The Ballet Of Shot Putting

Like a lot of young men over the years I played many different sports in jr. high and high school and even a bit in college.  I was a football player but did the others to stay in shape and to satisfy the coaches.  Almost all coaches regardless of their sport can’t stand the sight of a young athlete standing around flirting with the girls when he can be doing something that makes him sweat and breathe heavy.  Ok, they meant and I meant something athletic, not spooning with your gal.  I never really cared much for baseball, basketball or track.  The  first two were Yankee sports and real men didn’t do them and the last was just so boring.   I did play a lot of baseball in church leagues as a young fellow and that was fun because our league was without age limits so I got to play with my dad and uncle and cousins.   We had both softball and hardball and played a zillion of those.

I only played one season of organized baseball in jr. high.  I wasn’t particularly good but I was aggressive and could hit the ball pretty far when I connected with it.  I was stuck in right field to be out of harm’s way as much as possible.  You might know that year our team won the city championship.  That was the only championship team I ever played on in all those years of organized sports.   Heck the fact is I scored the winning run by coming into home and crashing into the catcher a la football style and knocked the ball loose for the score.  You would think I would love it since all the other sports ventures were on the losing end.  I always played basketball during the winter to keep the coaches happy but I didn’t like it either but I was pretty good at least on defense and could steal the ball on a regular basis.  The problem was I had to do something with it then.   My specialty was passing off to someone who could make the shots.  That sure wasn’t me.

Ever spring from jr high on  I was out for the track team.  I was not fast enough to be a real sprinter or runner.   In the hundred yard dash I could consistently come across the finish line in the middle of the pack but wasn’t really in any danger of winning.  Of course it didn’t help that two really fast guys were my age and tracked me all the way through school.  They could both run the 100 in about 9.6 their senior year. These were white guys, they could really fly.  My best time ever was 10.1 so I was quick enough off the blocks but not going to burn the cinders down the stretch.   I was athletic and pretty strong and agile for my age so I could do pretty well in the long jump and the shot put for a few years in jr. high and into my junior year in high school.  After that I was too bulked up to keep pace and lost flexibility for the jump and shot.

The shot has been around for a long time.  In jr. high we threw the 8 lb. shot, then in high school it was the 12 lb.  My dad is the one who actually showed my how to throw the shot in jr. high.  The coach hadn’t done it, he was a football coach just assigned to the track team and he had just looked at books for instructions.  The method that had been around for the longest time then was the swinging leg and jump.  You would hold the shot in your hand against your neck on your shoulder and then swing your left leg back and forth a few times to build momentum.  Then you would kick your left leg out front and skip a couple of times and then pivot off your left leg making a  180 degree turn and hurl the shot as far as your could.  You had to have all your body behind the motion because of the weight of the shot.  You couldn’t  “throw” it with your arm very far at all.  That is what my dad taught me to do.  I have no idea where he had learned that but he knew a lot more than the coach.  I won that first couple of years in the city competition for my age group.  But there was a new method coming along then due to a man named O’Brien who had been in the Olympics in the shot put. 

The motion was completely different with this one.  You would hold the shot the same way but your back was to the throwing area.  Your shot had to land within a marked sector of about 140 degrees or so.   You would be bent over and your left leg would begin kicking back and forth building momentum.  When the time was right you would kick backward with your leg and then take a couple of skips off your right foot and then do a complete pivot through 180 degrees and hurl the shot up and away.  You always tried to aim as close to 39 degrees from the horizon as you could.  That was the best elevation for maximum distance.  This was from the military and naval gunnery schools over the years.  I projectile from a cannon would go its maximum distance if aimed at 39 degrees.  Of course with either method you had to have your skips and pivots just right so you didn’t foul out.  You had to do all this in a ring and if your toe stepped over the ring before or after the throw is was a foul and the shot didn’t count.  You normally got 3 throws in each competition.  The last year I used this method I got second place city-wide.  The other guys kept growing and I was slowing down my growth rate and couldn’t keep pace.  By the time of high school I was an also ran in the competition.  One of the best in our area in high school was a guy about my size but he had his motions down pat and could always outperform even the bigger guys.

How could that guy Blumenthal possibly confuse the Toys For Tots program with actually being in Viet Nam?   Maybe he should have checked with a few guys who were really there, they would have told him there was a world of difference in the duties for one as opposed to the other.

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Filed under Culture, Economics, family, history

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