Tag Archive for: Coaching

Nature vs. Nurture

“Talent is something that is not only for Africans … For me, there are talented athletes like Africans in both [Italy and America]. The problem is, it’s difficult to find them. In Africa everybody goes running. Because if you become good, it is something for your life. And here everybody goes to do something else. But it is not that there is no talent.” -Renato Canova

I enjoy reading about the best athletes and coaches in every event and sport. Even though the marathon and the hammer throw are worlds apart, you’d be surprised at how much they have in common. Last month I stumbled upon a great Running Times profile of legendarian Italian coach Renato Canova from several years ago. The above quote comes from that article, where he discussed a range of topics including why Western runners can’t seem to keep up with Africans. His words immediately made me think of the throwing events too.

Coach Renato Canova courtesy of runningexpert.blogspot.com

We all know that American and European distance runners have been pushed off the podium by Africans over the past few decades. Coach Canova knows this first hand, having been on both sides of the change while coaching some of the top Italian and Kenyan runners. But after coaching both groups of athletes, he concludes that the main reason Africans are better is because everybody runs in Africa. When a culture creates a large talent pool and a greater incentive to succeed, then they will develop more stars. It’s a simple formula: east Africans dominate the running events because running is central to their culture. Jamaicans outperform other nations in the sprints for similar reasons. And the former Soviet nations lead the hammer throw because they learn the event younger and in greater numbers.
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Learning the Hammer Throw

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In the last issue of Track Coach, my training partner Ryan Jensen and I published a short article about learning to throw the hammer. Our approach is simple: get kids throwing as fast as possible and then start to refine their technique. The article is built on our experiences in coaching, watching Dr. Bondarchuk coach, and learning to throw ourselves.

I actually learned to throw the hammer twice and the first time I was unsuccessful. I first threw the hammer at at age 15 and began to coach myself. Even after three years of training once a month, I was still just using one or two turns in competition and had no concept of what the event is about.

When I was 18, I met Harold Connolly and began learning all over again. This time, I had a plan. For weeks I did drill after drill, but not one throw. Harold’s theory was to perfect the basics of technique before ever entering the ring. Even after I began throwing, drills took up a significant part of my training for the next four years. My footwork was great, but in hindsight that isn’t where my focus should have been. My footwork has never been a problem, but I still have issue with my balance and rhythm. Drills can’t replicate the true rhythm of a throw. Only a throw can, and that should have been my focus from the beginning. Read more

The Universal Language of Throwers

If you want to be a successful hammer thrower, curiosity is a requirement. Language skills are not. I’ve traveled the world in search of hammer throw enlightenment. Some coaches speak English, some do not. But they all speak hammer throw, and that transcends any language.

Sometimes hands can speak better than words.

When I tell people that I’m coached by Anatoliy Bondarhcuk, their first questions tend revolve around his level of English proficiency. His English is actually relatively good after six years of living in Canada, as are the multiple other languages he speaks. However, when he first arrived it was another story. His advice was broken into choppy three or four word sentences. Onlookers seemed perplexed that we understood him, and were even more perplexed that we instinctively replied to him with our own version of broken English. But his messages nevertheless came through clearly. Sometimes you don’t need any extra words to say “push entry more” or “terrible” or even “double excellent.” I still remember one of his first pearls of wisdom to me: “If hammer feel heavy, then you pull. If push, then hammer feel light in hand.” He couldn’t have said it better if his English were perfect.
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Ask Martin Vol. 9: Kettlebells

Question: I enjoy your posts and web site very much. I have incorporated a lot of it into our training routines. This is my third year at the school and we are working at building a throws program literally from scratch and we are starting to make a little progress. I have a couple questions for you? Do you incorporate pud (kettlebell throws) in training? If so, what weight ranges do you use, type of throws (1 turn, opposite side throws, left arm, right arm), before or after throwing the hammer, etc.? -Paul
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The Paradoxical Nature of the Hammer Throw

When I wrote about my training last month, things were going quite well. Distances were at an all time best, but my technique was mediocre. This month has seen the reverse. My results have declined, but my technique is progressing. This reversal often happens in my training and is one of the many paradoxes in the hammer throw. You would think that my best results would occur when I had the best technique, but it doesn’t always work that way. This time the cause of the apparent paradox is the intense special-strength oriented training program I began in November. I would complain about the crazy amount of volume, but I think Kibwé‘s new program has me beat. Nevertheless, my energy level has plummeted and my results have slowly gone with it.
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Book Review: A Coach’s Journey by Ken Foreman

Coach Ken Foreman with athletes from the Seattle Pacific University track team.

If you’ve been around the Seattle track community, you’ve heard of Ken Foreman. But, if you’re like I was, you may know little more than his name. I first heard his name as a high school senior when I threw a new personal best of 48.94m at Seattle Pacific University’s Ken Foreman Invitational. Although I later found out the throw was mismeasured, it was a highlight of my young career since it placed me third against a collegiate field and qualified me for the USATF Junior National Championships. Even though this memory was planted deep in my mind, I never learned anything about the man other than the picture I saw of him in the meet program. But from that picture you could see Foreman was a coach’s coach.
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Stephan Widmer interview

Stephan Widmer is the Head Coach Queensland State Swimming Centre. I first met Stephan in 1999 at training camp in Australia. I was able to visit with him again this past spring and catch up. The opportunity to watch him coach a session last May was one of the highlights of the last year for me. He was trained in Switzerland in a classical physical/coaching curriculum with a great blend of practical exposure to teaching methodology and sport science. You certainly see this reflected in his coaching. Read more

Interview with Kevin McGill

Many of you outside of track & field may not have heard of Kevin McGill. He is a great friend and confidant who is perhaps the world’s foremost authority on the throws. He is co-author of the Throws Manual published by Track and Field News. Kevin defines passion. When he was still in high school, living in New York, he took the train to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and checked a copy of a Norwegian javelin manual (in Norwegian) and then proceeded to translate it with a Norwegian/English dictionary so he could learn more about the javelin. In the 1980 he self publish as a labor of love a periodical called Hammer Notes (Devoted to the Hammer throw). If you can get a hold of any of those, they are classics. Kevin is a special person. I think you will enjoy this interview.

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