Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 1)

One of the most overlooked names in coaching circles is that of Derek Evely. His coaching career has been going strong for more than fifteen years. After successful stops in Kamloops and Edmonton, he is now the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre, one of the country’s two national training centers as the UK prepares to host the 2012 Olympics.

Derek Evely is currently the director of the Loughborough HiPAC

Evely started his career at the Kamloops track club, which has a history of success that predates Dr. Bondarchuk’s arrival. As a coach, Evely trained Shane Niemi to a national junior record of 45.83 seconds in the 400 meters. He guided a young Gary Reed, who went on to win a silver medal in the 800 meters at the 2007 World Championships. Many people also forget that Dylan Armstrong started as a successful hammer thrower. Evely coached Armstrong to the North American junior record in the hammer throw of 70.66m in the hammer throw (since broken by Conor McCullough), a second place finished at the World Junior Championships. He then began transitioning Armstrong to the shot put, where he quickly approached 20 meters. However, what he may be best known for in Kamloops is bringing in Dr. Bondarchuk to help Armstrong further progress in his new event.

Since leaving Kamloops in 2005, Evely worked for four years with the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre in Edmonton. There he helped develop one of the world’s best online coaching resources,, and coach a stable of athletes including world 400 meter medalist Tyler Christopher and Canadian national 400 meter hurdle record holder Adam Kunkel.

Evely has been in the U.K. since 2009. While his new role is as an administrator, he has also found time to start coaching the throws again and apply the concepts he learned from Bondarchuk and others. In his first season working with Sophie Hitchon, Evely guided her to a World Junior Championship. Now in their second season together, Hitchon has already broken the U.K. senior record with a throw of 69.43 meters and she is still a teenager.

Since my experience with Bondarchuk has been almost exclusively from an athlete’s point of view, it was great to talk with Derek on Sunday about how he applies the methods as a coach. Below is part one in a three-part edited transcript of our conversation. Just to forewarn you, to get the most out of this interview it helps to have a little understanding of Bondarchuk’s methods, which you can learn more about here. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.

Part 1: Turning Theories Into Practice

Finding the Right Exercises for Your Training Program

Martin: Yesterday I was listening again to some of the podcasts you put together when you were in Edmonton and it made me think once again about the putting training theory into practice. If I understand it correctly, you are basing your training methods for Sophie Hitchon and Mark Dry on the Bondarchuk methods, is that correct?

Derek: Yes, absolutely. I would say it is probably 70, 80 percent or more based on that.

Martin: My first question then is: on one of the podcasts you said that one of the more difficult things for you to learn from watching Bondarchuk was how he chose exercises for his athletes. I understand the big picture: more throwing and special strength exercises, no exercises like curls and the bench press. But at the smaller level, why does he pick a 6.3kg hammer instead of a 6kg hammer or the back squat instead of the front squat. You said they seemed kind of randomly chosen and I’ve observed the same. I am sure there is some methodology to how he chooses them, but I have no clue what it is sometimes. It seems almost more of an art form at that point than a science. As you’ve coached more and more athletes under his methods, how have you figured out what exercises to use at what time?
Read more

Basel Competition Recap

After a week-long training camp, I returned to Switzerland for a season-opening competition on Sunday in Basel. While in Italy, I wanted to take advantage of a week away from work and a week with a coach, so I trained without any of my normal breaks. That left me a bit exhausted by the time I arrived home to Zurich Saturday night after a nine hour car and train ride. But I still wanted to compete Sunday for two reasons: (1) I wanted to see if some of the technical gains I have made would hold up under the pressure of competition; and (2) the Swiss championships will be held in Basel this year and I wanted to get a feel for the facility. The cage took a few adjustments to get used to since it is constructed very narrowly. Even with the doors wide open, it is possible to hit the cage with your wire on a throw that lands in the middle of the sector. After a few attempts I was able to figure it out. I was also happy with my technique which was the best it has been in a meet for several years. Unfortunately, my legs were just drained of power and my result was a less-than-stellar 62.37 meters. But I won, and am quite satisfied with how the last week has gone.
Read more

Tips for Bringing Fans to the Hammer with Ken Goe

Ken Goe, one of the nation's best track and field writers (photo courtesy of the Oregonian).

Back in February, Oregonian sportswriter Ken Goe wrote a persuasive article about why the USATF needs to switch its focus from the athletes to the fans. Ken has been writing about track and field for more than two decades and is one of the last print journalists in America that continues to cover the sport. In his piece he stated “If track and field ever is going to regain its foothold in the U.S. sports scene, somebody is going to have to care about the people who buy tickets and tune into televised meets.” I couldn’t agree more. It sounds backwards, but if you focus on the fans, the athletes will be better off. More fans means a more exciting competitive environment. And more fans will bring more sponsors and money for the athletes.
Read more

European Cup Winter Throwing Recap

Right now I’m in Sofia, Bulgaria for the European Cup Winter Throwing. This is my first competition of the 2011 season and, to get straight to the point, I didn’t reach my expectations for the meet.

The Swiss team for the 2011 European Cup Winter Throwing: Nicola Müller, Rebecca Bähni, Lydia Wehrli, and myself (l-r)

Read more

How Not to Reach Your Goals

Sometimes things are so stacked against you that you feel like you cannot fail. It’s a similar line of thinking to the famous “two wrongs make a right.” That is how I felt on Friday and why I was so optimistic. In reality, however, the more things that are stacked against you, the more likely you are to fail. So the fact that I’ve been sick of the past week with my first illness in year, the fact that I didn’t throw the shot put much, that my technique is erratic, and that others actually focus all their energy on the event ended up winning. I lost. Badly. I took home a measly tenth place and was five feet under my personal best. But as I said on Friday, I had nothing to lose. I enjoyed the competition and will try again at the Swiss Outdoor Championships in August.
Read more

Lovely Luxembourg

Ettelbrück, Luxembourg. Photo courtesy of Tourism Ettelbrück.

As much as I like Switzerland, I am always searching for meets outside the country so I can face some tougher competition or find a good ring. After meeting Luxembourg champion Steve Tonizzo in Locarno last month, I was invited to the CAPA Memorial Kops Ludivig Reuter competition, a late-season throwers memorial meet that he hosts with some of the top French, Belgian and German throwers. Good meets are hard to find, so I was pleased to have a a chance to throw against some good competition and also visit my sister who lives nearby. Having visited Liechtenstein back in 2007, the trip would also allowed me to complete my tour of small countries and principalities that begin with the letter ‘L’.
Read more

Three Types of Rhythm

Rhythm is important on every level in the hammer throw. The rhythm begins in the throw itself. After a few slow winds, each turn gets progressively faster, but it a controlled manner. Sudden accelerate tends to throw things off, but a rhythmic throw keeps the system in order and will lead to far throws. But the rhythm extends beyond the throw. Each meet must have rhythm. Each season must have rhythm. Without it, you’ll fall short of your goals, which has happened to me this season. I plan on posting a more thorough review of the year once I’m completely finished in a few weeks. But, after another mediocre meet yesterday, I realized one big thing I’ve missed this season: rhythm.
Read more

August Results

If you’ve been reading my posts regularly, you might have forgotten that I actually throw the hammer. I’ve posted about being a spectator. I’ve posted about competing in other throwing events. I’ve even posted about coaching the hammer throw. Well I am now here to remind you that I also compete in the hammer.

Don't worry, I've still been throwing the hammer.

Read more

Stone Throwing With Flower Power

It’s a rare opportunity when I guy can put on a powder blue shirt with a edelweiss flower pattern and come off as more masculine, so when I heard about the opportunity to do just that I immediately signed up for the stone throw competition at the 2010 Eidgenössiches Schwing- und Älperfest (ESAF) in Frauenfeld. After all, what is more masculine than seeing who can throw a giant rock the farthest.

Before I explain how the competition went, let me explain a little about the ESAF. The event is the Olympics of traditional Swiss sports. It is held every three years and the main attraction is schwingen, a form of wrestling that is the Swiss national sport and traces its roots back hundreds of years in the Alps. Rather than explain the rules, I suggest you check out this video from the last ESAF in 2007. As you can see, it is an extremely unique and interesting sport to watch and even more fun to watch in person.
Read more

The Pros and Cons of Vacation

One of the perks of working in Europe is the generous amount of vacation days employees receive. While some jobs in America may advertise a month of vacation time, the reality is that it is impossible to take that much time off of work. Most attorneys I know rarely take time off since doing so will only make it harder for them to meet the required annual number of hours they must bill. In Europe, on the other hand, you not only receive a lot of vacation time, but you are expected to use it. For example, at UBS we receive five weeks of vacation each year and are required to take at least one two-week long break.
Read more