Everyone has the Instagram troll chirping their feed when they drop a big bomb in practice but step over the toeboard…
“DOESN’T COUNT! YOU STEPPED OVER THE STOP BOARD!”
These trolls love to point out that a throw was fouled in training. If a throw is fouled in training, it’s most definitely going to be a foul in a competition. Right? At least that seems like reasonable logic, but there has to be more to the story. Is fouling a practice throw the end of the world? Is it a sign the apocalypse is upon us? Let’s find out.
Establish the Saveable BOMBS
Training throws can get almost as intense as competition throws, if not more intense. Some throwers like to play the big competition game, they put themselves in the sixth round of the Olympics. They are visualizing the competition staring them down while they go in for their last throw. The sweat is dripping from their brow. The time has come. The shot or discus slides off their hand perfectly, it’s an effortless throw that results in a HUGE bomb. But they slightly foul the throw as they are screaming their head off, visualizing their Olympic title victory.
Is this response ok for progress in training? Is it really ok to foul in training? From first glance, this looks troublesome but as coaches and athletes, there needs to be a distinguished approach to analyzing the big throws in practice. Why was there a foul? How severe was the foul? Could it have been saved?
These are valid questions that need to be addressed. The most important part pertains to each individual thrower. What is that specific thrower capable of saving in competition? Do they blast out of the front of the circle in practice without any regard to staying in the circle? OR do they barely step out with their non-dominant leg while the rest of their body remains in the circle? These are positions that need to be analyzed and recognized to address fouling in practice!
Fouling...It’s ok, It’s ok...
Fouling can be frowned upon in training but that can lead to a negative impact on their final result! One of the biggest pluses behind fouling training throws is that the thrower learns how to transfer their energy FORWARD into the sector when executing their movement. If the thrower is constantly challenged to stop fouling, they fear the transfer forward and end up losing energy on the finish.
One of the biggest points behind technique is feeling the energy shift from the dominant side, forward into the non-dominant side! This energy transfer then moves into the shot or discus and leads to MONSTROUS throws. By feeling this transfer forward, the thrower learns how to chase the finish. They learn how to put absolutely everything into the throw AND over time, they will learn how to save these big throws. As long as they are cued properly.
The key behind practice fouls is knowing what fouls are also NOT saveable. Is the thrower rolling out into the sector? If that is the case, they likely were not going to save the throw. This can lead to consistent fouling problems in competition, poor performances, AND confidence issues. Throwers often struggle with competing when they have big throws in practice that they struggle to hold during a competition. This will lead to long term developmental problems and mental issues around stress management!
Need to save some throws? Click on that technical analysis below!
Is it the finish?
Fixing fouling problems can be an interesting means of analysis. Often, coaches focus entirely on the front of the circle to fix a foul. This is ok...to a point. Sometimes there MIGHT be a small cue that can lead to an immediate fix in the front of the circle. Something as simple as, “Push the right shoulder, open the left arm more” can lead to a bigger save on the throw. But is this the best method?
In most fouling problems, the issue is not from the front of the circle. Many fouls do not start even in the middle of the circle! Instead, it is almost ALWAYS sparked by a poor movement out of the back of the circle. As coaches, it is very important to analyze the back of the circle and break down every specific detail to understand what could be leading to a foul. Are they falling into the middle? Are they jumping across the circle? Are they struggling to ground earlier in the middle? All of these issues are caused by failures out of the back of the circle.
What about a big competition?
Throwers will get very anxious when a big competition is around the corner. They may get concerned that they won’t be able to save the big bomb and that is going to keep them up at night as they prepare to shock the world. This is something that needs to be addressed in training. Are there specific manners or methods that can be used to emulate a competition?
Many throwers prefer to have 3-5 days where they save 4-10 throws in training. With these athlete types, we have found tremendous success with mimicking a competition every single day in training. This doesn’t mean they need to go ALL OUT every single throw but instead, it comes down to establishing that routine.
Upon arrival to practice, have the athlete prepare for practice as though it is a competition. This will heighten their nervous system and prepare them to remain very focused. As they work through warm-ups, only give them 2 standing throws and 3-5 full throws, similar to a competition setting. After those 3-5 throws, provide one key cue and have them start hammering throws in preparation for a meet. On these throws, they must save their movement. After 6-10 saves, resort back to a normal practice schedule.
This style of training leads to improved competition, both physically and mentally. This teaches the athlete how to switch on and off between practice mindset and competition mindset. By practicing this routine over and over, the thrower learns how to develop their skills in competition and ultimately leads to improved confidence.
What is the Individual Transfer?
Is the individual a thrower that struggles with fouling? If they are, then fix their movement issue and build their confidence by having them compete more frequently. If they don’t struggle with fouling, then by all means keep pushing the limits in training.
Understand what is saveable and what is not saveable. If a thrower is constantly blasting out of the front of the circle with their entire body, they might not have the strength to handle their speed. They may also have an issue coming off their non-dominant leg out of the back. Cue them on these problems and improve their general movement!
Recognize technical issues by journaling and taking note of repetitive problems. Be sure to troubleshoot issues but also remember those throwers you have coached in the past! Did they have similar issues to the current throwers you are training? Always have an association toward problems and bring back those cues that fixed problems in the past.
It’s ok to save training throws when a big competition is getting close. I suggest always raising practice intensity when getting close to big competitions. The closer the intensity is to a big comp, the better the athlete will handle stress in the competition! Stress management is key to big bombs!
Learn from the athlete and learn from their movement patterns. Know what makes them foul or what causes a foul and know how they tick internally! Create mock meets in practice and put pressure on throwers similar to a competition setting. Over time, this will enhance the thrower and improve their long term development. At the end of the day, stress management is key to long term throwing success and then includes saving throws!
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- Dane and Trevor