So I chase poor Torsten Schmidt from Zurich to Berlin to Bradenton, Florida to try to figure out why the Germans are so good at the discus and what concepts I can steal from them to help my high school throwers, and my pursuit leads me to a discus cage at the IMG academy on a perfect 70-degree evening and I’m watching Robert Harting take standing throws and–astute observer that I am–I notice that he is not throwing the way I teach my guys to throw.
So when Robert goes out to retrieve his discs, I ask Torsten why Robert sets up with his feet like this:
I’ve always told my guys to point both feet 90-degrees to the direction of the throw when they wind up for a stand, but Robert set up with his feet pointed out, almost like one might in a sumo-style dead lift. (This still is taken from a vid of a full throw, but it accurately depicts his setup for a stand.)
Torsten explained that this position created optimal tension in the hips and set up the thrower to drive the right hip out (“out” in this case being towards the viewer of this picture).
I believe that Torsten told me that the thrower should leave the left foot at this angle during the windup for a stand throw, even though Robert turns his left foot 180-degrees from the throwing direction when he winds.
Two things here. One, Robert has a lot of habits that he developed before Torsten became his coach in the fall of 2013, and when you have been as successful as he has you might be inclined to hang on to some of your habits in spite of a coaching change. Two, though Torsten’s English is very good and getting better all the time, I speak not a word of German so the risk of a communication breakdown is ever present.
So when I talk about Torsten’s discus philosophy, I am kind of like an archeologist who has spent a lot of time digging around at Pompeii. I know a heck of a lot more than I did before the dig, but do I have the complete picture? Not likely.
That said, since returning from Bradenton I have coached my kids to keep their left foot in that “sumo” or “duck-footed” position when winding for a stand and I think it has really helped them.
What is the biggest mistake that most young throwers make? They try to create power by yanking their head. This pulls their upper body past their hips and results in weak, pansie-man throws down the right sector line.
So far, it seems like the cues of keeping the feet in the sumo position while winding and then driving the hip out towards the cage have helped to eliminate chronic head-yanking from the power position among my throwers.
Torsten explained one more aspect of a successful power position throw: the thrower should sweep the disc out and around that protruded hip. This absolutely prevents the head-yank, and lets the thrower move the disc through the longest possible path. Here is Robert demonstrating.
He hits a sumo-style power position…
…drives his right knee/hip towards the cage…
…and sweeps the disc waaaay out and around that right hip.
Torsten told me that even when Robert does not execute properly coming out of the back of the ring, he almost always finds a way to right the ship and produce an excellent finish to the throw.
Hopefully, this provides insight into how he does it.