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Learning from Athletes

I’ve learned more from watching the athletes I work with than from reading any throwing-specific literature! Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but when assessing the technical execution of movement for the on-site athletes at Garage Strength, I’ve found that I learn most from just watching the athlete. From throwing to strength training, there’s always something new to be discovered. In this week’s blog, I wanted to discuss how watching athletes have helped my coaching process.

When I first started coaching, I was fortunate enough to land a spot at Merrimack College. At the time, Merrimack was comprised mostly of javelin throwers, the one event that I had little experience with. I spent several hours reading articles and watching videos in an attempt to learn more about the javelin so I could be an effective coach. I believe that reading and watching videos gave me a solid foundation on javelin technique, but it wasn't until I heard Coach Al Fereshetian talk with Virtual Throws Conference about how he, a distance runner with no throwing experience, could learn how to coach throwers by watching them execute technical movements. From that moment on, my coaching experience became more efficient, allowing me to assess the athletes I worked with just by watching them!

Now coaching for Throws University and Garage Strength, I still use the athletes to learn about throwing and strength training. Going from working with collegiate athletes to high school athletes at various levels opened my eyes to assessing technique and my coaching process, implementing progression and regressions. For example, I am currently working with an athlete who over-rotates to the middle of the circle in the shot put. This athlete has his own unique style of opening out the back, where he gets around but in a manner that’s different from the “norm”. With this unique way of opening, we sometimes run into the issue of him falling into the middle or getting off his left late. It took me a while to identify why he was running into this issue, but the more I watched him, the more it became apparent.

Once I was able to identify the issue, I ask him questions like “What are you feeling out the back?” or “How did that throw feel?”. Once I got a better understanding of what he was feeling or trying to achieve, that’s where I could come up with a solution to help him achieve a technical feeling that allows him to move efficiently. In this case, we put an emphasis on shifting his weight over his left side, getting the left knee to track over the left foot as it opened towards the middle. In doing so, he could get more weight over his left, creating a longer sweep with the right leg to the middle, reducing the odds of falling into the middle and allowing for a more efficient push-off with the left leg, setting him up for a better-resulting throw. Better throws result in a happy athlete. Happy athletes result in a happy coach.

To all my coaches who may struggle with technique or come across coaching an event that isn’t familiar, use the athletes as a learning tool. Watch how they move in the circle or the weight room. Identify the good and bad of their movement and develop solutions that can help facilitate growth. There will be a lot of trial and error that accompanies this, but it will allow you to filter what works and doesn’t work. Also, this will show the athlete that you are working hard to find a solution that works for them, building rapport between coach and athlete. It will take some time to develop the coach's eye for technical errors, but the more you watch, the easier it will be to identify. I also recommend using video to help develop that coaching eye. Video has made my life so much easier. Sometimes I see things in real time but can’t process them fast enough for feedback. That’s where having a video can bridge that gap, allowing me to gather my thoughts and prepare to create a solution.


"We aim to provide concise and concrete education and training on the throws, helping coaches and athletes learn what they need to do to succeed and become champions."

- Dane, Trevor, and Sam W.

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