Help Young Athletes to Deliver a Straight Discus
Note: The following article uses the example of a right-handed discus thrower. For a left-handed thrower, reverse any references to right and left sides.
To resolve a recurring early discus release, the first thing that I address is the position of the thrower’s feet.
I look for:
- The direction of the thrower’s back foot (i.e. the foot that is in the centre of the circle when the athlete is in their delivery stance).
- The placement of the thrower’s front foot in relation to the front of the circle.
Direction of the back foot
To deliver a discus down the middle of the landing sector a thrower’s back foot preferably needs to be pointing in that direction at the time the discus is released. (Fig. 1). An incomplete rotation of the foot will often result in the discus being sprayed out to the side.
Therefore, when a discus slices to the right (for a right handed thrower), lands outside the right-hand sector line or hits the right-hand-side of the cage, it is likely that:
- The thrower’s back (right) foot is facing to the right when they let the discus go and/or;
- At the front of the circle, the thrower’s front (left) foot is in the centre, or to the right of centre. This makes it difficult to rotate the back foot through to the front.
Front foot position
Ideally in the delivery stance, a thrower’s front foot should be slightly off-centre to the left. (See Fig. 1). This allows a full rotation of the back foot to the front as the thrower swings around to deliver the discus. The feet should not be parallel (Fig. 2).
If the thrower’s front foot is centered or off to the right, it is very difficult for the thrower to fully rotate round to the front. Hence the discus may be delivered off to the right. (Fig. 3).
If a standing discus thrower is spraying the discus out to the right, ensure that:
- The thrower takes up an initial stance with their feet in an offset position. I.e. The toes of the front foot in line with the heel of the back foot. (Fig. 4).
2. On delivery, the thrower rotates the back foot fully through to the front.
Many young athletes plant their feet and don’t move them when throwing a discus. This leads to a very ineffective “arm-only” action.
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. (Fig. 5).
A lack of movement of the feet is a common cause of a discus being released too early and “sliced” out to the side. (Fig. 6).
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.
The solution can be more complex for a rotational thrower. Let’s assume that an athlete who throws with a full one-and-a-half rotation (i.e. Begins at the rear of the circle, facing 180 degrees away from the the direction of the throw – Fig. 7) is regularly throwing out to the right.
You notice that in their delivery stance, their back foot is pointing out to the right and/or the front foot is off-centre to the right.
Look for the cause of the problem occurring earlier in the throw:
- For a right-handed thrower, when their right foot hits the centre of the circle, check to see if their heel is turned to the direction of the throw. (Fig. 8). Any less than this will make it very difficult to rotate their foot fully round to the front.
- Check that the thrower is landing on the ball of their foot in the centre of the circle and not getting “stuck” on a flat foot which they cannot properly rotate.
- Check to see that the thrower is rotating their right foot as soon as it hits the centre of the circle.
The athlete’s position at the front of the circle is set up by their initial turn at the back of the circle. (Fig. 8).
Their initial turn on their left foot should see the foot fully rotated 180 degrees towards the direction of the throw. If not, the athlete is likely to find that their right foot will land to the right of the centre of the circle. This will make it difficult to turn their right foot fully around to the front. It will also set up their left foot to land off to the right at the front of the circle.
To solve the problem of an early discus release, start with the athlete’s feet.
For all throwers, check at delivery:
- The direction of the athlete’s back foot.
- The position of the athlete’s front foot.
For rotational throwers also check:
- The direction of their pivoting foot following their initial turn.
- The direction of their other foot when it lands in the middle of the circle.
- That they are landing on the ball of their foot in the middle of the circle, and the foot is turning as soon as it hits the ground.
Do you have any other causes of or solutions to an early discus release?
Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.
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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, Instagram, Anchor or via email.