My apologies for the lack of a blog post last week. Last Tuesday we had ANOTHER snow storm and I ended up losing power at my house. No power, no computer, no internet...and no blog.
However the timing couldn't be more perfect for the blog post today. This week was the first week of outdoor track practice here in New England and other parts of the United States and typically when all the discus questions start to be emailed to me!
The number one theme for questions I get at this time of year has to do with releasing the discus. More specifically brand new throwers (or throwers who haven't picked up the discus in 9 months) emailing me after their first few days of practice complaining that the discus is not releasing out of their hand the right way.
Out the FRONT of the Hand off the FIRST FINGER!!
The more typical questions that I get have to do with the discus coming out the back of the hand, releasing off the pinky finger, no spin on the discus, flying straight up in the air, it feels like it is going to fall out of my hand, releasing off the middle finger instead of the first finger, flying with a lot of wobble, the discus feels too big and/or their hand is too small, and not being able to "keep the thumb down."
FYI THESE ARE ALL VERY COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NEW DISCUS THROWERS!
The real reason this is happening is because you are trying to throw the discus far before you get a great idea of how to actually hold the thing. If you aren't comfortable with the discus in your hand, how can you possibly be ready to throw it far? Does that happen with any other throwing sport?
Do little kids first learning how to throw a football correctly with a spiral try throwing 50 yard Hail Mary passes to their dads in the backyard? Do young baseball players learning to throw the baseball automatically try tossing a 100 mph fastball the first day or practice? Absolutely not! Believe me...I have two young sons! But discus throwers, many times coming out to practice after using the heavier shot put (and weight in some parts of the country) during winter track, all feel the lighter weight of the discus and automatically try heaving it far enough to break their school record. Not smart.
Check out the video below where I explain some strategies to achieve a better release on the discus and strategies to create good release habits the very first day of outdoor track practice.
For the abbreviated version, please keep reading below:
Tip #1: Get comfortable with the discus. Get it in your hand and start doing drills outside the circle.
Tip #2: Stop trying to throw too far too soon. It's not going to fly far the first week of practice.
Tip #3: Get everyone out of the circles and start doing release drills.
Tip #4: Get your athletes to bowl the discus back and forth to each other.
This teaches them to release the discus off the first finger with some spin. It also gets them used to the feel of having the discus "stick" to their hand as they pull it back and move it forward.
Tip #5: Have your athletes toss the discus up in the air a few feet and catch it. This is one of my all time favorite release drills because athletes can do it anywhere. If you have a lot of discus throwers and only one throwing circle, the athletes waiting around the cage for their turn can all do this instead of just standing there talking. This gets them comfortable releasing it off the first finger. It also teaches finger placement, the force against their fingers, and how to spin the discus.
Tip #6: Developing trust with the discus. That video is below!
Tip #7: Move into super easy release drills. Get into a big open area and simply pull the discus back nice and flat and release it 10 feet in front of you. You can toss this back and forth to a partner or if you have a big enough field, you can have the athletes simply walk after it and repeat the small releases for the entire length of the field.
Once the first two or three days of practice have wrapped up, you should then start teaching your athletes how to do the power position. Most athletes who did shot put during the winter season will pick this up very quickly as the shot and discus power position are almost identical. Again, this is taught OUTSIDE the circle so the athletes aren't thinking about throwing it far. Once the athletes are getting into a comfortable power position outside the circle and continue to practice their bowling and release drills they are allowed to get into the circle.
This might not happen until the second week of practice but THAT IS OK! Take the first week of practice to reinforce proper technique with all of your throwers so you aren't taking the next 3 months trying to correct bad habits.
I know I would rather TEACH good habits rather than CORRECT bad habits!
You've got this. Big throws are coming and the warmer spring weather is coming. Before you know it your athletes are going to have awful sunburns from not putting on sunblock and the big meets will be right around the corner. Take advantage of these first few cold weeks of practice to get your athletes out of the circle practicing their release drills and power positions.
Coach Matt Ellis