Aikens on Throws Outdoor Week 2: Finally, some outdoor meets!

Kevin ChristianCoaching Blogs, Discus, Opinion, Shot Put Leave a Comment

by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School


Monday 4/9 We were supposed to have our first outdoor meet today but it was cancelled due to the cold weather. Most schools in our area postponed the Monday meets to Tuesday but the school we were going against just canceled it with no reschedule. As a result we were left scrambling trying to find a meet somewhere this week. That effort took up about 20 minutes in the first part of practice. Luckily my leaders of the throwing group did a nice job getting the kids through the warm ups. Finally Sycamore & Kaneland were kind enough to let us into their meet this coming Wednesday. Below is the practice plan that we had set for the day.

DRILL GROUP ONE: (perform for 20 min. repeat if necessary)

  1. 10 6 count slow motion powers
  2. 4 1-2 powers with good arm action & strike 70 % effort
  3. 4 powers with focus good arm action & strike 70 % effort
  4. 6 powers with focus on getting hips around to the hurdle board
  5. 4 powers with competitive effort


DRILL GROUP TWO: (perform for 20 min. repeat if necessary)

  1. 4“T” position into Gather Drill into left leg kick attempt to keep stomach on thigh.
  2. 10 glides with no throw
  3. 4 Full glide to perfect power position. (Finish looking back with right heel up) then put
  4. 6 Double Glides, land in the power position
  5. 6 Glides with competitive effort


DRILL GROUP FOUR: (perform for 20 min. repeat if necessary)

  1. 4 Discus skims
  2. 6 Power, Stand Throws
  3. 3. 6 South Africans (lead with the thigh) with discus
  4. 4. 8. Spins without a discus, right leg goes around the cone
  5. 6 Full discus spins with throw

It was a good plan but as we all know the best laid plans often get thrown into the garbage can. We were up on the shelf going through the plan in three assigned groups and at 4 o’clock the baseball team comes up and says they have the shelf. I’m like damn, but what are you going to do. I am not in the school and am not able to be part of the space planning arrangements. In general we have a good rapport with both the baseball & softball teams and I want to keep it that way. So as a result we only got through two drill group changes. So we moved down into the weight room hallway and went over the discus spin sequence again. I wrote about it in last week’s blog.

Today Coach Barnes and I decided it was time to divide the kids up into groups based on how well they were managing technique. We are doing this because in order for the kids to improve at a faster rate the better kids need more specific work. The general stuff we have been doing is great to teach the basics and help develop the group but now it’s time to give the better kids a little more love. I feel if we don’t do this the better kids will not reach their full potential for this year. It’s not that we ae not going to give the other kids any less work but they are not ready for the more advance work the other kids need.

This week we are beginning the three days a week lifting routine. We are going into more of a power phase in our lifting. I also want to give the kids more time to work on technique and other practice emphasis. The weight workout now switches to Day One is lower body and Olympic lifts focus. We are working with 4 to 5 sets of 5 reps each. We are also working with between 70 & 85% of their maximum lift. Day Two is the same reps & sets & percentages but we are working the upper body and primarily presses. The third day of our lifting routine is a speed day working primarily the Olympic lifts and some different presses done primarily with dumb bells. Ideally we would like to have a day break in between the lifting days but it doesn’t always work that way do to the number of meets there are in April. That is also an added bonus regarding lifting three days a week it allows us the flexibility to work around the meets.

Tuesday 4/10 The weather was better today but we didn’t have the facilities for very long. The Junior High was having a meet that was to start at 3:30 so I had the kids meet me at the throws area immediately after school. We have a meet tomorrow but my kids have not done any throwing out of the discus ring at all. I wanted to try to get them to throw as many throws as possible out of the ring before the junior high meet began. We had been working on the discus spin, throwing the discus into the net, and the kids didn’t look half bad at it. But let me tell you when the athletes got into the ring and started doing the discus spin in the actually ring they kids looked terrible! I was like what the heck are you guys doing, you have looked nothing like this in practice before. Truth is I knew this was going to happen. I don’t know why but it usually happens when the newer throwers try to actually throw in the ring they look terrible. I am pretty sure it is because they are not thinking about their form. They are trying to throw the discus as far as they can and they are just not ready to do that yet. You tell them to slow down and focus on form and they say yes coach I will. Then they go right back to going too fast and looking like shit.

Once the junior high kids showed up we went back into the school and hit the weight room for day two of the weights. We finished up practice with going up to the shelf and working again on the discus spin. I counted out the steps for them as they went through the spin and had them throw it. Remember we use this 1 – 6 positions in teaching the discus spin. Eventually we got to 1 (wind), 4 (doing a 270 degree turn & landing in the middle) 5 (performing a wheel motion in the middle of the ring) & 6 (the stand throw at the end of the movement). I made them walk through this over & over. After a time I let them call out their own rhythm and they looked so much better than they had outside in the ring. I then had a heart to heart with them on how they need to focus on the technique and the rhythm that we have established. Stick with that on Wednesday. We will see how well they do it. I have my doubts.


Wednesday 4/11: We finally had out first outdoor meet. We had a triangular meet at Sycamore high school. My athletes did okay for the first outdoor meet. Most of the kids got PR’s in the shot put. All of the kids had PR’s in the discus since it was our first outdoor meet and we have not measured any practice throws that we were able to do at practice. The kids performed pretty well for the first outdoor meet. Of course we have spent months refining on our technique and practicing our throws. We were looking fairly good in our practice throws. Once the kids got into the meet and were actually throwing it looked like they had forgotten everything they had been working on. With that being said they still performed admirably. I have three varsity athletes and 10 frosh-soph athletes. The varsity guys all got PR’s in the shot and discus which was great but our highest placing thrower earned a fifth place finish in the shot put so we are still in search of our first varsity points earned by a thrower in a track meet. On the frosh-soph level the story was a little different where my one of my freshman throwers won the shot put and the discus and two other freshman discus throwers earned third & fourth scoring our first frosh-soph track points. The high light of the meet from my point of view was that the freshman who won the shot put won it with a throw of 43 feet, not a bad throw for a freshman! He is a diamond in the rough and I think can be very, very good in both the shot & discus if he is willing to work hard and pay the price that is necessary to be that good. Almost all of the frosh-soph throwers earned PR’s in both the shot and the discus. So all in all it was a pretty good day. The kids were pleased with their efforts and I was happy for them but we still have such a long way to go on our technique and I was really hoping their form would hold up better but I knew it probably would not it being the first outdoor meet and all.

The kids have some stuff to learn on some other things also like making sure that we have the implements. I told the kids to grab all the shots and discus and put them on the bus and they did that very well. You would think the same people who brought the implements on the bus would be the same people who took them off of the bus so we could use them in the meet. Oh No! They thought somehow mysteriously the implements would find their way to the shot & discus area. We get to our track camp and only have about half of the implements. When I ask the kids where the other implements are I get Huh? Just then one of our upperclassmen comes walking across the field with the missing shots and discusses. He took them all off of the bus and carried them himself. So we had a little reminder session about how and who should transport our implements (of course the upper classman who carried them from the bus didn’t need to take place in our reminder session). So what does the head coach find when we get of the bus back to the school? Two discus that one of my kids left outside the door. UGH!


Thursday 4/12: Today we had a throws only meet at Glenbard South. This was a great meet that involved five high school throws programs. Each school could bring 3 throwers each for Varsity Shot, Varsity Disc, Frosh-Soph Shot & Frosh-Soph Disc and each of those throwers get 6 throws. Add to that rock music and grilled hamburgers and chicken and you get a really fun meet. This is an extension of a meet that I began at Fremd High School over fifteen years ago. The meet was designed to be a kind of celebration of throwing. In this meet there are no scores kept it’s all about trying to throw as far as you can. It’s also about the throwers comradery. The meet has a laid back vibe, more like a picnic than a track meet. This atmosphere helps the throwers to relax and socialize and get to know each other. It’s a very positive vibe and a great meet.

My athletes were pressing their throws at the meet. They had done pretty well the day before at the Sycamore meet so you know how it goes they thought if they tried harder it would go farther. That was not necessarily the case. My varsity kids all threw worse in both shot & discus. My Frosh-Soph kids did worse in shot but two of them actually improved their PR in the discus by a few feet. My big freshman who had thrown well the day before was pressing badly and his efforts in both shot put & discus showed it. As a friend of mine once said “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want” Today the kids got some more experience. It was actually a decent day with the temperature in the mid to upper 60’s. Even though as a group my kids did not perform relatively well they had a great time. They enjoyed seeing the Fremd kids again (we had competed with them a few times indoors) and listening to the Fremd guys tell stories about me. My kids also shared a few stories about me with the Fremd kids. They also liked getting to know some of the other athletes and they really enjoyed eating! A big thanks goes out to Glenbard South’s throws coach Chris Aderhold for putting on this great event. All of my kids want to come back next year.


Friday 4/13: The kids had a half day of school today so we started practice at 11:30 am. We were coming off two days in a row of meets and we have another meet tomorrow so there is a lot to work on. I decided to focus on the discus movement for two reasons. One, the shelf space we have been using was taken up by baseball and, two, looking at the film our spins sucked! I ended up splitting the group in half. The group that didn’t go to the throwers invite on Thursday lifted on Thursday while the other group that went to the Throwers Invite lifted today. While the second group was lifting I took the first group out and worked on the discus spin. We really need to grasp and be able to perform the basic spin on a consistent basis both in practice and at a meet. As I have stated earlier I teach the spin in a six step method (Wind, Unwind, Unwind to 90, 180 land facing direction of the throw, wheel & stand throw) that eventually works down to Wind, Unwind to 270 degree turn (face direction of throw), wheel & stand throw. We must have done 50 of those things. Some I counted of for them the rest I let them count for themselves while I went around and made corrections. The primary corrections are to shift your hips over your left side out of the back, Left arm over left leg out of the back and wide sweep of the right leg in the 270 degree turn into the center of the ring. After we finished that with the first group I sent them home. Then the second group finished their weights and we did a similar thing with them again performing around 50 discus spins.

I have an athlete who has been working his ass off. He works just as hard as any kid I have ever coached. He seems to be struggling with hitting the proper positions in the glide. He is as strong as an ox but I think his hip flexibility isn’t quite what it needs to be. So today when we were doing spins I noticed that he seems to be moving better in the ring. It got me to thinking that maybe I could have him spin in the shot. I tossed him a 6 lb mini med ball and had him do his same motion with the mini med ball. You know it didn’t look half bad. So, he and I stayed a little longer today and worked on the steps involved in the rotational shot throw. The movement at the end of the throw seem to work better for him in getting his hip around in the power position. I am excited for this athlete to see where this may lead.


Saturday 4/14 Meet was canceled and I gave the kids the day off.

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