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The Evergreen Athletic Fund has found success in helping athletes by creating new sources of support in the sport.

Evergreen Athletic Fund Year in Review

When I founded the non-profit Evergreen Athletic Fund at the end of 2008, I had a big vision for what the organization could do. But after the first year, I realized things make take a while to get off the ground. We hosted a few clinics and competitions, but the donations trickled in very slowly. This past year, however, saw the organization finally grow into what I envisioned. Below are some highlights of the year in each of our areas of focus.

Elite Athlete Support – 2010 started out with a bang thanks to a generous donation by a supportive Husky alum and fellow member of the bar. After that Will Conwell worked his butt off to generate monthly donations from dozens of supporters. By the end of the year, we had raised nearly $30,000. The funds primarily go to help Seattle-area athletes such as Conwell, three-time Olympian Aretha Thurmand, and our newest addition former NCAA All-American Kimery Hern. We have been able to help these athletes fly to competitions, pay for training expenses, and meet the other costs of training. The funds were also a big benefit for Will, who has been able to move to Auburn, Alabama so that he can train alongside Aretha and coach Jerry Clayton. While it will take him some time to adjust to the new coach, he already improved his consistency this year and I know there are big things to come for him in 2011.

As demonstrated in my throw with the 10kg hammer, I start in a generally good position but one of my first moves is to open up the left leg and drop my left hip back.

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.

Fixing technique can also be a paradox. Dr. Bondarchuk once told me about a former hammer thrower that had a bad habit of having a high point that was both too high and too early in the first turn. For four years, Dr. Bondarchuk would tell him to flatten out the entry and the athlete only made marginal success on that point. Finally, as the athlete was about to finish university and move, Dr. Bondarchuk had run out of ideas and told him to make his orbit even steeper. To everyone’s surprise, the throw actually flattened out. Bondarchuk had told him to emphasize everything wrong about the throw and he ended up doing everything right.

The Best Track and Field Blogs

It’s been two and a half years since I started writing about my training on this thing called the interweb. Since then, many other track and field athletes have also started their own websites. Now, there are so many blogs that it can be hard to decide which ones are worth the read. Some are updated often and some rarely. Some provide a superficial look at the athlete, while others are more personal or contain detailed accounts of training. Below is a collection of my favorite sites across all the events. If I leave out any great blogs, feel free to add them in the comments below.

The Mental Game

I’ve always thought that the best tool for sports psychology is a good training program. A good training program won’t solve all of an athlete’s problems, but when training is going well, it is hard to convince an athlete that they will not succeed. Throwers even have a unique advantage in this department. We get to practice every day like it’s a competition and are truly able know what shape we are in; all we have to do is pull out the tape measure and measure our results. Distance runners, on the other hand, do not have this advantage. An article in last month’s Runner’s World talked about how Kara Goucher has worked with a sports psychologist to overcome her mental hurdles. Unlike throwers, it is harder for runners to know exactly what shape they are in. They obviously run in practice, but they don’t replicate an entire race at competitive speeds. Even if they do, they cannot replicate race tactics in training. When the distance runner toes the line, they often aren’t quite sure what to expect and that is where doubt can enter the mind.

On the flip side, when training is not going well, throwers have no advantage in this area. My training last year was inconsistent because I was adjusting to technical changes and my training was often interrupted by work. Inconsistent practices led to inconsistent meets and I was not able to end the season with the results I wanted. This year, however, things are different.

Counting Down the Days

The indoor track season is heating up, and it’s is making me anxious to start my season too. Yet again this year I’ve had the pleasure of providing news and commentary for the Evergreen Athletic Fund’s CollegeHammer.com and HSHammer.com.  This season has already produced some great results that have been fun to write about.  I’ve spent more time recently working on both sites and our traffic has doubled thanks in part to some great features we’ve posted on my training parter Kibwé Johson, world junior champion Walter Henning of LSU, my friend Brian Richotte, D3 record holder Kevin Becker, Norwegian champion Steffen Nerdal of Memphis, as well as emerging coaches Dave Hahn and Scott Block.

As anxious as I am to compete, however, I’m still willing to wait another until another month or two.  While the results are fun to watch, the indoor weight throw is not very helpful to the hammer throw.  That leaves me counting down the days until the outdoor season starts.  The past few years I’ve opened up just before the Mt. SAC Relays in mid-April.  This year, I can’t wait that long.  My results from last year left a bad taste in my mouth and I am eager to get back in the ring and show others that I am still on track to reach the 2012 Olympics.  My first meet will likely be at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma on March 13th.  Assuming all goes well, I will then be traveling the Arles, France (near Marseille) to represent Switzerland in the European Cup Winter Throwing on March 21st.

Training Tools Vol. 1: Essential Hammer Throw Special Strength Exercises

With the help of Mike Mai and Zack Midles, the Evergreen Athletic Fund‘s first clinic was a success on Sunday. We had ten athletes ranging in age from 8th grade to college, as well as local high school and college coaches. We are thankful to everyone who helped put on the event, and for the donations we received from it.

While most of the time at the clinic was focused on hammer throw technique, I also spent a little bit of time talking about one of my favorite subjects: special strength. I have previously discussed how I feel this an area most Americans neglect in their training. Since that post, I have received numerous e-mails asking about what other special strength exercises are helpful to the hammer throw. I thought it would be helpful to demonstrate some of what I was talking about, so I’ve posted a video below that demonstrates some essential hammer throw exercises.

Most of the exercises I cover in the video fall into the following categories, in no particular order:

Introducing the Evergreen Athletic Fund

Combine a slowing economy and a post-Olympic year and you have a recipe for struggling amateur athletes. Nike, adidas, and other shoe companies have been the traditional financial backers of elite track and field athletes. Like nearly every other sector of the economy, shoe companies have had their own share of problems recently, including layoffs. Most track and field athletes will have to wait until 2012 to return to the spotlight. With most contracts up for renewal after Beijing, track and field sponsorships have been a quick and easy way for the companies to trim costs.

November Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so bear with me as I have a few different topics to update everyone on.

First on the agenda is a lesson in cultural literacy.  While today is Veterans Day in America, it is Remembrance Day up here in Canada and other members of the Commonwealth.  One interesting fact about Remembrance Day is that many people around town are wear red poppies to commemorate the day.  The red poppy represents the flowers that bloomed on the battlefields in the aftermath of World War I.  The poppy was used as an emblem after Canadian poet John McRae wrote about the topic.

In other news, I just returned from a weekend in Seattle where I finalized the formation of a non-profit corporation.  I will post more information as our plans come together, but I envision that the corporation will be used to help support local Olympic hopefuls such as myself, Will Conwell, and Aretha Thurmond, as well as other deserving athletes.