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Misunderstood Recruiting: Raw vs. Trained

You work your butt off day in and day out. You lift hard, you throw well, you understand technique. You LIVE to throw far. You want to be the best you possibly can be. You want to be an NCAA All-American, break school records and throw deep. But you are a little short. Maybe your school of choice is recruiting a “raw talent.” Is this something that is bothersome? Is this something that needs to be addressed?


Last week, we covered the Pattern of Growth for elite throwers at the high school level. We dove deep into what it takes to throw far, to understand the progression of throws from year to year and how long it may take to achieve a certain distance.

Let’s say you are one of those throwers on path to shatter those big marks. Maybe you have contacted your college of choice, you have shown them your progression from year to year, you send them training videos and you are ready to continue to impress them with your long term work ethic geared toward the sport of throwing.

In walks a behemoth of a high school thrower. Maybe you are throwing 60 feet, you are 5’11, you work hard and you love every aspect of training. On the other side is the behemoth thrower. He is 6’5, takes 50 foot standing throws and full throws 54 feet. He is “raw.” After 2-3 months of courting, your college of choice drops the bomb on you. They chose the behemoth over you. What gives?!?!

Here are the top 3 reasons why work ethic SHOULD ALWAYS win over “raw talent.”

Work ethic is invested.

Workers are invested in the sport. I will never forget when I was in college and Ryan Whiting was in high school getting recruited. Everyone was talking about his size and speed but one thing that his high school coach, Glenn Thompson kept pointing out that trumped everything…? HIS WORK ETHIC! Ryan could be found in his high school gym, smashing throws, he could be found on the weekend training under Glenn’s tutelage in the snow, he was a full student of the sport. There have been plenty of monsters that have come through the collegiate ranks but FEW have been as dedicated and invested in the sport as Ryan Whiting. That work ethic is what separated him from everyone else. His ability to understand the spin, to understand the competitions, to understand the training, that is why he is now known as one of the best shot putters in American history!

Hard work crushes talent.

Lucas Warning left high school as a 46 foot shot putter. No one wanted him throwing in college. No one wanted him throwing at the Division 1 level in college. He was small, he was weak, he wasn’t overly athletic, minimally explosive ...oh, did we mention he was a glider?

The result? He worked his ass off. His freshman year he threw a decent mark in the mid 16 meters. His sophomore year, he started to build deep into the 17’s. His lifts grew, his strength grew, his work ethic contributed to the monster. By his junior year, he was dominating the Patriot League and was close to qualifying for NCAA’s. His senior year? He broke every school record, he broke the Patriot League record, he went to NCAA’s and qualified for the Championship and ended up placing 10th, becoming a Second Team All-American while whooping plenty of guys that were on scholarships from day 1.

But how? Why? What triggered this? His work ethic! He was groomed to WORK. He was groomed to strive for constant progression. He wasn’t a freak physically but his outstanding mental approach is what led him to train so hard and develop into one of the world’s best gliders that we see today!

Raw Talent = Unknown.

To be fair, I am not saying that the “raw talent” thrower should never be given a shot (no pun intended).

In some cases, these athletes turn out tremendously well. They buy into their coaching system, they blow up and become absolute monsters of throwers. BUT, there is a MASSIVE unknown. When bringing in raw talent, coaches do not know very key aspects behind the athlete. Will they handle cues well? Will they show up to training regularly? Will they take criticism? Can they handle technical advice and development over a long period of time? Will they even enjoy what they are doing? There are many question marks. When a thrower is more developed, the HS coaches are able to provide an outline to the collegiate coach on their expectations. They know what the thrower can and can’t do. They know how they react to various forms of stimuli and they know the potential outcome!

These unknowns could cause a major rift in a throws coach's career. If a stud “raw talent” comes in and underperforms or is underdeveloped, all of a sudden their recruiting eye is under the microscope. The head coach questions their ability to identify talent and soon enough they may even have their scholarships cut further.

The best NCAA throws coaches build their squads around athletes that work, athletes that are invested in the sport and athletes that want to become the best. This creates a culture of winning, a culture of success, a culture of positivity!

Take Tiffin University for example. Coach Ray Robinson continues to bring in athletes that might be “too small” or “over-developed” in high school. He takes these guys and turns them into absolute animals! At the Division 2 level, Tiffin boasts one of the strongest throws squads in the entire US at all levels! Most Division 1 programs struggle to have 2 men throwing over 18 meters, meanwhile Coach Robinson is crushing the game with TWO! Did I mention his top sophomore was supposed to be “too small” and “over-coached” in high school?

It’s time we get rid of these ridiculous comparisons and dive deep into developing the WORKERS!

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Really enjoyed this article. It is a little more complicated than this, but......I accept the premise. Athletes that are passionate will most often pass up those who rely on natural ability. Throwing events are technical activities. Raw strength, athleticism, or elite kinesthetics awareness will eventually lose to athletes with less of each but whom have an understanding of the work it takes to separate from the crowd.

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