Blocking is a Crucial Skill for Throwing Effectively
What is a block?
“Blocking” or “bracing” refers to the point at which the thrower is in their delivery stance and the non-throwing side of the body comes to a halt and is locked in place. This then acts as a pivot point around which the throwing side of the body can accelerate to release the implement. (i.e. A right-handed thrower will block the left side of their body as their right arm comes through). Think of the left side of the body acting like a hinge on a gate. To slam the gate shut, the pivot point must be fixed in place. Also useful is the analogy of a catapult, which relies on a fixed pivot point for its power.
A good block will speed up the delivery of an implement as one part of the body stops to accelerate another part. A throw with a good block will look “snappy”, like a whip cracking.
An athlete who is unbalanced, falling away, over-rotating or lifting their back foot as they throw is usually not achieving a good block.
An article about discus throwing at: http://www.coachr.org/discus_step_by_step.htm, states that:
“Biomechanically, at the finish we have a rotating line across the shoulders. If we decelerate the left end of this line (the left shoulder), we accelerate the right end (the discus). This can be explained to young throwers by comparing it to a skateboard rider riding 10 miles an hour. If he hits a curb, his feet and the skateboard decelerate immediately to 0 mph causing his head to accelerate beyond 10 mph”
What is needed for a good block?
To achieve a good block, a right-handed thrower will require:
- A balanced delivery position – you can’t block on an unstable base.
- A braced left leg in the delivery stance – a bent or buckled leg will not be effective.
- A tall delivery position – not bent forward at hips.
- Control of the non-throwing side – the athlete shouldn’t “throw the arm away” behind them.
- Both feet in contact with the ground – you can’t block off one foot.
- A forceful stopping motion of the non-throwing side – you cant’t block softly.
- Speed of movement leading up to the block – you can’t block slowly.
How to teach a block?
Very young athletes will struggle to understand and apply the concept of blocking. It is not among the first things that I would try to teach to a beginner. Novice throwers often struggle to control and release the implement correctly, let alone achieve a forceful stopping of their left side.
Eventually, however, a young athlete will need to develop the ability to block as part of their throwing action. Some athletes develop the action naturally or discover it themselves; others will require rigorous instruction.
Some tips to teach a good block include:
A wide range of throwing experiences
Allow athletes to experience throwing a wide range of implements across a wide range of throwing movements. A broad exposure to throwing skills will often see good throwing fundamentals developed, including a basic block, without the need for a lot of direct instruction. Use various sized balls, including medicine balls, and other objects. Throw for distance, accuracy, from various stances and a range of starting positions.
I believe a block is best first developed during a standing throw, without the complication of stepping, gliding, turning , running up, etc.
Non-throwing arm action
The action of the non-throwing arm is important to the execution of a block. Ideally a thrower should forcefully pull their non-throwing arm from an extended position in towards their body to assist in a blocking action. Tell the athletes that it is like they are pulling a handle in towards their ribs.
Teaching young athletes to drive their hips around to the front can assist them to develop a sound blocking action. Telling athletes to “throw the coins out of their back pocket” can be a good coaching cue.
Do you have any ideas about how to best explain or teach a blocking action?
I would love to hear your ideas. Let me now by leaving a reply/comment.
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes, and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.
Hi Coach, Re; Discus; Many of my young athletes lift their right foot too early (they are all right handed). Blocking could be an issue as per your article. I will focus on this and see if this helps, Are there any other reasons why they might be lifting their right foot too soon at release? and what methods might help them keep their foot grounded at release? Thank you
Hi John. I often find that a lot of kids don’t drive or pivot enough off their back foot. They simply lift it up. Also check to see if they are putting their weight back on that foot during a standing throw wind-up or as they contact the middle of the circle during a rotational throw. Darren