by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School
Just goes to show you how much of a head coach I am not anymore. My last couple of years at Fremd we started having the Sectional Track Meet on Thursday nights so I was pretty sure that Burlington Central was going to be going to sectionals on Thursday. No, it is on Friday night 5/18. I guess I need to listen to the head coach a little better.
I will have two guys throwing shot and two separate guys throwing discus. My basic plan for sectionals will be a little different than in the past seasons because, unfortunately, I don’t think any of my throwers will qualify for the state meet. As a result of that, I have been getting them ready to peak for sectionals instead of the state meet. Who knows, maybe one of them will have an amazing throw and qualify. Below is my basic plan for sectional track meet week.
Monday: Throwing shot with 12lb, 11lb & 10lb. I want the change in weight to stimulate their nervous system a little. We are focusing on three things that they have had issues with all season: 1) Getting their right foot under them and the heel up as soon as possible once they hit the power position. 2) Proper delivery mechanics of the upper body in the shot put. 3) The rhythm and accelerated nature of the throw. In the discus they are focusing on, 1) Driving across the discus ring. 2) Working on grinding the right foot in the middle of the throw. 3) The rhythm and accelerated nature of the throw. This is supposed to be a fairly hard day (40+ throws for shot and discus). At the end of practice they will finish with three throws at full effort. Each throw will be 3 to 5 minutes apart. I want to simulate the best I can the sectional throws and pacing of those throws. Also, a speed weight workout, roughly between 65% and 80% of max. I want the boys pushing the weight as fast as possible.
Tuesday: Pretty much the same as yesterday except the shot putters will be using 11lb and 10lb shots. I want the kids putting arms moving fast. Also, I think it helps their psyche when they see the shot going far. I also feel by them using the lighter shots throughout the week when they use the slightly heavier shot in competition it will help them keep the shot back just a fraction of a second longer. Discus is the same as yesterday, but less powers and more full throws to focus on timing. They will also finish with three throws at full effort that will be 3 to 5 minutes apart.
Wednesday: Shot putters again use 11lb’s and 10lb’s, but today it is all about the rhythm of the full movement. They should throw between 20 and 30 throws in total as well as a very light speed weight session covering bench, squats, and cleans. My kids like to lift, so lifting on Wednesday should make them feel better. Today, they will also finish with three throws at full effort that will be 3 to 5 minutes apart.
Thursday: This practice will be really short. We will be in and out of practice in less than an hour. If they don’t have it by now they are not going to have it. Today is only the 10lb shot. No more than 10 total throws in shot or discus. Today, I don’t finish with three throws at full effort that will be 3 to 5 minutes apart. Today, I want them to go home hungry and looking forward to those three throws at the sectional meet.
MONDAY 5/14: The weather was not very cooperative today. We had a series of storms moving through the area. We started outside and ended up inside. Today was the longest practice of the week not only for the volume of throws that were needed and the lifting we had to do, but also due to the delays caused by weather. With my shot putters we worked on a correct finish by doing two slow-motion standing throws followed by a regular-speed standing throw. I am attempting to get them to finish with better grinding of the right foot and a proper release angle of the shot. They both tend to drop their shot put elbow which I believe is causing too high of a trajectory. They need to keep the elbow behind the shot during release. To work on getting their right foot under them we did a series of double glides and straight leg glides followed by some regular glides focusing on these aspects. With my discus throwers, we really worked on driving across the ring. We did a series of continuous South Africans followed by throwing South Africans and finished up with complete spins focusing on driving out of the back of the ring. We went inside and had them throwing into the net since the weather was bad again. Towards the end of the session they were finally starting to get some good drive out of the back of the ring. There wasn’t a chance for them to do three competition throws with 3-5 minute break in between because we just ran out of time. We finished up with a very good weight session. I felt pretty good about today’s practice. It started out very rushed and hectic due to the weather, but we ended up getting some good things done.
TUESDAY 5/15: Today was a gorgeous day outside. The sun was shining. Finally, not the usual gale force wind and the temperatures were in the upper 70’s. It was the kind of day where I really enjoyed track practice. We pretty much repeated yesterday’s practice, but only using 11 and 10 lb. shots. I made a little adjustment with my shot putters. I didn’t like how high they were coming out of the back of the ring. So we did a number of glides with them having to glide under a broom stick that was placed above their shoulders in the back of the ring. It had its desired effect, it did help keep them lower. But, when you are lower it is harder to get your right foot under you in the proper position. This is the issue that they were having. It was also screwing up their timing a little as well. So I made an executive decision and decided that this would be something we would work on in the future. I think it was more important for them to get their right foot in a good position and have their timing down as well as some other little things we need to clean up. With the discus guys, we worked a lot on trying to ingrain the drive across the ring into their full spin. The guys must have done 25 full spins. Both groups were able to finish with the 3 competition throws with 3-5 minute break in between. It was fun to watch the freshman compete with juniors. In both cases the freshman were beating the juniors until the last throw. On the last throw the juniors dug down–their pride would not let them loose to the freshman. I love their response to the freshman: “That’s what happens when the little dogs mess with the big dogs!” They had fun, and it helped to develop that competitive spirt I want to promote with them.
WEDNESDAY 5/16: Today was another beautiful day to practice. It was actually hot outside! Today, each group did between 24-28 throws. The shot putters did four stand throws. Then the focus was on kicking the left leg hard and driving of the right foot from the back of the ring. They did four double glides and four straight-leg glides. Next they did two shadow glides with a shot put focusing on kicking the left leg and driving off the right leg. This was followed by a full glide with a throw focusing on the same thing. They did eight sets of those, so 24 glides and 8 throws. After completing those throws they had five throws focusing on the right and left legs at about 80% effort to help continue to ingrain it into their throw. They finished with three competition throws and the junior still beat the freshman, but of course it came down to the last throw. With the discus throwers, my freshman was experiencing a little hip issue so I just had him do powers and then shut him down. I hope he is okay to go on Friday. With my junior discus thrower, we did 6 powers and then did 21 spins. I had him do the first 6 nice and slow, just hitting the proper positions. The next six I had him go through the spin faster and still hopefully hit good positions. The last six I had him not think about any technique just the rhythm of the throw. Then the last three were competition throws with a 3-5 minute break in between. He couldn’t compete against the freshman since I held the freshman out of practice. His last three throws were all very good for him.
THURSDAY 5/17: Today was a very short day. My freshman shot putter was sick, so he did not come to practice. My junior shot putter was there and ready to go. We threw only the 10lb shot. He wasn’t as sharp as I had hoped. His right foot wasn’t getting into the proper position, so we ended up doing twelve throws instead of ten. He did four powers working on a proper release angle, followed by four glides with a kick-the-left and drive-off-the-right focus. To finish up, he did four glides just clearing his head and letting it flow. As I said earlier, he didn’t look as good as I had hoped so I really wanted to do more throws. I have learned over the years doing too much before the day of sectionals is a big mistake. I have learned to always err on the side of rest when it comes to things like this. My discus guys also threw ten throws. They threw three powers, two South Africans and five full spins just focusing on the rhythm and feel of the throw. They actually looked very good today with multiple throws over 120 feet. I am hoping they can carry it over to tomorrow.
FRIDAY 5/18: Well, It’s finally here: Sectionals! We were at the Genoa-Kingston Sectional. They have a great facility and know how to run a top-notch meet. I have talked with the kids about this meet. Our goals are realistic. The goals are to get all four throwers into the finals and have everyone throw PR’s. Based on what I have seen this week in practice, they are primed to do just that. I have to run the shot put at the sectional, so I won’t be able to coach the kids but that should be okay. They know what they have to do. I hope we get good weather. The weather report predicts a 30% chance of scattered showers, so hopefully we will have no rain.
Guess what? The weather sucked! Thirty percent, my ass! The damn rain clouds found us and hung around. It was chilly and rainy all night. Looking at the sectional results in the throws from other schools, it appears that not many people had a great night. We had to suspend the meet for about 45 minutes due to weather. So, needless to say, my shot putters did not throw PR’s. In fact, nobody at the meet threw a PR, except the guy who won the discus. My freshman was in the second flight of shot and just seemed flat. He slipped on his very first glide attempt and threw 40’ 10”, so that might have spooked him a little. His second throw was 42’ 10” and his third throw was 41’ 9”. None of his throws were spectacular compared to his practice throws, but that’s how it played out. As I said earlier, the weather definitely had an effect on the throwers. While the best flight was warming up, I talked to him about what a great season it was and that he had had a pretty good freshman season. I was pretty sure he was not going to make finals with a 42’ 10” throw. My junior thrower was in the best flight, and his warm-ups looked pretty good. He had a couple of 44-footers. I figured on this night that would make the finals. His first two throws were dog dodo! He threw mid-41’s. On his last throw, he finally had a decent throw of 43’ 5”. It just looked like he wasn’t getting anything into the shot. As soon as the best flight had finished the shot, we got a 45-minute rain delay. During that delay, we determined the finalists for the shot put. My junior made it, and there was a three way tie for 8th. They all threw 42’ 10”, so my freshman made the finals. We both were pleasantly surprised. After the delay, we came back and had the finals for shot. I think the kids had a hard time getting it going again. My kids tried but we could not take advantage of the conditions or competition. It turned out that 45’ 5” was 2nd place and that young man was going to state. State was there for the taking–we just couldn’t take advantage of it.
In the discus, we didn’t fare as well. My freshman discus thrower who had looked pretty good all week threw all of his tosses out of bounds. I was running the shot, so I couldn’t be there to help him make adjustments. Again, another great benefit of being involved in a sport where the coaches have to also officiate. I wonder what would happen if we did that for football, basketball or baseball? Who knows, it might make things more interesting. Anyways, by the time I got over there it was his last throw. So I adjusted him in the ring a little bit, but I think it screwed him up more than helped him. I felt bad for him. It sucks fouling all three throws. My junior had a better series. He threw 115’ 9” and a couple of 109’ throws. He is not a real fast spinner so the crappy conditions didn’t affect him as much as some of the other kids. Well, it turns out that he made the finals in 9th place. So, he got three more throws. He threw a couple in the 113’s but couldn’t improve on his first round toss.
Overall, it wasn’t exactly the dream end to the season that I was hoping for, but how often does that really happen? I couldn’t be prouder of the kids; they gave it everything they had, and it just wasn’t in the cards. Also, I as a coach have to go back and look at what I did and see what else can be done to improve our performance next year.
Next week will be my last blog. I am going down to the state meet, and I will share some of my observations of the meet with you. Hopefully, the weather will be better.