One of the most successful throwing coaches in the world over the past decade without a doubt is Don Babbitt. Coach Babbitt has been at the University of Georgia for sixteen years in which his athletes captured 11 NCAA titles, and 55 All-American certificates. Chris Hill (javelin) and Jenny Dahlgren (hammer) also set NCAA records under his guidance. In addition, he has worked with athletes like Adam Nelson (shot put), Reese Hoffa (shot put), Breaux Greer (javelin), Jason Tunks (discus), Brad Snyder (shot put), Andras Haklits (hammer) and many other international champions.
In addition to his success across all the throwing events, what sets Coach Babbitt apart from other elite coaches is the way he individualizes training. Many successful programs have a system which they apply to all their athletes. Coach Babbitt, on the other hand, adapts his system to the individual athletes’ needs. Just listen to Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson describe their training and you’ll immediately notice major differences even though they are training partners and produce similar results. Despite his recent trip to Japan for a seminar, Coach Babbitt found time to exchange some thoughts on how he fits individualization into the training of his athletes.
Coach Don Babbitt has guided multiple world class athletes as well as a steady crew of All-Americans at the University of Georgia.
Martin: For starters, could you give us a quick overview of what are the major differences in the training of Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson and why that is the case?
Don: Adam and Reese are quite different in a number of ways, and this may actually be a reason why they can train together so well. In terms of mentality, Adam is a gambler by nature, and sets very high goals for himself. In a way it is manifested in his technique, high risk, high reward. It is challenge for him to stay on a certain course for more than about 3-4 months without a change. He needs and likes change. The key for him in this regard is to change things up to make it fresh without changing too much and getting of task. His training varies from year to year, and it may cycle back around to the same thing over a 2-3 year cycle.
Reese is much more steady and methodical, which again is manifested in his performance and results (very steady). Reese does not like change, he likes to keep homeostasis, so to speak, and do the same schedule and train the same way each year. Sure, there will me minor variations because of schedule, injury, etc., but he tries to replicate the same high level results each year. When things go a little off for Reese, he does not respond too well, and likes to keep things in a controlled situation. He does not like experiments.