Look Out for These Common Discus Throwing Errors When Coaching Young Athletes
Below are 10 of the most common skill errors that I see kids make when they are performing a standing discus throw. I’d love for you to continue the list in the comments section of this blog.
1. Incorrect discus grip
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.
The following mistakes are often made with the discus grip:
- Thumb over the edge of the discus
- Fingers too far over the edge of the discus
- Locking the discus in with the wrist
A thumb over the edge of the discus can lead to the discus “sticking” in the hand and under-rotating.
With the fingers too far over the edge, this discus can slip out of the hand.
If the discus is locked in by the wrist, the thrower cannot achieve a smooth release.
2. Hand under the discus
This discus should be released with the hand over the top of the discus.
Beginner discus throwers, however, are often scared that they will drop the discus, so will try to swing and deliver the discus with their hand underneath the implement.
This hand position makes it impossible to release the discus correctly.
Work with athletes to develop their confidence in handling the discus.
3. Too many wind-up swings
Many young athletes perform too many preliminary “warm-up” swings prior to throwing a discus. Some even believe that this is what they are supposed to do.
One preliminary swing at most should be used. In fact, I coach young athletes to swing the discus back and then release the discus on the subsequent forward swing. Multiple swings are not needed.
4. Bobbing up & down when winding-up
When performing their preliminary swings prior to a standing throw, many young athletes will bob up and down. They will squat down when swinging the discus back and stand up again when swinging it forward. Instead, they should be shifting their weight backwards and forwards over their back and front foot.
Done properly, a shift in weight from the back to the front foot will help an athlete to propel the discus out into the sector. This is because they are moving their body weight in the direction of the throw. A bobbing action will mean that the athlete will be directing forces up and down, not in the direction of the throw.
5. Arm-only delivery
Many young athletes plant their feet and don’t move them when throwing a discus. This leads to a very ineffective “arm-only” action.
Experienced discus throwers throw with their whole body, utilizing the muscles in their legs and torso as well as their arms and shoulders. Watch out for the athletes who start in a side-on preparatory stance and leave their feet fixed to the ground throughout the movement. Their hips will remain in virtually the same position as they awkwardly attempt to throw the discus around and across their body.
A lack of movement of the feet is a common cause of a discus being released too early and “sliced” out to the side. The discus may land outside the right-hand sector line (for a right-handed thrower) or even hit the right-hand-side of the cage.
Even when young athletes do pivot their feet, many stop the pivot before the toes of their back foot are pointing to the front, resulting in the same problem as above.
If an athlete regularly “slices” the discus out to the side, look to see which way their back foot is pointing. It will most likely be exactly where the discus went.
Teach young athletes to, on delivery, point their back foot and “belly-button” where they want the discus to land. i.e straight down the middle of the landing sector.
6. Moving backwards on delivery
Some young athletes lean backwards when they are trying to throw a discus. Obviously, moving backwards while trying to throw an object forwards is not very effective.
This occurs when the athlete loses balance, loses control, or does not properly transfer their weight from their back to their front foot during delivery. It can also be caused by an athlete fearing that they will fall forwards out of the circle and record a failed throw.
At the extreme, some athletes will even take a step or “walk” back away from the front of the circle as they throw.
A loss of balance, an over-rotation, and a poor block can all cause this to occur.
Work on the athletes balance, control and blocking action.
7. Bending forward at the hips
Watch for athletes who, when throwing a discus, tip over (“like a teapot”) to their non-throwing side or bend forward from the hips. This results in a low delivery position and therefore a low release of the discus.
Teach a tall finishing position, with the chin “as far away from the ground” as the athlete can get it.
8. Bowling the discus
It is not uncommon for young athletes to use a cricket-style overarm bowling action when trying to throw a discus. For a right-handed thrower, this is often the result of them dropping their left arm and shoulder, lowering their head and bending at the hips.
This can cause many problems including a low delivery position, a poor blocking action, and a vertically spinning discus. The discus may even tip fully over in flight.
Teach a tall, upright delivery position, with the lead shoulder and non-throwing arm kept up. Teaching an effective block will will also help.
9. Arm leading the action
An experienced discus thrower will use an “arm last” throwing action. In other words, they will rotate their feet, hips, chest, shoulders and head to the front before pulling the discus through in a whip-like action.
Beginners often use an arm-dominant action, allowing the throwing arm and hand to lead the throwing action. This results in far less force being applied to the implement and a lessened ability to accelerate the implement through the arm delivery action.
It can also result in a late arm action and release of the discus, causing the implement to be hooked to the right (for a right-handed thrower).
10. Releasing the discus out of the back of the hand
The discus should ideally spin off the index finger and rotate out of the front of the hand when released.
Therefore, a right-handed thrower will release the discus so that it spins in a clockwise direction. A left-handed thrower will spin the discus in an anti-clockwise direction.
Many young athletes are not aware of this and release the discus out of the back of the hand.
Releasing the discus out of the back of the hand can result in many problems including a bent throwing arm which leads to lead to a shortened lever and a loss of momentum, and a shortened follow-through. It is also much more difficult to apply a rotating force to the discus on release.
What common technical mistakes do you see young athletes make when they are discus throwing?
You can add to the above list by clicking on “Leave a Comment” located on the left sidebar or by scrolling down to the “Leave a Reply” box below. I would also love to hear if you have any solutions other than those noted to any of the common mistakes identified.
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 or via email.