Ask Martin Vol. 15: Finding The Right Cue

What are cues are you using for your technique in training now? -Brian

The cues I use in training mostly relate to the start of my throw. The majority of my problems, and the majority of most throwers’ problems, start at the beginning of the throw. I have some cues I always come back to, but what works for me may not work for you. The more interesting question for me is how someone can find a good cue. Cues are the language of coaching and just as finding the right word separates good from bad writers, finding the right cue separates good from bad coaches.

The first step in finding a cue is to understand the different between what you are trying to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it. This is the difference between effects and causes. “Get a longer orbit on the left side” is not a good cue since this is the result you are aiming for. Instead you have to get to the root of the cause. This is a problem I am frequently working on and I often will use cues like “keep a longer double support on the entry” in order to get that result.

The result is also something a biomechanist can measure. The biomechanists can help you determine what results you should be aiming for. But they are less help finding what you should do to get there. That is where coaching comes in. A coach may use a cue that makes no scientific sense on the surface, but your body may react in a way that helps the throw. I’ve had a few heated exchanges with one coach over this exact point. He was critical of Yuri Sedykh because he mentioned at a clinic that he never tried to drop during a throw, when biomechanists clearly show that his hips dropped 12 inches (30cm) in his final turn. In addition, he was telling athletes to try and keep double support until 110º in the first turn, when his left foot left the ground before 55º.

Legendary coach Art Venegas working with thrower Dan Ames several years ago.

For me, Sedykh’s cue made sense even if it didn’t conform to any scientific measurements. I often try to keep a long double support even though I know my foot will naturally lift off earlier. But by trying to keep contact with the ground, I allowed my feet to just turn and lift of when the hammer forces it. Perhaps that is what Sedykh was trying to do by telling the person to lift off at 110º. Obviously an athlete will not be in double support at that point, but by training to maintain contact with the ground, it will allow the right foot to come off at a natural point that will maintain balance better.

Once you understand the difference between causes and effects, you then need to find which cue (i.e. which cause) will help you the most. This is highly individual. Germans and Russians are aiming to maximize the same technical goals, but they use vastly different cues to get there. Neither may be right or wrong, they are just different paths throwing far. As I said above, what works for me may not work for you. And, as I also mentioned, the cue may not be intuitive. For some athletes a good cue is the opposite of the goal, but paradoxes can sometimes work in the hammer throw.

This is often a process of trial and error. Unless you try different things, you might never find the cues that work for you. And after you accumulate some that work, you can start to get an idea of how the athletes learn and that will give you an idea of other cues that might work.

5 replies
  1. zach
    zach says:

    I have such a hard time with physically impossible cues. I have to shut off the logical part of my brain and just try it when I work with a coach that gives me impossible cues. I’m ok with this practice as long as the coach has the understanding that its impossible.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] I love reading about how master coaches approach this topic and have written several times about finding the right cue and when to change […]

  2. […] and finding the right way to communicate with an athlete, something I have talked about both last year and this year. Part two, which will be posted later in the week, will dive into a little of the […]

  3. […] each athlete learns somewhat differently. What works for one may not work for another. You have to find the cue that they best respond to, and even that changes with the same athlete as they grow stale to the same inputs. Second, you […]

  4. […] Last month I wrote about the importance of finding the right cue to use to improve technique. Each athlete responds individually to technical cues, so what works for me may not work for you. But the process of coaching technique does not end once you find the right cue. As my friend Derek Evely pointed out, cue staleness is a big issue that coaches fail to deal with. […]

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