Experience is Underrated

Being a thrower who slowly found his way to some decent performances, I feel that I am qualified to elaborate on several issues that may hold USA and other discus throwers back from medalist caliber standards. John Smith touched on a section of these issues in How the USA Adapted. Coach Smith hits the nail on the head with this one, but there are many other issues that cause problems. One of the primary issues in today’s climate is EXPERIENCE or lack thereof.

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Training Talk with Vésteinn Hafsteinsson (Part 3)

Earlier in the week we began our training talk with Vésteinn Hafsteinsson. Hafsteinsson runs the Global Throwing team and was best known the personal coach of 2008 Olympic discus champion Gerd Kanter. The first two parts of our chat centered on training and technique. For this final part we look a little at the politics of track and field and a few issues that are keeping the throwing events from growing even further.

You can also join HMMR Media now to gain access to many more great training talks with elite coaches and throwers and a wealth of additional training information.
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Training Talk with Vésteinn Hafsteinsson (Part 2)

Earlier in the week we the first part of a training talk with Vésteinn Hafsteinsson. Hafsteinsson runs the Global Throwing team and was best known the personal coach of 2008 Olympic discus champion Gerd Kanter. In part two our discussion moves from training methodology to discus technique. And continue reading to part three, where we discuss the current state of throwing within track and field.

You can also join HMMR Media now to gain access to many more great training talks with elite coaches and throwers and a wealth of additional training information.
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Managing Variables in Training

Simple training variables can have a large impact on adaptation. When looking at the typically prescribed training of expert throws coach Anatoly Bondarchuk, we see that very simple programming is working quite well. The beauty in applying this type of programming is that it embraces the experimental nature of training rather than making the assumption that one’s training methods are in line.We must understand that each training program is simply a science experiment. The coach and athlete may hypothesize the results but they must understand that there are no absolutes to training and adaptation. The coach and/or athlete will need to be educated to program training in a way that most likely gets a suitable outcome. Let’s look at the primary variables in developing a training program.

  1. Objectives- exactly what the coach and athlete feel should be the goal of the training program
  2. Exercise selection-what exercises will contribute to attaining this goal
  3. Intensity- work measured as a percentage of maximal performance
  4. Density- frequency of work
  5. Volume- total quantity of work measured in repetition

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Training Talk with Vésteinn Hafsteinsson (Part 1)

VesteinnWhile it was great to see my coach last week, there were also some other benefits of having a training camp in Växjö. The training facilities were oustanding. And so was the company. Växjö is the training base of coach Vésteinn Hafsteinsson and his Global Throwing team.

After graduating from the University of Alabama in 1986, Hafsteinsson threw professionally for ten more years. His career as an athlete included four Olympics, qualifying for the finals in Barcelona, and a still-standing Icelandic record of 67.64 meters. Since 1996 he has been a full-time coach, guiding such athletes as 2008 Olympic discus champion Gerd Kanter and 2004 shot put silver medalist Joachim Olsen. He has also coached many other elite discus throwers and his group currently includes Märt Israel (4th at the 2011 World Championships), the Arrhenius brothers, Daniel Ståhl (4th at 2013 European Under 23 Championships), and shot putters Kim Christensen (Danish record holder) and Mesud Pezer (2013 European junior champion).

I had a chance to chat quite a bit with Hafsteinsson and I will post our talks in three parts. Part one below discusses his coaching and training methods. Part two and part three cover discus technique and the current state of throwing within track and field. Hafsteinsson is also a great presenter and if you would like to learn more from him, I recommend inviting him for a seminar or workshop.

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Throwing, Fast and Slow

It may seem counterintuitive, but there is no substitute for experience when using an individualized approach to training. Sure, you start anew in many respects with each athlete, but with experience you start to see certain patterns emerge and can more easily prescribe the best training protocol.

This is the main reason I find it so interesting to hear about the experience of others. I have a lot of experience training, but as a coach I am still young. Therefore I want to leverage the experience of others. Recently a topic that has come up over and over when I pick the brains of others is how to choose which weight implements to throw. This is a highly individualized process and it’s led to some great posts giving an overview of what top shot put coaches do, a detailed description of Nick Garcia’s method, and laying out Canadian coach Larry Steinke’s formula. Perhaps we have written about it too much, but as the topic keeps coming back up and I realized I have been so busy listening that I have never really given my own input.
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The Steinke Formula

Earlier this week top high school throws coach Nick Garcia explained on his blog about how he determines whether his throwers will use light or heavy implements in training. After researching the practices of the top shot put coaches in the country, the main theme he noticed was that everyone had their own approach. So he created a systematic method to track and test his athletes to determine which combination of implements and what timing of each was best for them.

I love the simplicity and individual nature of Garcia’s approach. But it isn’t the only approach out there. I use a variant of it myself. Bondarchuk has commented on the topic too. And coach Larry Steinke has an interesting approach that he explained at the Canadian National Throws Conference in October. Steinke uses a basic formula to determine whether an athlete should throw heavy or light hammers in training.
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The Rise of the Small School Thrower

When I visited Portland last month I met up with Jared Schuurmans for a training session. Schuurmans is one of the top discus throwers in the US. Schuurmans had a bit of success in college while attending small Doane College and competing at the NAIA level. After graduating he became a bit of journeyman before moving to Portland last year to work with Mac Wilkins. This past season proved to be his best and most consistent as he improved by two and a half meters to 62.89 meters.

Former NAIA champion Jared Schuurmans is now one of the top discus throwers in America.

Former NAIA champion Jared Schuurmans is now among America’s best.

When we were talking about training and comparing our different approaches, one comment he made stuck with me. He said that everyone keeps telling him that the problem with American discus throwing is that throwers focus too much on strength, but most of the throwers he knew were like him and had just moderate strength in the weight room. I am as guilty as anyone of using this stereotype. After thinking about it I agree he is right; the old stereotypes do not apply like they once did.
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Previewing the Rest of the Trials: Part 2

So far the trials have been non-stop action as far as the throwers are concerned. Over the weekend the men’s shot putters, women’s discus throwers, and javelin guys continued the momentum started in the hammer throw. Reese Hoffa threw a world leading mark to win the shot put. While the three favorites all qualified for the team, it was not without a little pressure when Joe Kovacs’ big personal best briefly overtook Christian Cantwell. Stephanie Brown-Trafton and Aretha Thurmond led the women’s discus, while Sam Humphreys threw a personal best to take the men’s javelin over a last throw breakthrough by young talent Sam Crouser. While Humpreys’ mark did not qualify him for the Olympic team (it landed just 14 centimeters short of the qualifying standard), he still seized the day. Even the meet’s biggest highlight thus far, Ashton Eaton’s world record in the decathlon, has the throwing events to thank. The record was only possible due to the progress Eaton has made in throwing over the past few seasons.

With all this excitement, it is hard to believe that the trials are only half-finished. Action starts again on Thursday and this weekend will feature three more finals in the throwing events. Take a look below to get a taste of what’s to come.
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Previewing the Rest of the Trials: Part 1

An epic hammer throw competition started off the 2012 US Olympic Trials off on the right foot, but we still have more than a week of action ahead of us including the shot put, discus, and javelin throws. As the hammer throw competition showed, there will be drama even in events where the Olympic team is all but set already. Overall, the throwing events feature a mixture of known stars in established events and young guns trying to resurrect dormant events. Throwers rarely get a chance at the spotlight, so expect a week of surprises as they fight for a little glory. Below is a quick preview of the events that will have finals in the coming days. Check back next week for previews of the remaining events.
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