There isn’t much love for the hammer toss these days, especially at the high school level. In fact, based on a **[New York Times](http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/sports/us-track-and-field-championships-hammer-throw-becomes-a-mystery.html?_r=0)** article from 2011, Rhode Island is the only state that uses the competition during their meets, but why? There’s certainly enough potential injury worries for athletes with poor form and developing bodies, but perhaps its fallen to behind thanks to the inherently more simple shot put. Unfortunately for hammer enthusiasts, you need loads more room in comparison — and we imagine the possible threat of injury-by-flying-hammer is much higher than it is for the heavier shot put. Alas, this is no reason to forever forsake the breathtaking activity, so we urge athletes that are interested to consider taking it up after high school. But in order to do so, it’s important to understand the sport’s demands, responsibilities, and necessary efforts. If you’re into the idea of possibly throwing the hammer someday, this article is for you! #####Vertical Forces at Play What qualities make up a good thrower? Unfortunately, there’s much more to it than just strength — speed, aggression, grace, coordination, hard work, and dedication all factor in greatly. Of course, the last one may very well be the most important one as a great thrower must have the self-drive and determination to ask questions, as well as have the drive and enthusiasm to learn and study the event on their own. For throwing events, speed is through both the horizontal and vertical planes — and through linear, rotational, and vertical forces as well! As an example, the stronger athletes will have more force and speed that can be applied on the hammer. In the linear sense, when the athlete is moving the ball forward through the first winds and turns in the circle, the athlete is accelerating the ball horizontally through both rotational and linear movements. After understanding the horizontal forces, one must understand the vertical force in the hammer, and this is shown with the orbit of the ball throughout the circle. While moving the ball in orbit, a 16-pound hammer may produce a ground reaction force in excess of 700 pounds. This is where your strength comes into play, since the hammer will exert a greater force on weaker throwers. Thanks to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, we know that every force must have an equal force in the opposite direction — thus the greater the force you use in a downward motion, the upward swing must be equal or greater. In order to benefit from this the release angle of the hammer must be optimal. This means that as the hammer’s acceleration grows, so does the athlete’s velocity. The shape of the orbit comes from both the high and low points of your acceleration and creates great force during the rotation. If the athlete can not control both speed and strength in this event, then the attempt is futile. ####A Desire To Learn The last attribute that makes great thrower an eagerness to learn and become a student of the art. Since you’re likely not starting this event until after high school, you’ll have to fine tune your skills, abilities, and reactions while also learning nuances about your body and approach on-the-fly. Ultimately, that type of dedication and desire will undoubtedly separate the contenders from pretenders, so take your practices seriously! The athlete becomes a student of the event by learning outside of practice, becoming knowledgeable, watching as many videos, magazines, and journals as you can, and by growing through first-hand experiences. The ability to implement a coach’s feedback is important, but it’s also crucial to understand your body and what feels right or wrong. Through studying the event, a dedicated athlete can feel out how a perfect throw might by means of not only execution, but visualization as well. *(Related: Read about the discus throw [here.](https://www.coachup.com/resources/track-field/track-field-training-for-the-discus))* ##Huddle Up In conclusion, there are plenty of qualities that make up a great thrower — what do you possess? What would you like to work on? One quality alone is not good enough to make a thrower an exceptional one, so athletes must dedicate themselves to some constant evolution. However, the more you improve, the more these qualities will work together to benefit the athlete and overall program. Athletes must not only rely on speed, since strength is necessary; nor should the athlete solely rely on being a student of the sport as there’s some much needed aggression to find success. Be honest, set goals, visualize, and work harder than ever — a thrower with these qualities will go a long way, we promise! What are you waiting for?
For Mother’s Day we asked Caroline Burke, a recently-graduated D-1 rower from the University of Virginia, to tell us about her experiences playing sports and