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Throwing training



Teaching Progressions For Beginning Discus Throwers

Source: www.coacheseducation.com
By Don Babbitt
University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Date: Jan. 2002


How to Hold the Discus

The first step in introducing the discus to the beginner is to give them a feel for how to hold the discus. To begin, the thrower should hold the discus in the palm of their outstretched arm (this is the non-throwing arm). Then place the right fingertips extending over the edge of the lip of the discus. Each finger should be spread apart. This should give the thrower an idea as to how the discus should feel in their hand. The coach should make sure that the thrower is not gripping the discus, but that they are lightly supporting the discus in their hand.

Next, the thrower should hold the discus in their hand while their arm is dangling straight down from the shoulder. Here again, the coach should make sure that the thrower is not gripping the discus, but that the last joint in each finger is wrapped around the edge of the discus. The thrower can now start swinging the arm back and forth like a pendulum. This will give the thrower a feel for how the discus should feel in the hand, while the hand is moving. The centrifugal force generated by this swinging motion will help keep the discus in the thrower's hand and should reduce the thrower's need to want to grasp onto the discus.


Teaching the Release

After the beginner has gotten used to the proper way to hold the discus, they are now ready to learn the release. Many times, when a beginner is asked to release the discus, he will throw the discus out the "back" of the hand instead of the "front". An easy way to teach the proper direction in which to let go of the discus is to have the thrower hold the discus by the waist, as described in the previous paragraph. From this position the thrower will tilt the hand backward and let the discus roll out of the hand and fall onto the ground. When this happens, the discus should roll forward off each finger, starting with the pinky and ending with the index finger. The coach should make sure that the discus does not fall out the "back" of the hand, causing it to roll off the index finger first and the pinky last.

The next step in teaching the proper release of the discus is to have the thrower bowl the discus. This drill can be done with a partner who should start by standing roughly ten yards apart from the thrower who is about to bowl the discus. This drill is fairly easy since it requires the thrower to just roll the discus on its edge, to his partner as if releasing a bowling ball down a bowling alley. The partner in this drill can then bowl the discus back to the other partner to complete the drill. as the throwers get more proficient at this drill, they can increase the distance between themselves and work on releasing the discus with a little more pace.

Another type of release drill is an advanced variation of the pendulum drill. the thrower will start this drill by swinging the discus from a dangling arm, as previously described. As the thrower's arm is swinging forward, he will release the discus out the front of his hand, which will cause the discus to be thrown straight up in the air. The coach should make sure that the discus has a good amount of rotation on it, and that the discus lands on its edge when it comes back to the ground. It is important that these two things occur because they are indicators for a proper release.

The next step will have the thrower swing the discus back and forth in a place that is parallel to the ground. This poses a problem for many beginners because they are afraid that the discus will fall out of the hand as they are swinging the discus. During this exercise, their tendency will be to grab onto the discus instead of letting the centrifugal force generated by the swinging motion, hold the discus in the hand. To begin this drill, the thrower will hold the discus in the outstretched palm of the non-throwing hand, while the throwing hand is placed on top of the discus. The grip should be the same as described in the first paragraph. The thrower will then swing the discus back into the palm of the non-throwing arm. As this drill is being performed, the thrower should make an effort to keep the throwing hand on top of the discus while swinging the arm and not turn the discus over so the hand is underneath the discus. This drill should be repeated many times in succession with no pause between the direction changes on the throwing arm.

Standthrow from a Kneeling Position

Once the thrower is comfortable with swinging the discus back and forth, and is able to do this without "cupping" or grabbing the discus, they should be ready to work on an actual throw. The first drill that can be introduced that involves an actual throw, is a standthrow from a kneeling position. Throwing from a kneeling position may seem strange but it serves to reduce the power that can be achieved by the thrower, by eliminating the legs from the throw, which in turn will reduce the possibility of an errant throw. It also serves to focus on the upper body's role in the throwing action. This will allow the thrower to concentrate better on the arm action of the throw.

To begin this drill, the thrower should assume a kneeling position on one knee, with the left foot forward and the right knee supporting the body weight. The thrower then takes the discus and swings it back as he relaxes and stretches the throwing arm during the back swing. The coach should make sure that the thrower rotates the trunk backward, along with the throwing arm, so that the whole upper body stays "in contact" with the discus. Once the arm has been pulled back as far as possible, the thrower should "pull" the discus through by turning the trunk and pulling the arm forward. The release should be flat and the discus should land flat against the ground anywhere from 15 to 45 feet in front of the thrower. If this drill is performed properly, the discus should slide to a halt at some distance directly in front of the thrower. Once again, the coach should make sure that the discus is coming out of the thrower's hand properly and that it has the proper flight and rotation.

The Standthrow

When the beginning thrower is able to perform all of the previously mentioned drills, he should be able to make the transition into the standthrow with relative ease. To introduce the proper position for the standthrow, the coach should have the thrower stand in the front of the discus ring facing the entire body out toward the center of the sector. From this position, the thrower steps his right foot back in toward the center of the discus ring so that the feet are a little more than shoulder-width apart and the right heel is lined up with the left toe. The thrower should then bend the right knee and shift his weight back o the ball of the right foot. At the same time, the thrower should swing the discus as far back behind his body as it will go, which will usually be a position back over the left heel. From this position, the thrower will immediately initiate the throw by pivoting the right foot, which will then cause the right hip and shoulder to rotate through. This action will cause the throwing arm to be whipped around and the discus will be released, as in the previously described release drills.

The coach will also want to look for the following things when the thrower is performing the standthrow:

1) The thrower pivots on the ball of the right foot during the throw, and finishes the pivot with the right foot pointing in the direction of the throw.
2) The left leg (i.e., block leg) straightens out to form a solid block as the discus is being swung around to be released. The block is caused by a sudden deceleration of the left side of the body, which in turn will cause an acceleration of the right side, thus accelerating the discus as it is being released.
3) The orbit is the path that the discus follows as it is being thrown. The orbit of the discus should follow a high-low-high pattern. This means that the discus will be at its highest point as it is fully drawn back (i.e., when it is over the left heel). The discus will hit the lowest point in its orbit when it is passing by the right foot. From this point, the discus will start to rise back up to its high point as the throwing arm is brought around to release the discus.
4) The head should always be facing straight away from the chest during the throw. make sure that the thrower does not turn his head away during the release. The head should actually be thrown back during the release to allow the chest to get up into the throw.

The Half-Turn

Once the standthrow has been mastered, the beginning thrower can progress to the half-turn drill. This drill teaches the fundamentals of pivoting on the right foot in the middle of the ring and it is a technique that can be used in competition. The thrower can actually begin this drill without the discus so that he can focus attention on the pivoting action of the right foot and the turning of the body. The thrower should start this drill with the right foot placed in the center of the ring with almost all of his weight bearing down on the ball of the right foot. The right leg should be bent as it is at the beginning of a standthrow. The whole body should be lined up in a position similar to that at the beginning of a standthrow, except that the thrower will be lined up to throw out the back of the ring. It is also suggested that when the thrower is performing this drill without the discus, he has both hands on the hips to minimize the use of the upper body to gain rotational momentum.

Once the thrower is comfortable with the starting position for this drill, he begins by rotating the right hip, knee, and foot in unison to cause the body to start rotating around. The body of the thrower will be balanced over the ball of the right foot, which will be pivoting as the body turns 180 degrees to the standthrow position. At no time should the heel of the right foot touch the ground. While the right is pivoting, the left leg should be pulled close to the right leg, causing the knees to almost touch together in an effort to increase the speed of the body's rotation. As the thrower is finishing his 180-degree turn, he will shoot the left leg out into a straightened-out position that is similar to that seen at the beginning of the standthrow. At the end of the 180-degree turn, the coach should take note to see that the thrower has maintained the following positions:

1) The feet are in heel-toe alignment.
2) The thrower's back is facing the throwing sector and the chest is facing toward the back of the ring.
3) The thrower's weight is balanced over the ball of the right foot (i.e., the pivot foot).
4) The right leg is bent and the left leg is almost straight, while slightly flexed. The thrower should be in a position to deliver a solid standthrow.

Once the thrower is able to master these positions following a 180-degree turn, he can advance to a series of half-turns to solidify the right foot pivot. The next step is for the thrower to perform this drill with the discus in hand. This can be done without releasing at first, by either holding onto the discus as he turns, or by taping the discus to the hand. The final step is to perform this drill with a release at the end. It is important for the coach to emphasize the smooth transition from the half-turn to the throw. The thrower should not be stopping or stalling after the half-turn before going into a release. The coach should also make sure that the thrower does not initiate the half-turn with the upper body, which is usually the most common fault for beginners with this drill.

The final important detail that the coach should note for this drill is maintaining the proper orbit of the discus. The thrower should start the drill by swinging the discus backward, at hip-level, and then pushing it forward as the half-turn is initiated. As the thrower starts the half-turn, he directs the discus in an upward path so the discus reaches its high-point when it is closest to the front of the ring. By doing this, the thrower ensure sthat the discus has established its proper orbit with a high-point when the discus is near the front of the ring and the low-point when the discus is positioned close to the back of the ring. The proper orbit enables the thrower to release the discus as it is ascending towards the high-point of its orbit, which in turn will cause a nice parabolic flight.

The next drill that the beginning thrower should attempt once the half-turn is mastered, is the step-in. This drill begins with the thrower standing in the back of the ring with the ball of the left foot placed inside the back edge of the ring. As with the half-turn, the thrower should start this drill without the discus and with both hands on the hips to minimize the use of the upper body to gain momentum. To begin this drill, the thrower steps with the right foot into the center of the discus ring and settles his weight down onto the ball of the right foot. At this point, the thrower should be in a position similar to the starting position for the half-turn drill. The thrower then proceeds to perform the half-turn and throw. As the different parts of the step-in drill become more comfortable, they can be molded into one complete movement with no pauses between positions. It is essential that the coach makes sure that the heel of the right foot never touches the ground once the full step-in drill has begun. The emphasis of this drill should be the continued pivot of the right foot. It is also important that the coach makes sure that the thrower initiates the 180-degree turn by pivoting the right foot. The general rule of thumb is that you pivot to get into position to throw and not to pivot as a reaction to the throw. The coach should also make sure that the thrower holds the discus low behind the right hip as he steps into the center of the ring.

The next drill that follows the step-in is the South African drill. This drill begins just like the step-in except that the thrower drives the right leg into the middle of the ring as he pushes off with the left leg to generate power out the back of the ring. This is an excellent drill to teach the thrower how to drive across the ring using the leg drive from both the right and left legs. With this drill, it is important that the coach is careful to make sure that the beginning thrower does not initiate the start of the throw with the upper body, which is the tendency of a lot of beginners. The coach will also want to check for the following things:

1) The thrower keeps the upper body relaxed as he leads with the right leg into the center of the ring.
2) The thrower pushes off with the left leg out the back of the ring as the chest is facing the right sector line. At the same time, he will sweep the right leg outward and then across the body as it is driven toward the center of the discus ring. These points are extremely important to remember to make sure that the thrower does not over rotate out the back of the ring. Many throwers mistakenly wait until they are lined up facing toward the center of the ring before they drive toward the front of the ring. When this occurs, the sweeping action of the right leg causes them to land about a foot and a half to the left of where they are trying to drive. This will result in over rotation. This is why the thrower should drive down the right sector line, to compensate for the sweeping action of the right leg, which will cause him to land in the center of the ring.
3) The thrower should land in a balanced position on the ball of the right foot near the center of the discus ring.
4) The thrower should always be on the balls of the feet during the throw.
5) Make sure the discus follows the proper orbit, with the low points being when the discus is closest to the back of the ring and the high point being achieved when the discus is closest to the front of the ring.

Once the thrower is able to perform the South African drill, he is ready to attempt a full throw. Before attempting a full throw, there is one drill that can be used to introduce the turn out the back of the ring. This is called the 360-degree turn drill. As with the 180-degree turn drill, the thrower can perform this drill without the discus and both hands on the hips in an effort to eliminate the upper body from initiating the turning movement. This drill begins with the thrower standing almost straight up while having all his weight balanced on the ball of the left foot. The feet will be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with the left leg slightly flexed while the right leg is only slightly bent. From this position the thrower pivots in a complete circle on the ball of the left foot and comes to a stop in the original starting position. The coach should pay careful attention to the fact that the right leg should stay wide as the turn is being performed. Many beginners pull the ankles together in an attempt to gain more rotational speed. This should be discouraged since this is not how the thrower will turn out the back of the ring during a full throw.

Getting Out the Back of the Ring

When the thrower is able to perform a complete 360-degree turn without much effort, he can now attempt a full throw. To begin, the thrower lines up in the back of the ring with the feet on either side of the center portion of the back of the ring. This position will be exactly like the starting position for the beginning of the 360-degree turn drill, except that the thrower holds the discus in his hand behind the right hip. When the thrower starts the throw, his weight should be equally distributed over both the right and left legs as he performs a wind-up with the discus to gain a little momentum to start the throw. There is really no need to do more than one wind-up and this wind-up should not be so extreme as to make the thrower off balance as he begins the throw. As the thrower starts to come out of the wind-up and turn out the back of the ring, he should shift all his weight over the left foot so he can pivot on the ball of the left foot. This will allow him to turn easily out the back of the ring. Once the thrower has shifted all of his weight to the left foot and is beginning to initiate the turn, he should sweep the right foot out away from the ring, making a wide circular sweep. When the thrower has turned 90 degrees out the back of the ring, he will find that he is in the starting position for the South African drill. At this point he should complete the rest of the throw in the same way he performed the South African drill.

One of the hardest things a beginner thrower will have trouble getting used to is having a balanced turn out the back of the ring. It is critical that the coach makes sure that his throwers do not initiate the turn out the back with the upper body, and that they use a driving left leg and sweeping right leg to generate the impulse to get them across the ring. The upper body should be relaxed during the whole rotational process until the delivery phase of the throw.

The coach should make sure that these technical elements occur during a full throw:

1) Once the thrower reaches the standthrow position, the throwing arm will make a 90-degree angle with the torso. This 90-degree angle between the arm and torso will be sustained through the release of the discus.
2) The rhythm of the throw will be from slow to fast (i.e., there will be a buildup of rotational speed throughout the throw).

A typical throwing workout may consist of the following for an athlete who is working on the right foot pivot:

5 standthrows
5 half-turns
10 step-ins
3 South Africans
10 full throws
33 throws total



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