Shot out is a field event in athletics that involves putting, or pushing a heavy, round, ball shaped shot as far as possible. It is recorded that ancient Greeks threw stones as a sport and soldiers are recorded as throwing cannon balls in the Middle Ages. The modern version of the discipline can be traced to the Highland Games in Scotland during the 19th century where competitors threw a rounded cube, stone or metal weight from behind a line.
Modifications are required for children to learn the skills of shotput as their muscles, joints and ligaments are not strong enough to manage the Olympic weight and sized shot. Obviously, the first change should therefore be to the size and weight of the shot.
The Shot Put Beginner
Regardless of the age of the learner, it is beanbags are perhaps the most valuable teaching aid available. It allows the teacher or coach to monitor and adjust the putting technique. It is crucial to remember that the name of the skill is not “Shot Throw,” but shot put.
Putting a shot is a pushing action, not a throwing action. Force is generated from a strong foundation in the feet and lower body, compounded in the abdominal and back muscles, and only then multiplied through the smaller muscles of the chest and upper back, shoulders and arms. Source: “Transfer of Mechanical Energy Through a Shot Put.”
Tip 1. The Stance
As with any throwing action, the foundation of the skill is the stance or foot position. Stand sideways with the leading hand pointing up at about 40 – 50 degrees. Adjusting the learner’s stance is a positive way to develop class control. Use a line to rehearse the eventual shotput technique used in competitions. Start all students behind the line using the “air put” with empty hands moving through the action.
Place fingers of the putting hand against the chin bone prior to rehearsing the putting action. Rehearse the action on both left and right hand sides to ensure all students know which is their preferred or “best” hand. After a few attempts on each side, ask students to repeat the action with a beanbag. Once again, repeat using left and right hands.
Tip 2. Starting Position
Hold the shot in the fingers for better control. Not in the palm of the hand. This ensures better control. Hold the shot into the side of the lower chin bone, resting it on your neck. As you release the shot, make sure it travels close to your face. Always make sure the elbow is high at all times during the action.
Tip 3. Follow Through and Braking
After releasing the shot, push the empty hand forwards towards your target, then make sure your arm crosses in front of your body whilst the non putting arm draws back behind the body’s midline. This helps slow your forward momentum and to stay behind the throw line. For older students continue this action by turning the front foot to act as a brake and avoid crossing the putting line.
Tip 4. Equipment Modification
A shot is a heavy metal ball with its weight precisely adjusted with a lead or similar core filler that may be checked prior to competition. Different coloured shot of differing size and weights are a great way to ensure students of different ages or abilities are assigned appropriate shot for their skill and training level.
At the beginner level, regardless of age it is vital that additional modifications are made. The use of beanbags is an excellent way to teach indoors or undercover out of the rain or sun. They don’t damage timber or hard surfaces, are quiet and when dropped do not break toes! They allow for more turns in a shorter time as they do not roll and make measuring the distance of a put faster.
One of the common injuries seen in learners of shotput is in the elbow and shoulder joint. As a general rule, this occurs because of poor technique in the early leaning stages. The use of beanbags, softballs or similar, will of course prevent this due to the lighter weight.
A quick correction of the pushing action may be done by placing 2 bean bags on top of each other, flat on the palm of the putting hand. When pushed correctly the bean bags will stay together in flight and land next to each other.
If the learner uses a throwing technique, the bean bags will separate in the air and land far apart. This lets the learner know that they have thrown not put the bean bags.
Tip 5. Head position and Adapting the Environment
Primary students tend to get the maximum out of each put. This causes movement in all body parts, often in a non-synchronised manner. A quick fix is altering the environment where the activity occurs. Place immobile objects, markers or even focal targets for students around the shot put area.
Measuring the whole classes puts can be time consuming. Placing markers at key distances, using ropes and pegs on grass areas or marking lines allows teachers to quickly and easily assess and record putting distances for everyone.
Shotput is part of the athletics “Throwing Activities” even though it clearly has a different background, history and skill.