4 Simple Steps to a Standing Shot Put
I developed the following sequence to teach a basic standing shot putting action to class-size groups of up to thirty children within a thirty to forty minute session. I have used the same sequence to introduce shot put to small groups and also individuals.
The session will not result in “textbook” technique but will produce happy young learners who at least possess the minimum skills required to participate with some competence in the event.
When teaching a skill to a large group, it is vital to ensure the best use of the limited time available. Maximising activity time and organising smooth transitions between activities are both important if a shot put session with large numbers is to be productive.
To ensure that the athletes receive the maximum number of attempts, I aim to provide enough equipment so that at least half of the group or class is shot putting at once. Therefore, with a group of thirty kids, I will arrange it so that the athletes work in pairs with fifteen of the group throwing at once.
Venue & Set Up
Most of the group sessions that I have conducted to teach shot put occur on a large grassed area. Throwing circles are not used. The athletes simply deliver the shots from behind a marker placed at least two metres along from the adjacent thrower. The athlete’s partners stand safely at another marker at least five metres behind the throwers.
During such an activity, good supervision is important. Position yourself so that you can see the whole group. Stand back so that you can see everyone, but also so you can focus on individual interactions if needed. Supervision should be active and interactive, not just standing back and watching.
I have taught the following sequence using shots or modified training shots with children between the ages of five and twelve years.
The coach should begin the session by quickly and clearly outlining some safety parameters for the activities that will follow. Most important are:
- DO NOT throw the shot until told to do so.
- DO NOT retrieve the shot until told to do so.
Ensure that the athletes understand that after delivering the shots, they are to wait for the signal to collect. When asked to collect the shots, they carry them back (they do not roll or throw them back) and place them on the ground ready for their partner to use.
When teaching a large group, I find that it is best to describe and demonstrate the shot put grip while the athletes are all sitting together in close proximity to the demonstration.
Emphasize that the shot sits on the base of the fingers with three fingers behind the shot and the thumb and little finger to the side. The shot should not touch the palm. The shot in the hand resembles a scoop of ice cream sitting in a cone.
Two-Handed Push From Chest to a Target
- To introduce the basic shot putting arm action.
- To introduce the use of legs to assist the throwing action.
Place a target, such as a hoop, at an appropriate distance from the throwers. The distance will depend on the age of the athletes and the implement being used. I like the idea of using a target to emphasise accuracy as it usually results in a tidier technique.
Standing in a front-on position to the target, with feet parallel, the athletes attempt to land the shot in the target, using a two-handed push from the chest.
- Instruct the athletes to start with the shot held in two hands in front of their chest, under their chin.
- The elbows are held up to the side, away from the body, “like wings on a plane”.
- When holding the shot in the starting position, the thumbs should be pointing down, the palms should face outwards and the fingers should be behind the shot.
- Emphasise an “elbows up, thumbs down, palms out” position.
“Elbows up, thumbs down, palms out.”
- During the two-arm putting action the elbows are kept up and the thumbs continue to point down.
- After releasing the shot, the athletes should finish in a “thumbs down” position with fingers outstretched. They should also be up on their toes in a “tall” position.
- Rehearse the entire action without the shots, if required.
After repeating the above several times, introduce the concept of using the legs to gain greater distance. Describe how bending the legs when preparing to throw and extending them on release can increase the power of the throw. Allow the athletes to attempt the skill again, using their legs as described.
One-Handed Put to a Target from a “Front-On” Stance
To teach a basic one-arm putting action.
Standing in a front-on position to the target, with feet parallel, and starting with the shot placed under the jaw and against the neck, the athletes attempt to land the shot in the target, using a one-handed put. Repeat this activity several times.
- It is worthwhile initially rehearsing this action without the shots. The younger the child, the more rehearsal they may need.
- Emphasise the “elbows up, thumbs down, palms out” starting position, and the “thumbs down” finishing position.
- Emphasize the correct placement of the shot against the neck prior to putting. Many beginners hold the shot against the side of their face, so ask them to place it up next to their “windpipe”, under their jaw.
- Watch for the athletes who hold the shot in a “palm up” starting position. If this is a problem, instruct the athlete to point their little finger to their ear lobe, and their thumb to their collar bone in an attempt to turn the palm outwards.
“Little finger to ear lobe, thumb to collar bone.”
- Instruct the athletes to extend their non-throwing arm towards the target.
- Watch for the athletes who drop their elbow during the put and let the shot fall away from the neck, resulting in an illegal delivery. Reinforcing an “elbow up” technique can help here. Also, instruct the athletes that they should feel the shot touching their neck right up until they begin the put. I have had success in asking athletes to pretend that the shot is attached to their neck with “Velcro” and that they can only tear it off with a strong forward put.
- Watch for athletes who when putting the shot, tip over (“like a teapot”) to their non-throwing side or bend forward from the hips “looking for ants on the ground”. Teach a tall finishing position, with the chin “as far away from the ground” as the athlete can get it.
- Older athletes can be taught to “wave the shot goodbye” as they extend or “snap” their wrist to “flick” the shot off the fingers as it leaves the hand.
“Wave the shot goodbye.”
- Watch for athletes who twist their hand as they release the shot, as if they are turning a door knob.
With older children, and if time allows, it can be possible to teach the athletes, while they are using a parallel stance, to begin in a more “closed” position and then to “open up” to their delivery position.
The terminology that I have used with success is to ask the athletes to “wrap” themselves up (rotate their upper body away from the throwing direction and wrap their non-throwing arm across their body) then to “unwrap” themselves as they open up to deliver the shot.
If you add the use of the legs, the athletes can be taught to squat as they “wrap”, then extend their legs as they “unwrap”. If you describe the use of the arm and hand as a “snap”, then the saying “wrap, unwrap, snap” can be used as a simple cue to describe the whole movement.
“Wrap, unwrap, snap.”
Basic Standing Put to a Target
To teach the athletes a basic standing put.
Start by asking the athletes to assume a side-on starting position to the target, holding an imaginary shot up against their neck. Their non-throwing arm can extend towards the target or be wrapped across their body.
Teach the athletes to bend their rear leg and shift their weight back onto it.
Demonstrate how to swing the body (hips and chest) to the front by pivoting the back foot to “point at the target” prior to the put. Telling athletes that their back foot and belly button should point at the target as they push the shot is a good cue. Younger children can be told that their belly button “should be looking at where the shot lands.”
The belly button should be “looking at where the shot lands.”
A simple cue that summarises the whole movement succinctly is “turn and push”. I have found that children as young as five years of age can understand and perform a “turn and push” action.
Younger children should begin in an open side-on stance with the non-throwing arm pointing at the target. Older athletes may be able to begin in a more closed “chin-knee-toe” stance (where the chin is held over and in line with the knee and toe of the rear driving leg) with their non-throwing arm wrapped across their body as if they are looking at a watch on their wrist.
Allow the athletes to attempt to put the shot to a target. Repeat as often as time allows and refine their technique as required.
If the athletes can perform a basic standing put and if time is available, it is possible to introduce a very basic side-step prior to delivery.
Rehearse this activity firstly without the shots. Emphasise that the athletes must keep the shot tucked in against the neck. Many young athletes have the tendency to allow the shot to fall away from the neck as they perform the side-step action.
Teaching Sequence Summary
Step 1: The Grip
Step 2: Two-handed push from the chest to a target
Step 3: One-handed put to a target from a “front-on” stance
Step 4: Basic standing put to target
It is possible to teach young athletes to perform a simple working model for shot put within a thirty to forty minute session. Focusing on the basics of the correct shot put grip and starting position, and keeping the elbow up/thumb down during a simple “turn and push” delivery action can lead to rapid and satisfying results for the athlete and the coach.
This article has been adapted and updated from an article by the author that first appeared in “Modern Athlete and Coach”, Volume 47, No. 4, October 2009
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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.