HMMR Podcast Episode 245: The Bondarchuk reunion special

Anatoliy Bondarchuk’s success record as a coach can match any coach from any sport. The former hammer throw world record holder and Olympic champion has coached dozens of Olympic medalists over five decades. What is the key to his success? On this week’s podcast six of his former athletes get back together to discuss their first impressions of the coach, what made him so successful, and the role of language in coaching.

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Notes and quotes

Bondarchuk moved to Canada in 2005 and joining this week’s podcast are a crew of athletes that trained with him since then, including:

  • Kibwé Johnson: 5-time US hammer throw champion, 2-time Olympian, 2012 Olympic finalist, and Pan Am Games champion.
  • Jennifer Joyce: former Canadian hammer throw record holder, 4-time Canadian champion, and 2-time World Championship competitor.
  • Crystal Johnson: former Canadian hammer throw champion and record holder.
  • Michael Letterlough: Cayman Islands hammer throw record holder.
  • Adam Keenan: 3-time Canadian hammer throw champion.
  • Martin Bingisser: 11-time Swiss national champion and European Championships competitor.
  • 0:00 – Introduction.
  • 5:45 – Michael Letterlough’s first impressions and Bondarchuk’s make-it-work mindset
  • 13:45 – Jennifer Joyce’s first impressions.
  • 19:30 – Martin Bingisser’s first impressions.
  • 21:00 – Crystal Smith’s first impressions.
  • 26:15 – Kibwé Johnson first impressions.
  • 29:00 – Adjusting to the training.
  • 30:30 – Coaching feedback and staying focused on one point: “When Bondarchuk yelled at athletes it was never from a place of judgment. A lot of coaches think if you did something wrong it means something about you, but he was just pointing out that your throw didn’t match his template. It was from a place of encouragement: you can do it better.”
  • 33:00 – Adam Keenan’s first impressions.
  • 36:00 – Breaking down coach/athlete barriers.
  • 38:45 – The role of language skills in coaching: “We all have to figure out things for ourselves right and we figured that out in our own time. We have this hope that there’s going to be some grand explanation that gets us there quicker, but you learn things in the time it takes.” “The beauty of Bondarchuk is that he was clear with what he wanted and it was up to us to take that and make it part of our throw and how we experienced that was ours to experience.”
  • 44:30 – Avoiding dependencies in athletes and letting athletes make their own mistakes: “He was so confident in his approach he didn’t try and change his approach to make us feel better. But at the same time he knew some things you had to try yourself learn it doesn’t work before you would buy in.”
  • 47:15 – Speaking more and the language of praise: “I don’t think his coaching would be different if we there were no language barrier. His whole methodology is based on letting your natural rhythms take over. If he were to explain every aspect of something, it becomes more positional.”
  • 52:15 – More anecdotes about Bondarchuk.

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Further reading