Aikens on Throws Outdoor Week 4: Today, I had kind of a weird realization.

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

by Jim Aikens, (Burlington) Central High School

Monday 4/23 We had a make up meet at Woodstock today. After meets on Thursday and Saturday last week, I felt we needed to get a practice in. This meet was a Triangular with Morango and Woodstock, not an invitational so I wanted to take advantage of this meet and try to use it as a glorified practice. We were fairly successful at that. It is very hard for kids not to go full out at a meet. Luckily, I didn’t have to work the discus at this meet so I was able to really get on my kids and try to force them to focus on the portion of the form I wanted. We had the Frosh-Soph first, and on the bus ride over I went over the video showing the one thing I wanted them to work on. For most of my throwers, over rotation out of the back of the ring is a big problem so that’s what most were to focus on. I was standing by the ring during warm ups much like I would at a practice. I was reminding them before each throw what I wanted them to work on during that throw. Before the meet started, I met with my throwers and reminded them that this is a glorified practice and to work on what we had talked about. I was able to do this since I didn’t have to work the meets that we go to like I usually do (In what other sport do the coaches have to be officials in the contest? But, don’t get me started on that). I was happy with how my kids responded–they did a pretty good job of working on what they were asked to. Of my ten throwers in the Frosh-Soph group, seven had PRs. Afterwards, we had a talk about focusing on your form and not the distance and how when that happens good things happen. My three varsity throwers pretty much followed suit and focused on their form.

Shot Put didn’t go as well since I had to work it and also it was much later in the meet and I think the kids were losing their focus. We did okay as far as distance goes, but I don’t think we got anything out of it. It got cold and it was time to go home.

Tuesday 4/24 Today, I had kind of a weird realization. The season for us will be over in 3 ½ weeks. That’s when sectionals are for us–on May 17th at Genoa-Kingston. I’ve got great kids, but I sincerely doubt if any of my throwers will qualify for the state meet this year. Hopefully, next year that will be a different story. With this realization comes the other realization: I need to narrow down the focus of myself and my athletes. This means that since from now on we only have invitationals, I need to focus on those throwers who will be competing in those invitationals in order to give those throwers and the team the best chance to succeed.

Today we started with a power-emphasis upper body lifting session. During the lifting session as usual I will call the throwers aside individually and go over the video of some of their throws with them. I find this to be a good time to do this. It gives them a little break in their lifting and reinforces what we will be working on in practice. Tonight, when I go home I will share all the athletes’ videos with them so they can look at them on Huddle Technique. I will also do a video analysis for some of the kids, but I just don’t have time to do one for every athlete. For today’s practice I am going to take the athletes who I may keep on our invite group and work with them on discus technique. Coach Barnes will take all the other athletes and work with them on shot put. We focused on trying to develop a better drive out of the back of the ring, a slight non- support phase, and working the right foot in the middle of the ring. To do this, we did a walking South African in order to really slow things down and focus on the proper movements. After a time, we went through South Africans at about 60% speed again focusing on proper movement. After that, we did a modified South African, which means simply putting your right foot halfway between the South African position and the position where your right foot would be if it was in the ring. We then performed the same movements at about a 60% speed again. We will have to do this drill many times before we start getting it correct.

Wednesday 4/25 Today we had a Junior Varsity Invitational at Geno-Kingston high school. I sent my 3rd and 4th best throwers to the meet. They were both freshman and did pretty well. In the Discus we earned 2nd and 5th with a PR standing throw of 100 feet from one of my throwers. Once I can get him to start spinning and hitting a proper power position I think he is going to be pretty good. In the Shot Put we earned 2nd & 4th and again one of my freshman had a PR of 37 feet–not too bad for a freshman boy. It was a good meet for my kids and helped with their confidence.

As I said earlier, I need to start getting the Invitational Throwers a little more work than the other athletes to try to hone in their technique for the end of the season. So, yesterday I stayed at school and worked with the three athletes who are competing in the Crystal Lake Invitational this weekend. I intended to practice with them for an hour or so and then drive to Genoa. One of the athletes who is a discus thrower was sick, so I ended up just working on shot put with the other two. My shot putters biggest issue is they don’t use their hips or right leg drive enough. They still throw too much with their upper bodies. So we worked a lot of slow motion powers, 1-2’s and 1, 2,3, 4’s and regular powers. Regarding the glide, they are getting too high in the glide and not getting their right foot in proper position, so we did a lot of double glides and straight leg glides. It sure would be nice if you did drills for one day and then the movement automatically improved. Unfortunately, it don’t happen that way. The athletes think it should, but it don’t! As I always tell them, there is a reason we call it “drilling.” We are going to repeat this recipe the rest of the week. If we are lucky, we may see a little improvement in Friday’s CLC Invite. I think the ability to do the drill correctly and synthesize it into the throw is what separates the great throwers from the good or okay ones.

Thursday 4/26 Today practice is going to be run a little different. We have a fundraising meeting today at 4pm–how nice, right in the middle of practice. So as a result, I am changing things up for practice. The majority of the throwers will meet in the weight room and get their weights in from 3-4 pm. The same athletes who I worked with on Wednesday will come directly out to practice (they lifted weights yesterday) and work on drills from 3-4 pm. At 4 pm we all have a team meeting until 4:30 about fundraising. When the meeting is over, I will take the majority of throwers out with me for throwing practice while the three throwers who have the invitational tomorrow will go home.


Friday 4/27 Today was the Crystal Lake Central Invitational. Man, did the weather suck! It was cold, rainy, windy–an overall fantastic day. I had three throwers go to the meet, one freshman and my two juniors. We had a really good week of practice, and I felt that they were ready to throw well. I wasn’t expecting miracles but PR’s were expected. I have been doing this long enough now that I think I have a pretty good idea when a kid is poised to throw well. It turns out that I don’t know shit! The kids didn’t throw well at all. I know the weather had something to do with it because none of the throwers present threw particularly well, but I expected a little better even with the conditions. It was a very frustrating evening to say the least. I can’t blame the kids: they have done everything I have asked and then some. They just aren’t ready for prime time yet. I know I have mentioned this theme before that they look good in practice but it doesn’t hold up in the meet. I’ve got to be honest–I wonder when it’s going to actually transfer into a meet. I have to remember that these kids have no prior training and their genetic predisposition isn’t exactly tailor made for throwing the shot and discus, so their improvement comes solely from hard work and time. I know from past experience that you work and work and then eventually start to see it transfer, but man it’s taking a long time.

Saturday 4/28 Today’s weather was much better. I had a practice for all the throwers who didn’t go to the meet yesterday at 9am. We did not get back to the school until very late, so I decided my throwers who attended the meet could use a mental and physical break so I gave them the rest of the weekend off. I had a coupon for Dunkin Donuts, so I stopped and got donuts for the kids at practice–they always appreciate the effort. For many of the kids in this group their last meet of the outdoor season is going to be this coming Monday at Saint Charles North High School. I wanted to let them work on what event (shot or discus) that they wanted to try to get the best improvement in. The kids ended up dividing based on what event they wanted to get the best improvement in. As a result, it ended up being a very individualized practice. I would go to the discus group and tell them what to focus on in their stand throw (all of them had some issues). I had them do two slow count stand throws (athlete starts counting and can’t finish the stand throw, no discus, until he gets to six) which was immediately followed up by a three-count stand throw where they actually threw the discus. I also did this same method with the shot. I was very pleased with the results. After about 20 minutes of this, I had them do three-count stand throws followed by a regular stand throw. By the end they all looked pretty good. The next part of practice, I had them divide up within their groups based on what I felt they needed to work on in order to improve. I would meet with one group go over the drills I wanted them to do and then go to the next and do the same thing. I ended up having four different groups, two shot and two discus. It kept me pretty busy running around, but I think they were getting some good things out of this practice. I was up at the shot put near the end of practice, and I looked over and the two discus groups had gotten together and were having their own competition. They were laughing and enjoying ribbing each other. The shot put groups asked if they could have a competition too, and I was like “Sure, go ahead.” So, essentially the kids played the last 20 minutes or so of practice and had a good time. It was a fun way to end the week’s practice, and I felt a little better about Friday night after leaving Saturday’s practice. Now the question is, what will happen on Monday?

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