his last throw he tosses the shot 45’ 4.5” which is over a foot PR for him. He showed me something on that last throw. All the great throwers I have had in the past have all had that intangible where they were able to compete, and he showed me a little of that tonight. With that throw he won the shot put and set the conference record (mind you the conference is only three years old). My varsity freshman thrower ended up in third place–not too bad. In the varsity discus we didn’t fare so well. We ended up with only a fifth-place finish from my freshman shot putter who was also throwing discus. On the JV level we did well also. I have a freshman thrower who has thrown 117’ in the discus, 38’ in the shot and has pole vaulted 10’ 3”, although all not at the same meet. I think he is going to make a hell of a decathlete one day. He won the JV conference shot at 36’ 5”, the discus at 105’ 9”, and pole vault 10’ 3’. None of those numbers are outstanding, but he was definitely keeping busy that night and I was impressed with how he was able to mentally switch from one event to the other. Another one of my freshman throwers also threw JV discus and shot put. Shot put didn’t go so well for him. He had a great practice all week in the shot and was looking great, but all of a sudden on this night he did something he had never done before and it screwed him up real bad. We tried but could not get it fixed during the competition. In the discus, however, he did very well and earned a 2nd place finish in the JV conference. Overall, it was a good night and I was very proud of my throwers.

FRIDAY 5/11: Today was weights only, lighter weights in the 65% to 80% of max range but performed really fast on the positive movement. After that, I gave the kids off–no practice.

SATURDAY 5/12: More than likely my throwers probably won’t make the state meet this year. So our focus is on trying to have them all throw PR’s at their last meet. I was initially going to have my one junior and two freshman have a throw-off for the two discus spots. As I thought about things more, I remembered what this season is about. I am trying to lay a foundation of a strong throws program and trying to take these kids to the next level. I also think my bigger freshman who has thrown 43+ and my junior who has thrown 45+ could benefit from a solid week of shot put only. It might be the difference of them getting their PR or not. As a result of these two factors, I decided to have the guys who threw varsity shot in conference throw only shot at the sectionals. I then had my freshman who won JV conference and my other junior thrower throw only discus at sectionals. I made it a point to speak with them about how I came to my decision and how I felt it would benefit them and the program more. They seemed totally on board with the decision.

The weather today was a little iffy, so I decided that we would have practice on the shelf. I typically don’t like to mix indoor and outdoor implements, but today’s practice was vital to prepare the kids for sectionals. My thought process for today was to get a lot of throws in. I wanted to go 50 plus throws for the guys. We worked a lot on the same things that we have been working on all week (See Monday). We had a good practice and the kids had an excellent focus. On to Sectionals!

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