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Specificity is not Specialization

If you have a good hour to burn, you need to head on over to Stuart McMillan’s blog to catch the latest edition in his coaches guide to strength development. For the last part of his series I contributed a case study in data collection. This time Stuart and his friend Matt Jordan sat down 17,000 word chat that dives into several topics that Stuart discussed with strength coach Matt Jordan and throws coach Derek Evely. They discuss training theory, periodization, parallel-complex programming, Bondarchuk, sample training programs, youth specialization, and many more topics. Below are some highlights. Read more

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The Roads to Rome

When I do a presentation about transfer of training, one of the points I emphasize is that almost anything transfers for a beginner. Even take a look at any of Bondarchuk’s correlation tables and you’ll see nearly every exercise with a high transfer. Just get them to work and they will improve. Because of this there are numerous ways to get an athlete to an intermediate level. You can rely on maximum strength. You can rely on size. You can rely on explosivity. You can rely on technique. You can rely on grit. You rely on special strength. All roads lead to Rome if being good is your goal.
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Drills can be very useful for beginners or illustrating concepts, but for advanced athlete they are less helpful.

Another Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 2)

Earlier in the week I began a discussion with coach Derek Evely on how training needs to be tailored to the event for which you are training. He provided two examples from the hammer throw by looking at two unique aspects of our event. First, the hammer throw is the only track and field event where the athlete keeps contact with the ground at all times and the goal is to lengthen the amount of ground contact. In part one, we discussed how this fact has an impact on selecting exercises for the event. Second, hammer throwers must work together with an external object. In this final part we move on to discuss how the hammer’s forces also impact training.

For the best opportunity to learn from Derek about this and other topics, check out the Canadian National Throws Conference in Ottawa from October 18-20. Derek will be presenting along with Vésteinn Hafsteinsson and Esa Utriainen on the theme of “Developing the Throws: European Perspectives.” Registration is now open. Another good read from Derek is the training talk we did two years ago.


Part 1: Optimizing Jumping Exercises for the Hammer Throw

Part 2: Recreating the Hammer’s Forces in Training

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Coach Evely with Sophie Hitchon, the UK record holder. Photo used with permission from Jonathan Mulkeen.

Another Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 1)

Coach Evely with Sophie Hitchon, the UK record holder. Photo used with permission from Jonathan Mulkeen.

Coach Evely with Sophie Hitchon back in 2011. Photo used with permission from Jonathan Mulkeen.

We all know the hammer throw is a unique sport, but I rarely stop to ponder why exactly it is unique other than the fact that we are hurling a ball and chain as far as we can. It is unique in a number of ways and this uniqueness should play an important role in training. I recently re-watched a presentation Derek Evely made in Sweden last year where he addressed this specific point and pointed out two key facts about the hammer throw that make it unique. First, the hammer throw is the only track and field event where the athlete keeps contact with the ground at all times and the goal is to lengthen the amount of ground contact. Second, hammer throwers must work together with an external object. Both of these facts have an impact on training and I recently had a chance to talk with Derek about how he took these facts and used them to create a hammer-specific training plan for his athletes. We started out talking about the first point and its impact on training. Part 2 will discuss the second point.

For those of you not familiar with Derek, he was most recently the head of the UK Athletics High Performance Centre in the lead up to the London Olympics where he also served as the personal coach of Sophie Hitchon. He has had a long and successful career that also included time working with one of my mentors, Anatoliy Bondarchuk.

This isn’t my first training talk with Derek. We sat down two years ago for a discussion on Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk which I feel is one of the best examples available online of how to implement Bondarchuk’s theories in a variety of events. Derek is one of the most knowledgable and thoughtful coaches I have had the chance to work with and, as you can tell, he is more than willing to share his knowledge with others. If you get the chance to hear him speak, I guarantee you will walk away smarter. One good chance for this will be at the Canadian National Throws Conference in Ottawa from October 18-20, where Derek will be presenting along with Vésteinn Hafsteinsson and Esa Utriainen. The theme for the conference is “Developing the Throws: European Perspectives” and registration is now open. This topic is just one of many that Derek will touch on in his presentations there and will be a can’t miss event. Read more

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Coaching Roundtable: Julia Ratcliffe Video Analysis

Julia_Ratcliffe_IAAF_World_Youth_Ch_2009Back in February I launched a new series on this site, the Coaching Roundtable, by inviting three of the world’s best coaches to analyze the technique of top US thrower Chris Cralle. Now it’s back for the second edition with an up and coming international thrower. Once again the Coaching Roundtable series brings together top coaches from the around the world to give their different perspectives on the same topic. Subjects for the coaching roundtable are chosen exclusively among members of this site. I plan on doing a rotational shot put roundtable in the near future as well as another men’s hammer roundtable, so if you are a member looking for an analysis of yourself or your athlete , please contact me.

The Subject

Julia Ratcliffe was born and raised in New Zealand and started hammer throwing under the guidance of her father, Dave Ratcliffe. On her 19th birthday last year Ratcliffe threw a senior national record and Oceania junior record of 67.00 meters at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona. Her mark earned her fourth place and was the best mark ever to miss the podium at the meet. This September she enrolled at Princeton University in America where she has continued her success. In April she broke her national record again with a throw of 68.80 meters and was one of the top throwers in the NCAA as just a freshman this season.

The Coaches

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.

Don Babbitt is of the most successful throwing coaches in the world over the past decade. Coach Babbitt works as the throwing coach 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 Dunks (discus), Brad Snyder (shot put), Andras Haklits (hammer) and many other international champions.

Sergej Litvinov Jr. is one of the top active hammer throwers in the world with a personal best of 80.98 meters. He placed fifth at 2009 World Championships and now competes for Russia. He is coached by his father, Sergey Litvinov, who was a world record holder, two-time world champion, Olympic champion, and Olympic silver medalist. He still ranks third all-time with his personal best of 86.04 meters.
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Derek Evely

How to Create a Successful Training Center

Coach Stuart McMillan has produced some great interviews and commentary on his blog recently, often focusing on what a national governing body needs to do to be successful. From an interesting interview with former world 100m record holder Donovan Bailey, and some tips for national governing bodies. This week he has posted my new favorite, a two-part interview with Canadian coach Derek Evely focusing on his thoughts on how to create high performance. Part 1 focuses on building a successful training center. Part 2, posted today, focuses more on politics at the federation level.

Derek Evely

Derek Evely

Derek and I go back to when he was the head coach of the Kamloops Track and Field club when they hired Anatoliy Bondarchuk. Simply put, Derek knows high performance. He has been involved with three highly-successful training centers and has taken a lot away from that experience. His work in Kamloops set the foundation for what turned into the Canadian National Throws Centre. Next he helped run the Canadian Athletic Coaching Centre where he played an integral role in developing the world’s best online coaching resource at the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre. His latest role was leading the Loughborough High Performance Centre for UK Athletics leading up to the London Olympics. In addition to these management roles, Derek has always remained active in coaching, molding Olympians in the sprints and throws along the way. Derek has also been a great mentor of mine, and you can read more about his training philosophies in the extensive three-part interview I conducted with him last year. Read more

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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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Chris Cralle

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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Derek coached a young Shane Niemi to the Canadian Junior Record

Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 3)

Over the past week, I’ve posted the first two parts of my interview with Derek Evely, the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre. Both of those posts focused on how to apply Bondarchuk’s theories to the throwing events. But while Bondarchuk’s has focused on coaching the throwing events, his theories and research extend to all of track and field. In addition to coaching the throwing events, Derek also has had international success coaching sprinters. The final part of our interview focuses on how Bondarchuk’s theories apply to other events like the sprints and javelin.

He had the opportunity to learn from Bondarchuk first hand when they worked together in Kamloops, and has been fine tuning his approach ever since. You can learn more about those through this link, or by reading Part I. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.


Part 1: Turning Theories Into Practice (17 May 2011)

Part 2: More About Hammer Throw Training (27 May 2011)

Part 3: Applying Bondarchuk’s Methods to Other Events

The sprinting events

Martin: When you were coaching the sprints, were you still following Bondarchuk’s methods?

Derek coached a young Shane Niemi to the Canadian Junior Record

Derek: Well, to begin with, the way Kevin Tyler and I were already setting up our sprint periodization and sprint methodology is very similar to how a sprint program would work under Bondarchuk’s methodology anyways. I just sort of formalized it in terms of looking at the athlete’s reaction and particularly the number of sessions it would take for an athlete to reach peak form. That is one of the keys elements of his whole methodology: that you understand that what amount specific training or more specifically exposures to specific training it takes for an athlete to reach peak condition. We found that with a lot of our sprinters they were coming into form after about 36-45 sessions with a mixture of various types of speed training. And that is what we were doing already.
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