Why We Should Teach Throwers Backwards and Correct Throwers Forwards.
Happy Tuesday Blogday Everyone,
Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the New England Track Clinic in Framingham, Massachusetts. The New England clinic is one of my favorites to speak at because there are a lot of local coaches close to where I live and there are always a great number of throws coaches that show up and are ready to learn.
One of the main points that I spoke about in my 4 talks that weekend was the idea that we need to continue coaching our young throwers by teaching them to throw backwards.
This is pretty much how we all do if. Take the discus for example. In the discus we don't toss our brand new, beginner kids in the back of the circle, tell them to spin, and then spend all season correcting what they are doing wrong (I hope).
In the discus, we teach them how to throw by working backwards. We teach the grip on the discus first. Then we teach the release. Typically this is followed up with power position footwork, then standing throws, then mirror turns, then South African throws, and then full throws. The drills that go along with all these positions are sprinkled in there as well.
Then, we ask the thrower to put it all together and do a full throw in order. Just like they would in a meet.
I like this style of teaching. This is how I was taught as a high school freshman, this is how I was taught when I attended camps in high school (click here for this year's summer camp in Pennsylvania) this is how most books and videos will teach it, and this is how I teach my new throwers that come out to work with me.
TEACHING ATHLETES TO THROW BACKWARDS!!
The problem that I see with a lot of coaches happens once the athlete gets the steps down. The athlete is doing some type of "sloppy" full throw out of the back of the circle. The coach will then start to make corrections to things that happen at the end of the throw. This, in my opinion, is wrong.
THIS IS WHERE YOU NEED TO START CORRECTING FORWARD!
Instead of teaching backwards, coaches need to make the transition to correcting their athletes forwards. I know, that sounds weird. But there comes a point in every throwers career where they have the basic steps down, they are able to work those steps into some semblance of a full throw, and they can get off a throw with pretty decent technique and a decent release.
At this point, coaches need to realize that the vast majority of problems that happen in the front of the circle are probably being caused by what is happening in the back of the circle. Don't try to correct what is happening in the front. Correct what is happening in the back of the circle in order and watch the front of the circle improve as well!
Below is a recent video analysis that I did for a viewer named Jose. Jose (or both Joses as you will see in the video) have a similar result of not being in a well aligned power position in the front of the circle. Most coaches would just try to tell Jose to go down the middle and line up correctly but as you will see, sometimes that is not possible because of what is happening in the back.
I think this video really illustrates how we need to become detectives of the full throw.
Most coaches will simply see Jose lined up poorly in his power position, tell Jose that his is not lined up correctly, and simply tell him to "Get lined up better in the front" or some command like that.
The problem with Jose is that his poor alignment is being caused by over rotating into the left side of the circle. The over rotation is caused by being off balance in the back and falling into the middle of the circle. Being off balance in the back is caused because he is not getting his weight shifted on to his left side when he pivots on the left foot.
So the poor alignment in the power position is really being caused by Jose not getting enough weight on to his left side when he pivots out of the back of the circle. Jose can't simply "Get lined up better" in the power position because of everything that happened before the power position.
Now I'm not sure if Jose has a coach or not at his school. If he doesn't, I would suggest Jose take video of his practices and go home at night and analyze those throws. Make sure he is getting over the left side in the back of the circle.
But imagine if Jose realizes at practice that he can't get a good release because he isn't getting in a good power position. So he spends days working drills that teach the power position better. This will never solve the problem.
The problem isn't the power position. The problem is in the back of the circle. He would just be wasting his time and not actually fixing the root of the problem.
As coaches, I can think of dozens of very common glide shot put, rotational shot put, and discus problems that happen at the front and middle of the circle. How many can you think of that probably happen because of something going wrong in the back?
This is why as coaches we need to become detectives of the throw and really start to pinpoint what the actual root causes of problems might be. Start in the back of the circle. I know it can be tough, but don't focus on the release. Don't focus on the small stuff at the end. Focus on the big things in the back and middle of the throw that have a huge effect on what happens at the end.
You will become a better coach, your throwers will hit more PRs, and your job will be a lot easier too!
Coach Matt Ellis