Be Aware of these 3 Myths When Coaching Young Athletes
This is the third in a series of articles in which I discuss common of myths and misconceptions that surround the rules and coaching of athletics events. I have identified another three myths that require examination and busting, so off we go again . . .
MYTH 1: Shot put & discus throwers must walk in through the back of the throwing circle
It is very common for young athletes to be taught to “walk in and out of the back of the circle” when they are competing in the shot put or discus. This teaching has become so common that many people believe it to be a rule. In thinking this they are only partly correct.
It is true that athletes are required to exit the throwing circle out of its back half. If they don’t, their throw is considered a “failure”.
There is, however, no rule that the athletes must enter the circle from the back.
I understand the reasons for teaching young athletes to only use the back half of the circle for both entry and exit. A young athlete, however, should NEVER be fouled for failing to enter the circle through the back half. An athlete can walk into the circle from any direction.
MYTH 2: Athletes should grip the discus with their thumb over the edge
I hear many young athletes complain that they can’t hold the discus because it is “too big” for their hand. I have also heard many parents remark that the discus is much too large for their child to hold because the child “can’t get their thumb over the edge”.
There is a very common misconception that athletes should grip the discus with their thumb over its edge. While it is not against the rules for an athlete to put their thumb over the edge of the discus, it is certainly not an effective grip and will not result in a good discus release. Rather than spinning flat, the discus will most likely float or tumble end-over-end.
Ideally, when gripping the discus, a young athlete should:
- Hold the discus flat against their palm.
- Sit the edge of the discus on the pads of their fingers, next to their first finger joints.
- Rest their thumb on the back of the discus.
More information: How to Teach the Discus Grip to Young Athletes.
MYTH 3: When starting a race, athletes should look at the finish line
When I ask young athletes where they should be looking at the start of a race they enthusiastically reply “At the finish line!”. I also hear many adults teaching this to young athletes.
While it is good for young sprinters to look straight ahead and towards the finish line when they are running, this is not the case during the start and acceleration phase of a race. Looking towards the finish line at the start and as they accelerate puts the athlete into a very poor acceleration position. Also, once athletes are learning to crouch start, trying to look at the finish line from the “On Your Marks” and “Set” positions is very uncomfortable and creates undue tension in the back and neck of the athlete.
To achieve a good acceleration position, the athlete should learn to look down at the ground at the start and during the first part of a race, not at the finish line.
Do you know of any athletics-related myths?
If you have come across any other athletics-related myths or would like to ask a question about something that you suspect could be a myth, let me know by leaving a comment. I might discuss it in a future post.
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.