Aikens on Throws Outdoor Week 1: Wow do I love Spring Weather, Wish we had some

Kevin ChristianCoaching Blogs, Discus, Illinois HS Track & Field, Opinion, Shot Put Leave a Comment

by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School

Monday 4/2: I like to treat Spring Break as a voluntary time for practice since a lot of kids leave for some type of vacation. Luckily Coach Barnes (girls throws coach) was around for practice on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday of Spring Break which enabled my wife and I to go on a cruise to Cuba. It was fantastic! We spent two days in Havana and had a blast! Then I came back to this wonderful northern Illinois spring weather, Ha!

Today was actually not too bad the weather was in the mid 40’s and for once there weren’t gale force winds blowing on the top of Rocket Hill where our track is located. We have also gained a few athletes since the beginning of the indoor season. We now have fifteen boys and eight girls in our throws program which is a vast improvement over what we started with. They are pretty good kids but still have a lot to learn. They are all pretty much in the same boat of still working on the basics of throwing. We are still in a four days a week lifting mode so that uses up an hour of our time which leaves us a little over an hour for other stuff. As in indoors I am still focusing on teaching them technique and trying to lay a good foundation.

Coach Barnes and I decided that this week would be a continuation of the basics and working on teaching the basic movements of the discus spin. We decided this could best be accomplished by breaking the athletes up into separate groups and rotate these groups through different drill stations. So todays practice looked something like this.

DRILL GROUP ONE: (perform for 15 min. repeat if necessary)

  1. Check shot put grip & placement
  2. 2. 8 kneeling arm puts with a block shot (focus on release & block)
  3. 8 Standing ¼ turns (focus on release & block)
  4. 10 1-2’s with a shot put
  5. 4 powers with foot turn & good release


DRILL GROUP TWO: (perform for 15 min. repeat if necessary)

  1. 6“T” position into Gather Drill into left leg kick attempt to keep stomach on thigh.
  2. 6From “A” position drill, pull right leg under with heel up. Do not raise up!
  3. 8 Using the fence as your wall do Wall Glide # 2 drill
  4. 6 Step Back Storl’s (stay low, looking back and have an active right foot)
  5. 6 Full glide to perfect power position. (Finish looking back with right heel up) then perform
  6. 4 Glides w/shot toss (focus on proper glide, then good stand throw)


DRILL GROUP THREE: (perform for 15 min. repeat if necessary)

  1. 10 Bowls against the fence
  2. 8 Skims against the fence focus on a smooth release
  3. 6 Nice easy pre block focusing on proper release & hip movement. Arm across chest.
  4. 6 Using throw balls do arm, hip turn & throw drill. Focus on proper release.
  5. 6 Discus Powers focusing on proper pivot of right leg.


DRILL GROUP FOUR: (perform for 15 min. repeat if necessary)

  1. 6 step back powers
  2. 2. 6. Wheels, 1 without a discus & then one with a discus.
  3. 6 Step into South Africans (lead with the thigh) with discus
  4. 4 Spins to power throwing the sock balls

We placed what we felt were our four best leaders to be in charge of each group. Coach and I gave the kids the workout for each drill session and Coach Barnes and I would walk around and work with the kids in the groups. This worked relatively well. I think it is a good method for trying to improve the entire group but I don’t think it works so well in trying to get your better throwers more advanced since your attentions are more focused on the group. Later on as we start to separation in thrower as their talents develop we will need to readjust this model, but for the first week outside I think it works rather well. I am lucky I have some kids who can help out as leaders.


Tuesday 4/3: As I said earlier one of our goals is to teach the discus spin this week. I like to teach a basic model with the athlete starting in the back and performs a 270 degree turn then lands in the middle of the ring and from there performs a wheel into the power position and throws the implement. This is a very basic framework to begin with but it’s a place to start.

It was a shitty spring day outside, rainy & cold. So we stayed inside today. I had the kids come to Coach Barnes’ classroom where we showed then a presentation that I had done for the Ohio Track Clinic a few years ago. It has videos and a good explanation of the various phases of the discus spin and the drills I like to do to develop those phases. This took about an hour and you know how kids are when they have been sitting in school all day the last thing they want to do is sit for an hour and watch Coach Aikens give a PowerPoint on the discus throw. To help keep their attention I would make them get up and perform some of the drills, this helped to shake them out of their occasional stupor. By the time I had finished the baseball team was off the gym shelf and we went there to teach the initial spin.

First I had the kids do all of their unit turn and wheel drills that we have been trying to do every day. When I teach the spin I like to do it in steps and I tell them to think of it as a dance. Below are the steps that I use.

  1. Get in an athletic stance in the back of the ring. I then have them wind onto their right side (right handed thrower). Right foot should be flat and the majority of weight on the right leg with arms parallel to the ground (I had them use PVC poles across their back to keep their arms up).
  2. I then tell them to unwind and their hips should shift from their right leg to their left leg. The left arm and left foot should be pointing at about 8:30 if the back of the ring is 12 o’clock.
  3. After they can hit a decent unwind position we then have them unwind into a 90 degree turn so that their body is facing 9 o’clock with their weight still over their left foot.
  4. From the above position we have them bring their right leg across their left leg while their torso still is facing 9 o’clock. It is very important you tell them to lead with their inner thigh (this helps create tension in the hips). Also, as they land they should turn their foot so it’s facing 3 o’clock (back of the ring 12 o’clock) and they should land with their weight on the right leg.
  5. Once their right foot lands in the middle of the ring the athlete should then perform a wheel and land in the power position.
  6. Once in the power position the athlete would perform a stand throw.

Once we have run through these steps a number of times I then have them go from the Wind / Unwind into a 270 degree turn and land in the center of the ring. Then they would perform the wheel and stand throw. Once we have run through this a few times I then have them work on this without stopping. This is the process that I like to use to teach the basic movements of the discus spin. Once they get it down fairly well then we will begin to work on the specifics of the movement.


Wednesday 4/4: The weather still sucks outside so we had to stay inside today again. So today we lifted weights first to allow time for the baseball team to get done with the shelf that we are now practicing on. Today we did a similar practice that we did on Monday the only difference being that we worked more on the discus spin at the end of the discus session.


Thursday 4/5: Well, the weather isn’t much better but we have a meet tomorrow at Batavia High School so we need to get outside and throw in the elements. The way this season is going we might as well get used to crappy weather.

We started out with what I thought was a great plan. Unfortunately, for some reason a few of the busses didn’t move from their assigned spots so instead of doing the drills on blacktop we had to do them on the grass. It was quite interesting doing our drills on the grass and then a heavy snow started. So with the heavy snow starting & not being able to be on blacktop I couldn’t do all the full movement discus drills I was planning. Bring in plan B we go do shot put instead. All of my throwers are doing the glide technique which is a little easier to perform in adverse conditions. Over at the shot put rings we focused on our stand throws with emphasis on proper arm action and then proper power leg action. After those throws we went and worked on some glides still focusing on the same things we had worked on in the stand throws. Even though the weather is still going to suck tomorrow I am excited to see how my athletes respond. I have advised all the kids to dress warm and make sure they have gloves (cold fingers = bad throws) and towels but you know how well high school kids listen. It should be interesting tomorrow.

Friday 4/6: We were supposed to have a track meet at Batavia High School today but the 35 degree temperature & the 20 mph winds had a little something to say about that. So needless to say the meet was cancelled so we stayed at Central High School and had practice. The wind on Rocket Hill was especially bad today so we stayed inside and were able to use the gym shelf space for an hour until girls’ softball needed it. I will be so glad next year when the field house is done and we have our own space when we need it.

It was a good time to take advantage on working a bunch of the everyday drills that I have been neglecting this week due to the weird weather & schedule. We started out doing unit turns, everything from 90 degrees to 360 degrees. We also did hip pops, slow motion powers, and six count forward & backward discus spins This way everyone was able to get in a lot of reps. after that we divided the group in half with half doing shot and the other half doing discus. In the discus we did powers, step back powers, wheels, south-africans & then finally some full spins. In the shot we went through powers, “A” drills with a pull under & throw, double glides & finally full glides. We didn’t get the number of reps I was hoping before the girls softball team came up but we got enough done to make the time useful. We didn’t have weights today since we were able to get them all in on Monday through Thursday. So we went down to a large hallway in the school and continued to try to develop our discus spin. I am not 100% sure the athletes are ready for it but May will be here before you know it and I want them to spin this year in the discus to help set up things for the future. We had the kids line up and do 1-6 count discus spins with a throw of a mini med ball at the end and they didn’t have to work back to the start position

We began with the full count 1 through 6, the athletes were stepping through it. Then we went to positions 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, skipping position 2. After a few of those we went to positions 1, 4, 5, 6, now skipping positions 2 and 3 which is essentially the full spin. After this we started working on timing & rhythm of the throw as you go through the positions. Our final phase to work on was in the timing. I wanted the athletes to work on getting their left foot out of the back of the ring before their right foot hit in position four. Now they were doing the discus spin.


Saturday 4/7: Hard to believe that the weather kept us inside again today. It was 25 degrees outside with 15 mph winds on Rocket Hill. That just made it not conducive to going outside for practice. I am keeping my fingers crossed for us being able to get outside on a consistent basis next week. We are supposed to have three meets next week we will see if we get any of them in.

Today was very similar to yesterday during the first part of practice. We did multiple drills in both the shot put and discus. We worked on daily drills and then did a discus emphasis, throwing against the drop down net on the shelf. We started with stand throws and then went to step back stand throws. After these we worked on the middle of the ring with wheels to a stand throw which was followed by south-africans. Finally we went to full discus spins into the net. It wasn’t perfect but they didn’t really look that bad for the first time doing full spins actually throwing the discus. After we went through the discus progression we then went and did the shot put progression. We started with stand throws and then 1-2 powers focusing on proper right foot pivot action. We then did some shadow glides and then glides to the power, check position and then put. After that we did some “A” positions pull right foot under and put the shot. We finished with double glides and finally full glide throws. This was by far are largest throw volume day since we got back from spring break and it was a practice we really needed.

With three meets next week let’s hope we get at least one of the meets in. My athletes could really use a meet.

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