Guess who's back? Yep, John Smith with some thoughts on shot put technique! As always, there's much here to stimulate your thought processes!
L&S: John, should all putters be taught the glide first?
JS: I believe that all young Athletes should be coached depending on his/her talents, strengths and weaknesses. If a young athlete shows good natural ability for the discus, this athlete would be better off throwing with the spin from the very start. (In Connie's case, the discus was a struggle from the start and when we tried the spin shot the problems become even worse inside a 7 foot circle).The glide was a more natural movement for her.
If you are looking for a good rule of thumb to what kids will make a good spinner or glider, this is what I look for. If a young athlete who glides can throw farther or the same with the spin the very first day he tries it, then most likely you have a spinner. Remember that the discus is one of the hardest events to coach in track & field and the spin shot put is no easier. The amount of things that can go wrong in the rotational movement is 3 times that of the glide shot put. The spin is very popular today and it's very hard to convince young athletes they should glide.
L&S: There's been a great deal of discussion on the Net contrasting the "Feurbach" and "East German" methods of gliding. Can you explain the two?
JS: In my opinion the Fuerbach technique requires more strength and great natural athletic ability. Lets not forget that Al was also a National champion in Olympic style lifting, he had fantastic strength for his size. His strength to weight ratio was on of the best of all-time. What makes the Fuerbach technique so difficult is getting an athlete to pull his right leg under at 9.00 O'clock position, then to start rotating it before the upperbody and ball slides ahead of the right leg. The other problem is the stopping the ball movement in the center of the ring to give the right leg time to rotate ahead of the upper body. Both these problems will cause very poor results. This technique requires a very long double support phase which requires great self generated explosive power out of the right side of the body.
The so-called East German technique was copied from the American throwers during the 1950's and 1960's. Randy Matson is still one of the best examples of the East German technique. Matson threw a long way with a modest amount of power by today's standards. The Germans simply took the US techniques and made them a little better and added in allot more strength and power.
I personally think that a glider should play around with the foot position to find what degree of foot position produces the best throws. Connie's best throws happen with a 10-11 o'clock foot position with her right foot positioned slightly in front of mid circle. A 9.00 o'clock foot position causes a slight pause of ball movement which drop her throws down 3 feet. On the otherhand a 12.00 o'clock position will cause a loss of 12-16 inches on her throw.
The main goal should be to keep the ball in constant motion with no breaks. This is where Al's technique can become frustrating to athlete and coach. I also disagree with the simultaneous landing of both feet in the Fuerbach technique. It's much easier to fire the right side as the left leg makes a right -left rhythm landing. The natural body reaction to the left foot landing is the right side turning and lifting. This is much harder to do in a simultaneous situation, because 9 out of 10 times the center of gravity will shift onto the left leg prematurely before the right leg and hip has a chance to lift and rotate. If you can lift and rotate the right leg and hip before the center of gravity slides onto the left leg and kept the ball moving throughout the middle of the ring than you can throw like Fuerbach. The reality of all this, is usually most throwers will do what I call crashing in the front of the ring. (rear end hanging out and throwers having a hard time staying in.) The point is that the right-left rhythm is the biomechanical basis for almost all throwing.(baseball, football, javelin, ect because you are striding onto your left leg as you are throwing.)
I also do not work on a right leg pivot from a stand still position power position. There is no point in the glide technique that will be similar to this position. In fact I believe it will teach a thrower to hesitate in this position in the full technique. Instead, I use a standing throw that consist of stepping back into the power position as the left leg leaves the ground and the thrower is momentary balancing on his right leg. As he starts forward the left side opens slowly as the right side is locked back and waiting for the left leg to make ground contact. As contact is made the right side fires and height and shoulder tilt is created by the natural action-reaction of the left side grounding and the right side lifting. I call this a teeter-totter standing throw for a lack of a better term.
To learn the slide you simply have an athlete perform a double hop throw. What I mean by this, is a thrower will balance over his right leg with his left leg off the ground. From this position he will bring his left thigh next to his right thigh and extend the left leg out but not down. Extending the left down will cause the thrower to stand up.(this is another action-reaction movement that is hard to stop once you start it.) As the left leg extends out the athlete will push off his right foot 2-3 feet and land on his right foot again and repeat the process. Then after the second hop he will ground the left side and throw similar to what I described in the standing throw. What is great about this drill is, if a thrower doesn't stay over their right leg they cannot make the second hop because their bodyweight is falling to the front of the ring prematurely. I have tried this from junior high kids to elite level throwing and it has always produced better distance.
L&S: You mentioned to me once that a German coach had told you to "think javelin" in relation to Connie's putting. Can you explain?
JS: Thinking javelin simply was his way of showing me not to use a simultaneous landing of both legs in the glide, but rather to use a right to left rhythm landing. The right to left rhythm landing not only promotes staying back, but also uses the body's natural motion to promote the lifting and rotating of the right leg and hip. It also provided a way to keep the ball in constant motion throughout the transition phase of the throw.
L&S: Are there different schools of spin technique?
JS: There are as many ways to spin as there are ways to throw the discus. The spin shot though is more unforgiving. You must remember that the spin has been going on for almost 20 years now and it only has produced one Olympic gold medalist and one World outdoor champion. That leaves many gliders that got the job done. The spin can produce some astounding results, but also offers many more things that can go wrong. In high pressure situations history favors the glide.
L&S: How do you go about teaching the rotational technique?
JS: This is hard to do because how I would teach a short man (6'2" and under) is different than how I would teach a tall man (6'21/2"-6'7"). I will give my version of good spinning for a 6'2" and under man. First off I try to get rid of this idea of rotational throwing. Good spinning is really a 1/4 turn and a sprint with a quick rotation in the middle. Spinning with the shot is just a matter of lining up the right leg with the right shoulder and running a straight line.
I Like a spinner to start with a comfortable stance with 70% of their weight resting on their left side with their upperbody in a position similar to how you would shoulder a heavy back squat. From here I like to see the weight shift from right to left with very little upperbody and torso twisting. After you have shifted your left shoulder, hip, and left knee over, its time to start turning on the left foot. As the left foot turns the right leg picks up and makes a 1/4 rotation until the right leg reaches about 11.30 o'clock position. At this point the left leg , right leg, right shoulder, shot and left arm are almost in a straight line. At this point the left foot rotation stops and the right leg will sweep forward with the inside of the right thigh leading the movement until the right foot passes the left leg. If you have done this well to this point your right knee should be heading for center of the ring as the left leg pushes off the back chasing the right leg. Now for the critical part of the throw. The right leg must arrive to middle before the shoulders and upperbody. If the upperbody arrives after the right leg you will get a good throw. If the upperbody arrives in a dead heat then you are going to get a line drive throw. If you upperbody arrives before your right leg than you are either going to foul or bend over at the waist to stay in. This is why half throws are so important in order to train the right leg to work against the ring to control direction and speed. Half throws are 90% of what a thrower can do for a full throw and this applies to the discus also. So now you're in the middle of the ring with the right leg tucked behind you as you start to make your quick rotation. If you maintain your upperbody position and allow your left leg to follow a fairly straight path to the power position as the shot put remains in the center of the ring. As the left leg grounds the upperbody is pulled away from the toeboard giving the thrower a good glide looking power position and the right leg, right shoulder, shot and right hip are in line to make the throw. From the power position the right leg and hip will lift and rotate as the thrower finishes the throw and the shot lands usually middle to right of middle in the landing sector similar to where discus throws land. Most spinners have to reverse to follow their rotation back into the ring so they can stay in. The rotational nature of the event and small ring dictates this type of follow through. My top drills are the 1.) half throw, 2.)turn to middle, stop ,and then make a half throw,3.) then full walking throws( turn-step-turn-throw.) 4.) Full speed south Africans 5.) Then the full movement. I usually can take a spinner on the first day I work with them and get them to make a further walking throw than they can spin at full speed.
L&S: What distance from a full motion do you consider indicative of good technique with either style?
JS: Good gliding is 114% or more of standing throw. Good spinning is 116% or more of standing throw.
Once again, much thanks to John for sharing his thoughts and knowledge!