Now that I’m coaching at IMG Academy, I’m having to do something I’ve never had to do in my career for an extended period of time: train alone. Dr. Bondarchuk is still my coach. He writes my programs. I will continue to utilize his mentorship as it pertains to high performance coaching until it is no longer available. But day to day I am on my own now.
Training Alone Requires Accountability
I typically relish the times when Bondarchuk was gone or I was gone. Generally, I am more strict and hold myself to a higher standard than perhaps he did. Rather, I hold myself to the same standard, I just want to accomplish it better than he foresaw. So that means having zero tolerance for excuses and really buckling down and working to feel my way through the movement. So yes, my expectations of myself are higher when I train alone.
In a way, I think this training alone thing may work out spectacularly. There are still a few annoyances in my technique that I’m going to work out, but it’s going well and I love how my throw feels. I’ve biggest technical change since training alone has been on finding when and where to accelerate. Admittedly, I’m sure this began when I first got back to training after my hand was well enough to train. I can’t exactly go all out when returning from a broken hand. So I had to work on technique. They say things happen for a reason, in this particular instance, I agree. For my technique to continue its evolution, this needed to happen. Not the perfect situation going into an Olympic year, but I’ll be fine.
Training Alone Requires Patience
Occasionally (and by occasionally, I mean all too often), I get caught up in trying to throw the bloody thing as far as possible. This behavior tends to leave my technique in the wind after the first couple throws. Yes, ultimately that is the point of our sport, but it is negligent to not work on the movement.
Some people have a natural “feeling”, others can learn it, and some never well. For the right personality, training alone can help develop that feel. For others it is a recipe for disaster. For it to work you have to be intrinsically motivated. Training alone without the right motivation has held back too many of promising post-graduate/emerging elite athletes.Training alone definitely is not for everyone. If you are not intrinsically motivated, you will struggle. Click To Tweet
Training Alone is Your Audition as a Coach
Those with aspirations of becoming coaches, use the time of training alone as an audition. Feel what your athletes will be feeling. Don’t forget to consider all the variables. Find new and interesting ways to get your ideas across to your athletes so that they may understand the technical model you are trying to teach them.
Coaching the throwing events is a puzzle. You can’t coach strict technical models and expect sustained success. It is the job of the coach to figure out your body, mind, and physical technique. But it is also your responsibility as an athlete. If what you’re trying to work on isn’t happening, change up your thinking. Think outside the box. You must be vigorously narrow-minded for your goal. Making changes in your training is not easy to do. Use all or your senses and the technological tools at your disposal. Gone are the days of watching fou-hour-long throwing VHS’s (I’m dating myself here). Everything is literally at the palm of your hand. Utilize it to your advantage and make yourself better!
Coaching Has a Reciprocal Effect
At the same time, I am also coaching some athletes. In addition to Amanda and Dan, who I coach remotely, I also have two post collegiates who I traing with several times a week at IMG. But most of the time it is still just me out there alone before I head to the office. The act of coaching while training has served me very well thus far. They seem to get technical points (nay, annoyances) that I’m working on in my own throw, or vice versa. It’s kept me on my toes for what’s really important inside the ring.
And it also has been fun! The ability to compartmentalize will come in handy as I mentally dip into coach or athlete mode, while being careful not to let one hat overlap into the other because of emotion, etc. It’s a very good mental exercise, indeed.
On to Rio
Very valuable lessons can be learned from training alone if you allow them to come out. Is it the best training situation in the world? Of course not. But you make the best of what you’ve got. Right now, I can say I’m very happy with how my training is going so far. As long as I keep seeing positive improvement program after program, I may just hit my 2016 target.
I’m a 5 foot 7 senior hammer thrower in Houston, Texas, and in less than 3 years i’ve gone from 46 feet to 210+ feet. I like this post because i’ve been training alone since day one, and I can relate to just about everything you covered in this. I picked up the hammer in July of 2013 after i saw chris cralle throw at an all-comers meet. Up until that day, i didn’t even know what the hammer was, but i knew i wanted to try it. The next day i got on my computer and ordered myself a 12 pound hammer and a glove! came in the mail about a week later and i started throwing. It felt weird starting out because i really had no idea where to start, i just started swinging and releasing. A few throws into my first practice, i started turning, and the result was pretty bad. I didn’t know the footwork, how to get the ball moving, how many times to turn, or when to release, etc. I just kept seeing chris cralle throw in my head over and over again and for the first week, that’s all i had for knowledge. The second week i decided to look around the internet and see what i could find, and almost every good piece of information i came across was blocked by a paid membership or a coaching video i didnt have the money for. so i went to youtube and actually found the video of chris cralle’s throw that had got me started throwing the hammer, and also the same throw that was playing in my head over and over again, this wasn’t much but it was gold for me at the time because thats all i had. I analyzed the video for hours, writing down anything i noticed that could be helpful the next day at practice. the first thing i knew i had to learn was the footwork, regardless of how much i hated footwork, i knew the throw wouldnt be possible without it. at the end of my second week, everything changed for me… I had gotten my footwork down enough to do a 3 turn throw and started to feel a difference, and i loved it. on my last throw i randomly hit a 4th turn and threw 123 feet. that was a huge eye opener for me. luckily i got that throw on video and the second i got home i searched the internet for chris cralles email address, then sent him the video. I told him i was training alone and how i just started 2 weeks ago and he was highly impressed, he then gave me a few things to work on, and a little bit of technical advice that helped me understand the throw a lot better.
Basically what im trying to say is that it wasn’t easy, and for the better half of my throwing career i felt lost and alone. I spent countless hours in the ring by myself, i’ve been kicked off more fields than i can count, i’ve been told to quit wasting my time by just about everyone, i was constantly running into obstacles and challenges that made me wanna quit, ive sacrificed jobs due to lack of training time, ive lost friends because nobody wanted to be seen with the kid who threw hammer, and for 2 years i felt like i was all alone in my own world.
but now that im a senior, having made it through those years, im thankful for that rough patch in my life because it made me stronger, it taught me to believe in myself when no ones else did, it taught me how to overcome challenges on my own, it taught me not to give up, it taught me what hard work truly is, it taught me how to LEARN, and how to realize that not every day, practice, or throw is going to be perfect, and at the end of the day, its not about how you start, its how you finish. I accomplished my first biggest goal in life, which was to throw in college, my overall goal is to throw in the olympics one day. Having done so much on my own over the years, i dont see anything stopping me now, and i wont stop!
Sorry for the long post, i just wanted to share how training alone has shaped me throughought the years. Thank you for your dedication to this sport, looking forward to watching you in Rio this year!
Such a fantastic origin story, Matt! Thank you very much for sharing. It’s not often throwing careers begin completely because of ones own will. A fact that should truly be commended.
The path that your life took with the hammer is the precise path you wish all people could experience. It doesn’t always end in championships or Olympic glory, nor does it need to. That is the point. It is each mans obligation to walk that path. Hammer is spiritual and through that we not only find out who we are, but strengthen that awareness of self affirmation. Thereby making us better citizens of the world.
Never mind the question marks, that was supposed to be a peace sign!