On a recent trip back to the UK, I got to watch my one-year-old niece play with Luis, my sister’s dog. My niece was fascinated by Luis, and wanted nothing more than to play with him, as well as give him a healthy dose of stroking. Watching her trying to do this was interesting; whilst she had the motivation to do so, she lacked the ability to do it well. Luis is a hyperactive dog (my sister prefers the phrase “energetic”), and is forever bounding around; as such, whenever my niece would go to stroke him, she would invariably miss him. Even when Luis was still, my niece struggled to stroke him in what I would call a “normal” fashion; instead of a long, smooth stroke along his coat, she would instead “pat” him, in a somewhat uncoordinated manner. Read more
Every sport skill has a basic technical model that a beginner can master in a relatively short time. What is the difference then from that and the master – the Roger Federer in tennis, Usain Bolt in sprinting, Simone Biles in gymnastics or Michael Phelps in the pool? What makes them masters of their craft? Certainly, they have refined technique, that is a given. The longer I coach and the more I reflect on this I am convinced it is rhythm and tempo. Read more
In my post yesterday about Jean-Pierre Egger I wrote about the importance of having a technical philosophy and how that can look in practice. As important as that is, having a philosophy isn’t much use unless the athlete understands it. Teaching isn’t necessarily about what you say, it’s about what is heard. Or, as John Wooden used to put it, you haven’t taught until they’ve learned. Read more
With two throws left in my last training session before leaving for the Tucson Elite Throwers Classic, we changed my entry from a step back, to starting with both feet to the back of the ring for a more static approach. Crystal pointed out that I’ve had the tendency to step out much too wide when I prepared to enter off of the second wind. Needless to say, it was interesting feeling my way through this new entry on the fly and at meet speed. I did ok, but I left a couple more good throws on the table, including one that was just short of 76m again in the second meet. So you know I wasn’t pleased about that. 🙂 Read more
Some of you may have glossed over the disussion of hurdling technique in my training talk with Gary Winkler. But his answers could equally be applied to the hammer throw or any event. I asked him why so many athletes were switching from eight to seven steps before the first hurdle and his response was quick:
Most of it is just groupthink … There is not always a lot of analytic thinking going on when these decisions are made.
The same could be said in the debate about why so many shot putters spin in America versus using the glide. Or about the big question in the hammer throw: three versus four turns. The majority of throwers use four turns now, but plenty of success has been achieved with three turns, including the current men’s world record by Yuri Sedykh and the current American women’s record by Amanda Bingson.
Rhythm and the hammer throw are inseparable. A good throw needs it and bad throws lack it. As a coach I often have my throwers focus on the the rhythm of the throw as much as any other aspect. But as a thrower training alone, rhythm is something that is difficult for me to focus on in my own throw. Perhaps it is just me, but rhythm seems much easier to watch or hear than to feel. The blur of the throw prevents me from getting much feedback about the rhythm. I can feel when a throw is smooth or easy, but I can tell you little about the rhythm. Harold Connolly told me that at least one of his athletes must have felt the same way so he altered his hammer to whistle as he threw, with the pitch varying as speed increased.
Thankfully I can sometimes get others to come and watch me throw. Yesterday Terry McHugh was once again able to watch me practice and his sole focus was on rhythm. Terry has little experience with the hammer, but he is a talented javelin coach and has a good eye. As with focusing, rhythm is universal and something Terry can help me with as much as any hammer coach can. Read more