Proficiency through progressions

Some coaches like to do things by feel. I’m not that type of coach. I’m a system guy. I like order and organization. In the weight room that means having a plan. And when I’m teaching technique it means having progressions. To me using progressions is like having a system.

» Learn more: Nick Garcia shares and demonstrates his teaching progressions for the shot put and discus in our latest video lesson.

Every year we get a dozen new throwers on our school’s track team. This presents a challenge: we have to teach a large group of young throwers a completely new movement from scratch in a matter of days. Without clear progressions, I have no chance. Over 17 seasons at Notre Dame High School I have slowly refined my own progressions thanks to the influences of too many coaches to name that I have been lucky to learn from. I lay them out in detail in the new HMMR Media Video Lesson 17.

Our progressions in a nutshell

After teaching throwers the basics of how to hold and release the implement, we break training into two alternating days: a front of the ring day and a back of the ring day. The front of the ring day consists of stand throws, half turns, and wheels. The back of the ring day consists of 90s, walking throws, and then full throws. You can consider that month one.

The reason I do it like this is because beginners often have trouble focusing on too many things at one time. By focusing on the front of the ring movements on one day and back of the ring on the next day, they can pay more attention to the details. Once they develop proper movement patterns we begin to mesh those two days and emphasis the whole throw in each training. Then as a last step we drop out some of the drills and keep in only the most important part of the progressions or, in some cases, the drills they need to improve on to use during practice.

Systems don’t have to be rigid

One thing to remember is that just because it is a system doesn’t mean it has to be a fixed plan. Moving from one step in the progression to the next is not just a matter of number of reps or days, it is a matter of proficiency. Athletes have to earn the right to progress. That might be faster or slower. The best systems aren’t rigid, they are flexible. However if the steps are small enough, most athletes can move along the progressions quite quickly. Check out all the videos to see for yourself how the pieces fall in place.

The proof is in the pudding

Our system isn’t perfect, but the results show we are clearly doing something right. Here our school’s top 25 list in the shot put:

Rank Name Year Mark
1 Kylan Wilborn 2016 62’11.00″
2 Travis Johnson 2000 61’10.00″
3 Aaron Haigler 2015 60’00.00″
4 Quinton Lyons 2019 59’11.50″
5 Verlondon Harris 2004 58’00.50″
6 Tommy Drachkovitch 2009 57’06.00″
7 Jordan Palmer 2018 57’04.50″
8 Sam Demartinis 2007 56’00.50″
9 Max Bennett 2018 56’00.50″
10 Daniel Munyer 2010 55’10.50″
11 Kyle Swanson 2015 55’08.00″
12 Kyle Sulka 2013 55’04.00″
13 Austin Swanson 2014 55’03.50″
14 Deion Dayao 2014 55’03.00″
15 Justin Kirland 2010 55’01.00″
16 Eric Davis 2012 55’01.0″
17 Josh Anderson 2012 54’06.50″
18 Tyler Sulka 2010 54’04.75″
19 Mel Quevedo 1968 53’11.00″
20 Ben Gottschalk 2010 53’08.50″
21 Vincent Raggio 2016 53’06.00″
22 Victor Valadez 2005 53’04.50″
23 Jordan Barrett 2009 52’11.75″
24 Ian Morgan 2004 52’03.00″
25 Steve Getz 2005 52’01.00″