The other day I wrote a short article about purposeful practice for throwers. With most athletes training on their own for the past couple of weeks, it is critical that we as throwers are not simply getting reps in just to say we hit our quota for the day/week/month. There should be a rhyme and reason behind each throw. What your goals are will ultimately determine how purposeful you really are.
The 4 Steps to Purposeful Practice:
Well Defined, Specific Goals
This makes perfect sense. Each training session should have well defined and specific outcomes we are attempting to accomplish. If one wants to improve their distance, simply stating that you want to take 25 hammer throws in the session just won’t cut it. It takes much more than that.
If for example our Monday training session calls for 25 hammer throws, what is it about those 25 throws that will move us forward towards accomplishing our long-term goal? Is the focus of the session to be able to take 15 throws with the 16# and focus on being patient on the entry because you are making the transition to a toe and 3 (a toe turn followed by 3 heel turns)? Or is the focus of the session to only focus on a flat entry with our first turn with the hammer? Another goal may be to focus on staying in the circle for 19 of 25 throws because we have transitioned to 3 heel turns from 2 heel turns. The list of specific goals for the session is going to vary depending on the experience of the thrower. A beginning thrower may have a goal of taking 3 turn full throws with the hammer by the 3rd practice session off the week. As a coach, then it is important for us to be able to create a plan that will allow our new thrower to get to full 3 heel throws by their third session. These goals should also align with our long-term goal(s) for the season. Each session builds upon the previous one in order to move us one step closer to accomplishing our ultimate goal.
This may be the most difficult step to achieve during the training session. I’ve written about the art of focus many times in the past. You can read more about focus by clicking HERE or HERE or HERE. Essentially, we are trying to minimize any distractions during our training session. One way to minimize distractions is to practice for no longer than 1 hour (if possible). If the training session is planned out ahead of time for multiple throwers, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get 20-25 reps in for two or three throwers in an hour.
If your mind is wandering or you’re relaxed and just having fun, you probably won’t improve-Anders Ericsson
With the current crisis that has overtaken the world, training with large groups of individuals in the same physical location is pretty much frowned up. Receiving feedback from your coach is critical in towards achieving your goals. As I’ve mentioned before, mindless throwing for the sake of getting reps in will not help you as much as you think it is. Sure, you may have a couple of technical looking throws or the implement might go far, but if we are trying to throw the farthest with the most efficient technique we are capable of, then throwing under the watchful eye of a coach is important. Receiving feedback or technical ques allows us to zoom in and focus on what our specific training session goal is. Receiving this feedback tells us whether we are improving our technical throwing model, becoming more efficient in the circle, and actually working on the skill we intended to work on during the session.
Getting Out of Our Comfort Zone
If we are throwing alone, it may be difficult to get out of our comfort zones. Rather than focus on executing certain aspects of our throw, we simply may just try and throw as far as we can on each successive throw. Again, that won’t necessarily help us in the long run. For example, if our thrower is making the transition to a toe turn followed by 3 heel turns for the upcoming season, they will need to get out of their comfort zone and focus in on making the transition to the toe turn. There are many drills that can assist a thrower with making that change, but if after a couple of training sessions we don’t seem to be making progress, we might want to quit and transition back to 3 heel turns.
In this situation, getting comfortable and reverting to old habits probably won’t lead us to achieving our long-term goals. It might take thousands of turns before the thrower begins to feel comfortable with the toe turn. If the hammer doesn’t go as far for a couple of weeks or months may cause us to get frustrated. That is ok. Making this transition for a thrower takes a lot of time, effort, diligence, and a focused mindset that won’t allow you to revert back to old ways. Getting out of our comfort zone doesn’t have to be about adding another turn either. It may be about adding or taking away a wind, hand placement on the entry, or foot placement on the finish. As I’ve mentioned before, each thrower is different. Everyone has their own level of comfort when it comes to throwing. Getting comfortable feeling uncomfortable will lead to positive progress in the long run as you continue on your journey towards achieving your goal(s)!
Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.