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Critical Elements of Underhand Throwing

This is an excerpt from Teaching Fundamental Motor Skills 4th Edition With HKPropel Access by A. Vonnie Colvin,Nancy J. Egner Markos & Pamela J. Walker.

Underhand Throwing

While many people believe the only purpose of underhand throwing is pitching a horseshoe or playing cornhole, it is in fact an integral part of many sport skills. Underhand throwing is essential to softball pitching, and underhand tossing can be used to assist a fielder in making an out from a close distance in softball or baseball. In addition, the critical elements of underhand throwing are very similar to those of the underhand volleyball serve. With the addition of a racket, underhand throwing is essential to the game of badminton.

Often, the purpose of underhand throwing will dictate exactly how it is performed. Activities requiring height (e.g., slow-pitch softball pitching and horseshoes) will require that the follow-through be exaggerated. When the distance to the target is short or if the objective is speed, then the follow-through will be much shorter (e.g., in fast-pitch softball pitching). In this section, we emphasize the skills most relevant to young children—that is, those throws requiring an arc.

One factor that greatly affects the initial learning of the underhand throw is the target placement. If a target is placed at a low level, the student might roll rather than throw the ball. If the target is at a high level, the student is more likely to develop incorrect throwing habits. While students are learning and practicing this skill, a medium-level target is best. Once the students understand how to perform the skill, then we encourage the use of large targets placed at a variety of heights.

National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education (SHAPE America, 2014) (table 4.1) indicates that kindergartners should be able to throw underhand with the opposite foot forward (S1.E13.K). First graders should be able to throw underhand demonstrating two of the five critical elements (S1.E13.1), and second graders should be able to use a mature pattern (S1.E13.2). In grade 3, students should be able to throw underhand to a partner or target with reasonable accuracy (S1.E13.3). Students will begin using the skill more in grades 4 and 5.

Table 4.1 Grade-Level Outcomes for Underhand Throwing (S1.E13)

Promoting Social and Emotional Health

Critical Elements

Skipping Critical Elements

Cue Words

The cue words you select for each phase of the skill will depend on the age of the students you are teaching and your areas of emphasis. Younger students (kindergarten through grade 2) learn more easily with fewer concise cues. They do not process or retain large quantities of information. Following are some of the cue words we use to teach underhand throwing. You may use each set individually or mix and match the cue words as needed. They are in usable sets. We have found that it is beneficial to have the students say the cue words aloud as they practice the skill.

Ready—knees bent, facing target, feet shoulder-width apart, eyes on target, object held in preferred hand (palm up) in front of the body.

Arm back—bring the throwing arm back at least to waist level.

Step and release—step forward with the opposite foot, bring the throwing arm forward, and release the ball between the knee and waist level. The arm is extended throughout the entire movement.

Use your stepping foot—step forward with the opposite foot.

Let it go—bring the throwing arm forward and release the ball below the waist. The arm is extended throughout the entire movement. The throwing hand continues toward the target in front of the body and finishes with palm facing upward.

Follow through or Statue of Liberty—the throwing hand continues toward the target in front of the body and finishes with palm facing upward.

Cue sets 1-4

More Excerpts From Teaching Fundamental Motor Skills 4th Edition With HKPropel Access