The Process of Teaching the Rotational Shot
By Gary Aldrich- Head Men's & Women's Track & Field Coach Carnegie Mellon University
It seems as though every clinic I speak at I am asked: "Is it hard to teach the rotational technique to Shot Putters?" or "How do you determine which thrower you should teach to spin in the Shot Put?" The answers to these questions are "no" and "it depends".
Is it hard to teach the rotational technique in the Shot Put?
It is interesting that we get this question asked as often as we do. The majority of coaches that ask this question coach their throwers in both the Shot Put and Discus. So they already do teach the rotational technique. But for some reason they are not sure how to communicate the technique to their shot putters.
The rotational technique for the Discus and Shot put are very similar. There are some differences. Maybe if we highlight these subtle differences it will make teaching the technique less stressful. The first difference that I talk about is the body position at the back of the circle (Reference Point 12:00 is the back of the circle, 6:00 is at the Toe Board. Also I will be writing in terms of a right-handed thrower).
The starting position for the SP (Shot Put) is a slight more bend at the waist forward with the chest being closer in distance to the quads. This position is similar to a semi squat position. Coaches also sometimes see the placement of the shot being back behind the ear. You have to be careful with this. Much of the reason for this placement is the size of the 16lb. Shot when looking at film of the elite throwers. Women/girls and high school boys do not need to place the shot that far back because of the size of the shot. They can handle the ball. The tendency is if the ball is to far back in the neck the right elbow will get in front of the ball and not allow for an advantageous pushing position.
The next difference is in the wind of the rotational shot vs. the discus. The load in the shot should just be enough to load the ball behind the right hip. The final difference I would like to talk about is the driving of the right knee across the circle. Because the shot circle is 7' in diameter vs. the discus circle being 8'21/2". The right knee must lift more in the shot put vs. driving across the circle in the discus. This is especially true if you have a tall thrower. It is very easy for a thrower 6'6" tall to get across a SP circle. So much so that if the thrower doesn't lift the knee, the thrower will be very crowded at the toe board. There are other differences. But I feel if you work on these it will get your throwers in a better position to deliver the ball.
How do you determine which thrower you should teach to spin in the Shot Put?
The first thing I look at is do your throwers look and feel comfortable in spinning in the discus. Are they fluid and move smoothly through the circle or are they very mechanical and choppy. This thought also goes to the point of where they have good feet. By this I mean are they mobile, athletic, on their toes. Can they be active, coordinated? If they have these traits it will make it much easier to teach the movement patterns. Now this doesn't mean that once you are a glider you are always a glider. Remember athletes mature and develop at different rates. Maybe as a freshman they can't walk and talk at the same time. But by the time they are seniors they are able to move in any direction and in anyway you want them to. There have been numerous throwers go from being good gliding Shot putters to excellent rotating shot putters. I can still remember John Kenneson calling me after Jeff Chakouian first collegiate meet for the University of Kentucky. Jeff was a glide shot putter out of Massachusetts who as a senior in high school was one of the best in the nation. John decided to teach him the rotational technique as soon as he came to Kentucky. Well the decision was a success right from the get go. Jeff threw over 20 meters in his first meet. Obviously that type of success will not happen for everyone. The point is that a coach cannot be afraid to try something different if they think it will make their thrower better.
The other aspect of the athlete that I look at is the emotional stability of the thrower. Is the athlete able to handle adversity and respond well vs. getting depressed and pouting? The reason this is important is because the rotational technique can be very erratic. The glide technique is much more consistent. The deviation between throws if they were to be plotted is not as great in the glide compared to the rotational. Therefore a rotational thrower must be able to handle not succeeding well on the first and maybe even the second throw. The thrower will be able to pull it all together on the third.
No matter which technique you teach your shot putters to use be confident and positive. Continue to develop your knowledge, but if you encourage your athletes to attend clinics, read, and/or watch videos your throwers and program will flourish.