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Ask Martin Vol. 21: Favorite Technique

Question: Which thrower’s technique do you like watching the most? – Gary

At the beginning of my career I watched video to learn. Now I watch video to help visualize my own throw. While throwers like Balazs Kiss, Igor Nikulin, or even Koji Murofushi have very good technique, their styles are so different than mine that they are lower down my list. Both then and now I tend to watch video that I hope to emulate and I list a few of my favorites below. You might notice that I do not mention any women below and this is for the same reason. Female throwers typically do not have, or need, the same amount of countering in their throw as men. Since I am trying to visualize myself in the throw it is easier to do that with a male thrower. Read more

Finding the Right Rhythm

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.

Watching the acceleration patterns of Yuri Sedykh gives you a good idea of his rhythm.

Watching the acceleration patterns of Yuri Sedykh gives you a good idea of his rhythm.

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

Unsolicited Advice and YouTube

As a coach, I try not to advise other coach’s athletes unless they ask for my input. Not only do I not want to get into a territory war with another coach, but I also think you need to know about an athlete’s background in order to give them advice that will actually help. If I point out one error in the throw, 99% of the time the thrower already knows they are doing it wrong and my input will just hurt their confidence without helping their throw. To provide better input I need to know what they are working on, what progress they have made, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses. What may look like a bad throw could in fact show a lot of progress on their points of focus. Knowing more about their background can also give you a guide as to what cues may or may not work in fixing the problems.

While these rules are not set in stone anywhere, I generally expect others to abide by them just as I do. For me, it is just common courtesy. If the point of giving advice is to help the athlete, then a coach should do whatever they can to make sure their advice is helpful before giving it. And, for the most part, the throwing community respects that at meets. Rarely does a stranger come up to me and offer unsolicited technical advice. While the coaches that do may be well intentioned, their advice often comes across as trying to boost their own ego rather than helping me.

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But something apparently transforms some people when they log on to the internet. Their moral compass is no longer aligned the same and they are no longer hesitant to make comments they wouldn’t dare make in person. Read more

Training Talk With Kevin McMahon (Part 2)

Last week I posted the first part in an interview with Kevin McMahon, a two-time Olympian in the hammer throw and one of the top throwers in the history of American hammer throwing. In Part 1, he discussed how he started out in the sport and the coaches that helped him along the way. In part 2, he goes on to discuss his approach to training and technique.

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Martin: When you started out, you were able to progress quite quickly and reached nearly 70 meters before you turned 20. That is a level that many throwers already plateau at. What do you think helped you to continue to improve to almost 80 meters, while others never get beyond that mark?
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Three Steps in Coaching Technique

When listening to coaching presentations at clinics, I am often frustrated by the coaches that simply point flaws in technique without giving a solution. They leave the audience thinking that finding the problem is the same as finding the solution. In my mind, technical analysis and coaching technique is not simply a matter of identifying problems, but a three-step process that applies not only to the hammer throw, but to all events and sports. The first step is analyzing positions. Next comes analyzing the movements that connect the positions. And finally a coach has to figure out a way to get an athlete to achieve the positions and movements they’re aiming for. While there is some overlap in these steps, the steps are mostly distinct, requiring a separate approach and thought process.
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Coaching Roundtable: Chris Cralle Video Analysis

This is the first post in the new Coaching Roundtable series, which will bring together top coaches from the around the world to give their different perspectives on the same topic. The first roundtable brings together three of the top hammer coaches for a video analysis session. In addition, feel free to also leave your comments below. Subjects for the coaching roundtable are chosen exclusively among members of this site.

The Subject

Chris Cralle
Chris Cralle seemed to come out of nowhere last year with a personal best of 74.36 meters to place second at the U.S. Olympic Trials. While he was off of most people’s radar before the meet, he still had a strong resume including NCAA All-American honors while attending Sam Houston State University and a gold medal at the 2010 NACAC Under-23 Championships. Since graduating in 2011, he has continued to live in Huntsville, Texas where he is self-coached, although he does seek occasional advice primarily from coaches Freddie Hannie and Shaun McGinley. Cralle started throwing hammer just before starting college at age 18, and just turned 24 days before the Olympic Trials.

The Coaches

Michael Deyhle is the German national coach, as well the coach at the Eintracht Frankfurt club where he guides women’s world record holder Betty Heidler.

Derek Evely served most recently as Director of the UK Athletics Loughborough National Performance Centre. In addition, he has guided several hammer throwers including Sophie Hitchon, who at age 21 set a national record to become the youngest Olympic finalist last summer. Evely is strongly influenced by Anatoliy Bondarchuk, who he recruited to and worked alongside with in Kamloops, Canada.

Vladimir Kevo is the former Yugoslavia national champion in the hammer throw who is best known for guiding Primož to Olympic and World Championships in 2008 and 2009. Since then, Kevo has continued to train a small group of throwers in Brežice, Slovenia including European Junior Champion and World Junior Championships runner-up Barbara Špiler.
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Watching Sedykh Coach Olympians

The first time I was introduced to the Soviet approach to the hammer was not through Bondarchuk, but through world record holder Yuri Sedykh. As a high school student I watched his instructional video and already began to incorporate some of his special-strength exercises into my training. At age 19, in the winter 2003, I had the first chance to meet him in person by attending a clinic in the Bay Area. It was an eye-opener. Read more

Watching Sedykh Coach

At least once a year, world record holder Yuri Sedykh comes to america for a camp or clinic. In December he once again spent four days in South Carolina for the Hurricane Throwers Classic, where he worked hands on with youth, college, elite, and masters throwers.

Last week I stumbled upon a video from that clinic, shown below. Rather than video of a presentation, this was video of Sedykh coaching. Sedykh often gives the same presentations at his clinics, so it was interesting to see him give feedback instead. Feedback always changes depending on the thrower and the specific throw, so I feel that watching a coach at work gives you the best understanding of the approach and application of their technical philosophy.
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Let the New Year Begin Already

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This is the time of the year when many athletes are posting their New Year’s resolutions. You won’t find that here. I’m not a big person for New Year’s resolutions. For me, the new year starts in October when I begin training. January 1st is in the middle of the year, with months of training behind me and many more months ahead.

I’m also not a big goal person in general. I tend to think that specific goals are mostly needed when you do not know what direction to go. Sure, I want to throw over 70 meters, but writing that down on a piece of paper is not going to help the matter at all. My biggest goal is vague: I want to throw as far as I can. As long as I work my ass off towards that goal, everything else will fall into place. I know what direction I am heading, the question is only how far along that path I will proceed this year. And in many ways that is out of my hands.
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In Defense of Kibwe’s Technique

Kibwe's old technique.

Kibwé’s old technique. For newbies, the bent arm is a bad thing.

When you ask people who are the best technical throwers currently throwing they will likely throw out the name of Koji Murofushi or Primoz Kozmus. Few would likely name Kibwé Johnson. The reason for this is that people tend to focus on what people do wrong rather than what people do right. For years, Kibwé did a lot wrong. As an example, take a look at the picture to the right. But now many of those errors are gone, and his strengths are even better. While his technique is still very much a work in progress, and he would be the first to say that, I feel it needs a defense since many people overlook the many things he does well.
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