The United States’ hammer throwers have languished in relative obscurity for a long time having obtained only one Olympic medal since Hal Connoly won the 1956 games. It is widely agreed that the primary reason for this is the relative late start that American hammer throwers get in that event. Whereas a young athlete might start training the shot put (an event America has done very well in historically) at the age of eleven or twelve, most American’s are not introduced to the hammer throw until they are in college at the age of 18.
Many conscientious throws coaches know that adding the hammer throw to their program would start the process of rectifying this situation but don’t know how to go about starting a program. This guide will show how almost any coach in almost any coaching situation can train athletes in the hammer throw safely and efficiently. Doing this can open doors for those athletes at the college level and will be the most important step to increasing America’s appearance in Olympic and World Championships hammer throw finals.
The issues that every coach will want to consider when thinking about how to start a hammer program at their school or club are:
1. Safety; How to keep participants, spectators, and coaches from being hurt.
2. Facilities; Where is the best place to throw?
3. Coaching competency; How can a coach make sure that he/she is capable of coaching this event
The most important concern for emerging hammer programs is safety. This is, after all, why we do not see the hammer in more youth track and field already. When talking to administrators about adding the hammer throw to your school or club program, they will invariably address safety concerns so be prepared to allay those concerns.
The most important thing you can do to stay safe when it comes to the hammer throw is to use the common sense that you use when coaching any other sport and specifically other throwing events. You don’t want to get hit by a hammer so make sure that all athletes are clear of the throwing area when an athlete is in the ring. In addition make sure that all hammer related activities occur within the ring, so that athletes are not swinging hammers around outside of the protective cage
Make sure that you have an adequate cage. There are many web-sites that sell prefabricated cages that can be used for discus and hammer throwing, but traditionally hammer cages are stronger and taller than discus netting.
Also, be sure that other athletes on the team are aware of what is going on. This is the same kind of safety precaution you would make for discus and javelin. Warn runners and jumpers that they should not cut across the sector, and remind your throwers to make sure there is no one in the sector before they begin throwing.
Your hammer landing area should ideally be on a field that is not used for football or soccer or other sports. Hammers will make big holes in the ground that are difficult to repair one hundred percent. Ideally your facility would also be in a place that is separated from the track, to limit the likeliness that unaware athletes will wander into the sector. If you do not have such a field, there are “soft-landing” hammers that can be purchased which operate on the principle of spreading the weight of the hammer out to make a smaller impact. Hammers constructed from chain link are especially easy on the grass.
If you are a high school or club throws coach and you have an understanding of the discus, shot put, and javelin, many of the terms of understanding the hammer throw will make intuitive sense to you. But If you have never thrown the hammer or coached it before you should learn how. Finding a clinic in your area is the best way to learn, but you can also read books. Hal Connolly, the last American to win the hammer throw at the Olympic Games is making an immense effort to bring American youth into this sport and has compiled many important documents for beginning coaches at www.hammerthrow.com.