by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School
Monday: We didn’t do too much today. In an attempt to locate some more talent and publicize the program, the Track team held an open school combine: overhead med ball toss, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, standing long jump and multiple bench press of 135 lbs. The combine was open to the entire school. The football guys who weren’t out for track also came to the combine. We used all of our new toys such as a computerized jump matt and a Freelap timing system to help impress the guys and maybe get a few more out. We gave T-shirts to all the top kids. The winner, unfortunately, was a baseball player. Also, no throwers were in the top ten. We’ll have to change that next time we run it.
Tuesday: As I said earlier, we didn’t do any lifting on Monday due to the combine. We are on a 4-day-a-week lifting schedule. I want to really focus on these kids getting stronger. Lifting is a very important part of our early season practices. I am trying to emphasize the importance of strength training and how it must be done correctly for the greatest gains. I watch the kids closely and correct them on their form. At this point in the season I have decided to spend up to 50% of practice time if need be on lifting and strength development. As a result, since we only practice for 2 hours a day I have to give up on some of the other exercises and drills I like to do.
I will be the first to admit that weight training is not my strong point, but I know enough to cover the basics. I have been pleasantly surprised at the form my kids are developing, although like most coaches I must keep getting on them about putting too much weight on the bar. I am constantly preaching that form and technique are more important than the amount of weight they lift. Currently, days one and three of the four-day program are focused on upper body and presses. The base lifts are Bench Press, Standing Push Press, Bent Over Rows, Lat Pulls, Curls and DB Flys. Days two and four of the routine are legs and pulls. The base lifts for these days are Clean High Pulls, Snatch High Pulls, Back, Overhead or Front Squats, Romanian Dead Lifts and Box Jumps. We have been focusing on learning different phases of the Olympic lifts in hopes that soon we can start teaching hang cleans. Later, when I feel the kids are comfortable with Hang Cleans, we will start on learning Hang Snatches.
Due to the shortness of time after our lifts we were only able to do our warm-up running routine, Daily Drills and our technique drill work. Our big focus in technique work today was shot grip, shot release, proper block arm movement and a big emphasis on proper leg position and drive. We used many of the drills from last week.
Wednesday We reviewed the drills from yesterday (drills from last week) and added a new one. I call it the “Storl drill” after the great David Storl. My friend Shawn Schleizer actually first showed me this drill and it was very helpful in the development of my gliders at Fremd. I have also heard this drill called a glide wheel or a step back put. I found a video of Storl doing this drill and I use it to show the kids how it should look.
When you watch the drill sequence it’s the second drill Storl does in the video. First, Storl does powers, and then he does the step back put. This is a great drill in many ways. It helps the athletes feel what it is like to load the power leg in the glide and develop a fast acting power foot. It helps the athlete feel what it is like to move backwards and throw. It helps them to learn to keep the shoulders back and not open up during the glide. It helps them to learn to stay low and not rise up as they move through the ring. Since this drill develops more momentum then a stand throw an athlete could perform this drill for distance in a meet. So we spent a large part of Wednesday teaching the athletes this drill. This is a video of one of my athlete’s first attempts at the Storl Drill. I guarantee you he will improve greatly he is a great kid who works hard. I show you this video so you can see that the kids don’t start with perfect form, it takes time, but I feel it is well worth the effort.
Thursday Yeah!! Today and tomorrow we finally get to throw in the Elementary School gym. My kids finally get to throw shots and not those mini med balls that we have been throwing for the past week and a half. Don’t get me wrong, the mini med balls from MF Athletics are great, but that’s all we have been throwing.
In the past we have been able to lift during the second part of practice, which I think is ideal: that way the kids aren’t as fatigued for the drill work. But since we can’t start at the school until 4pm, we might as well lift first. Also, coming back to the high school to lift would waste a lot of travel time. I think in time my kids will adjust just fine. My athletes at Fremd would always lift before they practiced because they had 8th hour PE. They adjusted just fine and my Central kids will also. We went through all the drills that we have been doing earlier in the week but this time with real shot puts.
Another big milestone happened today. I have told you that we only have 2 hours of practice time. I feel if we are going to improve at a faster rate we need more practice time. So, today I told the kids that I would work with any athletes who want to stay an extra 30 to 45 minutes. Five of our athletes stayed and worked! That’s a start, and that is awesome they wanted to!
Friday We finished our weights for the week and then went down to the Elementary school gym for some practice time. We got down there a little earlier because the kids on their own went to the weight room right after school so we gained about an extra 10 to 15 minutes in drill time. I’ve got great kids! Coach Barnes and I divided the kids in half. We had half do stand throws while filming them with the video delay app http://www.orangeqube.com/bustamove/. This is a great app. It videos the athlete and then shows the throw 4 different times. Each time it is delayed by how ever many seconds you choose to set the app to. So, the athlete would throw and come over to me by the IPad and watch their throw with me 4 times. I would give them a quick coaching point and then they would get back in line to throw again. While I am reviewing the film with the athlete another athlete is throwing and the process repeats itself, and so on and so on. This way we can get a lot of kid’s reps and they can see their own mistakes. While I am working with the kids on their stand throw with the video delay app, Coach Barnes is working with the other set of athletes on drills for their stand throw. After 4 throws from each athlete we switch and I work with the new group of athletes and coach Barnes works with the other set. We repeat this process three times.
To finish up the week we had some fun playing dodgeball and celebrating the end of a good week with chocolate milk and brownies. I think doing things like playing dodgeball and having chocolate milk is important. It helps build team unity and it’s just plain old fun.
Saturday Today was a volunteer practice day. I told the kids we would be practicing from 9 am to 11 am at the Elementary school gym and I would be happy to work with whoever showed up. As it turns out, I got into the school that morning only to find the gymnasium doors locked. Chalk it up to experience. Still getting used to the new surroundings. Lucky for us the wrestlers had their regional meet today so we were able to practice on the wrestling shelf at Central.
We had a great practice for the five athletes that showed up. I finally began to teach the glide to the throwers (I will get into this process next week). It was a good start but no surprise we have a ways to go. On Saturday, I also did a lot of the drills we have been doing all week but this time with med balls. The reason for this is that I wanted the throwers to focus on their lower body mechanics. Having the kids throw med balls still requires the kids to throw an implement, but since they must keep both hands on the ball and it takes away a lot of extraneous movements of the upper body and forces the kids to focus on the use of the lower body. We finished the day with the kids doing 2 med ball throws and then throwing once with a shot. They ended up doing 4 sets of three reps.
In closing, it was a pretty good week. We are definitely better than we were at the beginning of the week, but we still have a long way to go. I do feel the kids are starting to buy into the system. Today, when we were leaving they were checking the school records for the throws and asking me if I was going to stick around for more than a year (as I said earlier they have had a revolving door of coaches). When I answered that I would be here for at least four years they seemed pretty happy about that, which I was glad to see.