High School Hammer Shows Continued Growth in 2015

The 2015 season has finished up with Adam Kelly (Barrington, RI) and Haley Showalter (Valor Christian, Highlands Ranch, CO) finishing the season at the top. The year was once again a showcase of how much the sport has grown at the high school level. Overall the number of throwers qualifying for Bob Gourley’s national list increased to 254 throwers. This means that throughout the season 132 boys broke 150 feet and 122 girls threw over 120 feet. This represents a 6.3% increase compared to 2014. Read more


Lessons Learned from Beijing: Numbers Don’t Lie

Many of the other authors on HMMR Media have taken a look back at the world championships. Vern looked at what led Ashton Eaton to a new world record. Kibwé reflected on his own performance. And Martin looked at an interesting connection between first round fouls and making the finals. I wanted to answer a simple question: which country performed the best. So Martin and I compiled some statistics to help answer that question. Read more


2015 USATF Championships Women’s Throws Guide

A decade ago America women’s throwing was struggling. At the 2005 World Championships only one woman (Erin Gilreath) made a final. She placed ninth. America was only able to send two shot putters and one javelin thrower. But ten years later the picture is completely different. In the women’s shot put, for example, thirteen athletes have the world championships qualifying standard this year. In each and every event America not only has potential finalists, but medalists. What used to be one of the weak sports of American track and field has now become a strength. With the US Championships starting in one week it will be a great chance to showcase some of these new stars and the added depth across the country. Below is a bit more about the championship and an in depth look at each event. Check back this weekend we’ll also provide coverage of the men’s throwing events. Read more


Can New IAAF Standards Resurrect USA Men’s Hammer?

Yesterday the IAAF has released the new standards for next year’s World Championships in Beijing. If you’re not yet aware, it was already made public that they wanted a standard that would fill roughly 75% of the field. Then if needed, they would fill in the rest of the fields from the world list. Personally, I think the standard should be 77m, but that’s beside the point.
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2014 US Championships Men’s Throws Guide

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PrintWith a little more than a day until the shot put action kicks off, I finally was able to put the finishing touches of my men’s throws guide for the 2014 USATF Championships. The women’s guide I posted last week was fairly easy to prepare as is a clear favorites in all four throwing events. Not a single men’s throwing event, on the other hand, has a clear frontrunner. Even making a short list of who could possibly win is impossible in each event. But I’ve tried to narrow it down for you all. The only thing guaranteed is that there will be a surprise this week and it will be entertaining even if the throwing events are being relegated to outside the stadium.

USATF will be streaming the meet online for free. You can watch it live online here.
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2014 US Championships Women’s Throws Guide

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PrintIt’s less than a week until the US Championships begin in Sacramento. With no world championship to qualify for this year, some big names might be missing from other events. But for throwers it is business as usual. All of the top American throwers will be there. Even without a spot on Team USA up for grabs, they will be fighting for bragging rights, bonuses, and personal bests.

USATF will be streaming the meet online for free. You can watch it live online here.

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Coach John Smith (shown above, photo from The Southern) recently shared his thoughts on how to turn around American hammer throwing. Here are some of my thoughts.

The American Way

Coach John Smith posted his thoughts on what the US hammer throwing scene needs for success in an article last week entitled “USA Hammer Throwing Needs a USA Approach.” The name explains his main point. To implement this approach suggests disregarding the established European development models in favor of an American one tailored to the fact that most American throwers begin throwing the hammer at a much older age. More weight training, the use of short heavy hammers, and a few other tools are his formula for success.

Lots of people emailed me to ask me my thoughts and I couldn’t agree more with the main point: each country needs their own approach just like each athlete needs their own approach. As Smith suggests we need to look at our current situation and see what makes it unique. And then we need to figure out how to work with that. But after doing that my conclusions are a little different than Smith’s.

What Makes America Unique

Coach John Smith (shown above, photo from The Southern) recently shared his thoughts on how to turn around American hammer throwing. Here are some of my thoughts.

Coach John Smith (shown above, photo from The Southern) recently shared his thoughts on how to turn around American hammer throwing. Here are some of my thoughts.

The common conception of what leads to European dominance in the hammer is that they have huge talent pools. As Smith says “the real secret to their success was the 1000s of talented athletes.” America, by popular conception, has no one since the hammer isn’t an official high school event in most states. In fact the opposite is true.

There aren’t thousands of young throwers in Europe. The only country with close to that amount of youth throwers is America. America is arguably the strongest and deepest country in the world in the youth hammer. America will never have the hammer throw at every high school, but with 300 million citizens we don’t need that to succeed. The IAAF published my article on the resurgence of American youth hammer throwing in their journal New Studies in Athletics last year. The participating numbers and results have skyrocketed over the last two decades thanks to the hard work of many coaches. To give one statistic, America had 11 junior women break 54 meters in the hammer last year. That is more than double any other country. Traditional throwing powerhouses like Germany, Belarus, and Russia had just five each. Russia, the top women’s nation overall, had just two. While Hungary’s five athletes are higher up on the list, it is not like they are using the European model Smith describes to get there. There are just a few elite groups in Hungary that produce nearly all their throwers.

In addition, America is unique since it also has an even bigger pool of potential throwers from the college ranks. As Smith points out “it is up to the college coaches to identify good shot and discus athletes who might end up being better hammer throwers.” This is an added bonus that should make the hammer throwing scene even stronger. America’s last Olympic medalist, Lance Deal, came into the sport this way.

Creating the American Model

When creating a model for America it would be negligent to just copy any other country’s model. But it is just as negligent to create something from scratch without looking at what has made other models so successful. We should learn from those who have been successful, which in the hammer throw that often means looking abroad.

When Smith describes the European model it is hard to pin down what exactly he is talking about. This might be because there is no one European model. What most European models have in common is international success, something American systems haven’t proved they can produce yet. They also tend to have a big focus on throwing, a point Smith also acknowledges when he reiterated that “This event is all about time and reps.”

If there is an American model that should be created then I think it should be focused on throwing the hammer more, as opposed to lifting heavier and throwing short hammers (short hammers are a topic I’ve covered before, but to sum it up I’m not a big fan). With its youth talent alone, America should be able to compete with the world. What is holding us back is how that talent continues to develop in college and beyond since so many of our top youth throwers just evaporate as they reach college. Creating a development model for these athletes should be the first priority. Rather than increasing throwing volume when they get to college, most hammer throwers merely start lifting more. This will raise their results, but not take them to the highest level. More throwing will help them.

More throwing will be even more helpful for those that only throw the hammer for the first time when they get to college. These athletes are well-trained; they made the team because they were a good high school thrower and that requires good general strength levels. Therefore what is lacking is technique and experience. This can only be gained though thousands of throws. And with such a high volume other elements of training will have to be reduced a little. It might seem like a slow process to coach Smith, but as discus coach Vésteinn Hafsteinsson told me recently, the slowest process gives the fastest results. Time and time again this has worked all over the world and in its own iteration it can work in America too.

Throw Early and Often

As they say with voting, the best way to win is to throw early and often. Throwing creates throwers. And the later your begin, the more often you should be throwing to make up for it. The next step is to make sure that the throwing is done under the watchful eye of a knowledgable coach. But let’s just take things one step at a time: get out there and throw.

Compared to other events and other countries, American throwers seem to go at it alone more often.

Lone Wolf Syndrome

Look at the American throwing scene and you could point to technique or training as holding it back from its potential. The reasons could have been listed as holding back American middle distance and distance runners 10 years ago. But then, without big changes on either front, Americans began to bridge the gap between them and the world’s best. The top American 1500 meter runner in 2003 was David Krummennacker at 3:35.15. In 2013 the top 10 Americans all ran faster. And this happened in other events too, along with medals and historic barriers falling on the track from the 800 to 10,000-meters for both men and women.

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