The Crocodile Discus Grip Creates More Problems Than It Solves For Young Athletes
Some beginners are taught to throw the discus using a “crocodile grip”. It is called this because the grip resembles a crocodile holding a discus in its jaws.
I assume that this grip originated to help kids who are unable to hold onto the discus as they attempt to perform the side-arm slinging action. Kids indeed struggle with this skill when trying to hold the discus correctly. The crocodile grip allows the kids to more easily secure the discus in their hand.
I can understand the intent behind teaching this grip. It can be argued that teaching the crocodile grip overcomes the common lack of confidence kids have in gripping the discus and allows an early introduction to the side-arm slinging action that is a trademark of the discus throw.
But I think that this approach is misguided. Modifying the grip is not the answer. It is a quick fix, but not a long-term solution.
The discus crocodile grip creates more problems than it solves.
Problems With The Crocodile Grip
1. The Grip is Ineffective
While the kids fundamentally look like they are throwing the discus, they are missing one of the most important ingredients to successful discus throwing – a grip that allows the thrower to release the discus from their hand at speed and with a spin that results in a controlled, stable flight. Most discuses thrown using the crocodile grip will float, not spin, and most kids can’t squeeze the discus firmly enough between their fingers and thumb to throw it hard. The result will be a soft throw and an unstable discus flight.
2. The Grip Leads Nowhere
The biggest problem with the crocodile grip is that it is a teaching step that leads nowhere. The kids will need to be untaught the crocodile grip and introduced to a more robust grip to make any headway. They will need to regress to progress.
I recommend teaching the correct grip right from the start and allowing the kids to modify their arm action to be able to perform a correct discus release where the implement spins over the index finger. The modification involves the kids using a forward underarm throwing action during which the discus swings past their thigh. Five-year-olds can be taught to use a fundamentally correct grip and underarm toss a discus in just one learning session.
Ideally, when holding the discus, the four fingers slightly curl over the edge of the implement. The discus sits on the pads of the fingers, not past the first finger joints. The thumb should rest on the back of the implement.
Using this grip, kids can first be taught to drop, then roll, then toss the discus underarm, always ensuring that the implement rolls out forwards over the index finger.
The Underarm Discus Toss
The discus rules allow the implement to be thrown using a forward underarm action. I highly recommend that this method be used by beginners, and see it as an important teaching step that leads to kids eventually being able to perform a basic full standing discus throw using a side-arm slinging action.
This method sees the discus swung pendulum-like back then forward past the hip/thigh with a long, outstretched arm, and released over the index finger in a forwards spin so that it rotates upright, rather than flat, like a wheel in the air, and lands on the ground on its edge. A good underarm throw will result in the discus continuing to roll forward after it hits the ground. This is a technique that can be used in practice and competition.
Confidence and performances generally improve quickly once kids are taught a correct discus grip and release using an underarm action. Often, the first and biggest early improvement is the amount of force that the kids can impart on the discus, resulting in bigger throws. From there, it is no turning back. From the initial underarm toss, it is usually not hard for the kids to gradually learn to lift the height of their arm bit by bit until it becomes a basic side-arm sling and a fundamental standing discus throw.
Over To You!
Do you have experience with the crocodile discus grip? What are your thoughts about it? Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.
How To Teach Discus To Young Athletes E-Book (plus bonus cheat sheet) by Coaching Young Athletes
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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.