For decades, it’s been a question that has bothered Mt. Ararat track and field coach Diane Fournier.

Monday marked the first day baseball and softball players could formally begin throwing routines as well as arm strength and conditioning exercises. There were no shot puts, discuses or javelins sailing through the air. There won’t be for another week.

And each year, Fournier wonders just why that is.

I’ve felt this way for 44 years,” she said. “I just never understood why … they couldn’t get the extra week like pitchers and catchers do.”

It’s a fair point. Outdoor track and field throwers will need to use their arms just like baseball and softball players do. They, too, will need to combat the cold, damp days that in Maine can linger until May and make every all-out throw a risky proposition. They also rely on form and technique that needs some time to be honed — and they’re throwing objects that, at 8-12 pounds (shot put), 2.2 pounds (discus) or 1.8 pounds (javelin) are far heavier than a five-ounce baseball.

But while concerns about injured arms allow baseball and softball players to start their training early, track athletes get no such break — even though coaches admit it would come in handy.

If we’re going to do it in the name of education and safety and to protect the kids’ arms, you definitely should look at throwers in track as well,” Hall-Dale coach Jarod Richmond said. “It’s definitely something that I would love to see explored. Looking from the safety standpoint for the kids, there’s a lot of technique to teach.”

I think it would help,” Winslow coach Ken Nadeau added. “I think anytime you get with your athletes is helpful. Being able to do technique is really, really integral to building good throwers.”

According to Mike Burnham, a Maine Principals’ Association director, the issue of expanding the early week to include track and field has been brought up, but hasn’t progressed beyond basic discussions.

“It’s just been very casual. … ‘Hey, what about the kids that are throwing?’ ” he said. “It’s been a discussion, but it’s never been something that has moved forward. … There has never been a formal request.”

Burnham said the logistics of track and field make it a difficult sport to practice indoors, and is a reason there hasn’t been much of a movement for the extra week.

“The sport just doesn’t lend itself to being in a gym,” he said. “The request hasn’t come from track and field because you really aren’t going to go into the gym and throw. Maybe you’ve got a soft shot put, but that’s about it. You’re not going to throw a javelin, and you’re certainly not going to throw a discus in the gym.”

Nadeau agreed that fitting the sport inside — both physically and in terms of time — would be a challenge.

It’s one of those things, would it be nice? I think it’d be a great advantage. But is it feasible?” he said. “I think it’s just one of those things that we kind of accept, because a lot of us know it’s going to be hard to get quality gym time.”

Fournier, meanwhile, said practicing throwing technique inside wouldn’t be a problem.

“We do it all the time,” she said. “If you have a baseball net, that’s what our coach uses (for shot put). … He has turbo javs. If you can throw a turbo jav, you can throw a regular javelin. Our throwing coaches had the kids throwing in the gym for quite a few years.”

Where the coaches agree, however, is on the boost that the extra week would provide. Just as baseball and softball players strengthen their arms to hold up over the course of the season, throwers would get a head start on perfecting their technique for the start of the season, allowing them to avoid injury and find their form early.

“It’s the shot put and discus that have a bit of heft to them. And you have to throw hard. Why would (that) be any different than (with) the pitchers?” Fournier said. “You’re throwing for technique and just trying to get the muscles accustomed to motion, and you don’t have to throw hard to do that. It goes along the lines of baseball throwing.”

“That extra week of strength and conditioning would be really good,” Richmond said. “Especially for the kids who will be multi, who will run and throw. You want to make sure they get a chance to get their cardio work in and their running work in, but not at the expense of the time they take to throw, and vice versa. That extra week for anyone who might throw is tremendous.”

Just as baseball and softball coaches could worry about early-season injuries without the extra week, track coaches can have concerns as well.

“With that spring season being so short, any shoulder tenderness or muscle strain, and it really cuts your season into a third, if not a health,” Richmond said. “It would be beneficial, I think, to at least have that time to have it controlled where kids can be taught extra technique and stretches and get their arms right.”

The movement for change hasn’t been made yet. That doesn’t mean coaches wouldn’t be interested in seeing it.

There’s so much more involved in the throwing events that you really do need the extra week,” Fournier said. “I just think it’s something that’s worth mentioning and thinking about.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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