Category Archives: Hammer

JC Lambert talks about DeAnna Price’s big day at Nationals

The women’s hammer throw at the recent USATF Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, shaped up as a battle between two Southern Illinois University alums. Gwen Berry entered the 2018 outdoor season as the American record holder with a 2017 toss of 76.77m. DeAnna Price took over the record in early June of this year, hitting 77.65m at the Iron Wood Classic. Gwen took it back six days later, dropping a 77.78m bomb at a meet in Chorzow, Poland.

So the hammer fans who gathered on the grass berm overlooking the cage outside of Drake Stadium had reason to expect a titanic battle between the two Salukis on a sun-kissed day three of the championships.

Unfortunately, Gwen opened with a foul and could never quite find her rhythm. She finished with a best of 72.99m, good enough for second place. You can find a post-competition interview I did with Gwen here: http://mcthrows.com/?p=2152

DeAnna also took some time to find a groove, but her opener of 73.81m guaranteed a spot in the final where she went 76.35m in round four, 78.12m for a new American record in round five, and 77.01m in round six.

Recently, DeAnna’s coach and fiancé JC Lambert was kind enough to give me some insight into DeAnna’s performance at USAs and her plans for the future.

So in Des Moines, DeAnna opened up with 73.81m, which as it turned out would have been enough to win, but it seemed to take her a while to really find her rhythm.

One of the big things we’ve been working on is making sure that your opening throw can make the final no matter where you’re at, a small meet, the US Championships or even the World Championships or Olympics. So I was very happy about her first throw. Her next throw was actually building up to be a nice throw, it just got by her and she wasn’t ready for it. It ended up being a very nice throw outside the left sector.

I couldn’t see where it landed from where I was sitting.

I checked afterwards, and I found the mark at the top of the hill. I’m not going to go into specifics, but it was considerably farther than her best throw.

It must be exciting to know she’s got a throw like that in her.

Absolutely. After that, on her third round throw, because the last one blew by her, she was a little timid, got a little messed up, so she went ahead and fouled it. Between prelims and finals she did a couple of warm-ups to get back on track and then opened back up with a 76-meter throw that looked nice and easy. From there, she was tuned up and ready to go.

Was there anything technique-wise that stood out about her American Record throw?

She just finally got locked into the entry. Got down a lot better on one. She stayed grounded and worked through three. She didn’t work all the way through four, and she kind of locked up the release. If she’d have gotten through the release a little more, it would have been interesting where it would have went.

And then she followed that up with a 77-meter throw where she completely missed four and locked up her release again, so to throw that far and not get the whole pie, if you will, was pretty exciting.

She clearly knew when she released her 78.12m that it was a big throw.

Yeah, she was kind of punching the air, which she doesn’t usually do. She told me after that it was because she was pissed that it took her so long to get going.

I’m interested in the idea you mentioned of developing the skill of getting a good enough first throw so that no matter where you are you make the final. How did you go about working on that?

Practice. We do mock competitions. Plus when you go to smaller meets, that’s practice too. During her senior year at SIU, her first meet of the year was at Alabama. She was in good shape to throw far, but her first two attempts went right into the cage. And then she had to just get a decent throw out there in the third round to just make the finals, so it took her forever to get comfortable.

And then the next meet, she fouled her opener again, and after that we decided we had to change things. We can’t be having that. From there, just practicing it at meets. I tell all my athletes, the first one’s for me and the rest are for you.  

So we kept working on it, and back then, three years ago, she got to be consistent with throwing 66-69 meters on her first throw. Now that she’s a better thrower and athlete, her openers have been getting better and better. Now that she can open with an easy throw of 73 meters and change, she can be pretty confident in a World Championship qualifying round. She won’t have to stress too much, just do what you do and call it a day.

Is the art of it to throw easy but not too easy?

For each person you have to figure out what is their easy throw. It’s like a passive aggressive throw. You have to relax but still be aggressive with it. If you warm up normal, but then your first throw of the meet you take too much off, it’s not going to be a good throw. Your timing is going to be off, then all of a sudden you’re completely off.

So, there’s definitely an art to it. The athlete has to develop a feel for what an “easy” throw is for them.

I was at the European Championships in 2014, and Betty Heidler did not throw well. Her coach told me afterwards that she finished her warm-ups in good shape, so he told her to do on her opener exactly what she’d done on her final warm-up throw, but that she didn’t. She took too much off of that first throw and then she never found her rhythm during the competition.

That’s what happens.

Going back to last winter, did you see signs that she might throw 78 meters this year?

I’ve seen signs the past few years of something big coming down the road. It takes time to get to this level, though. Sometimes you think you see something developing but it takes a few more reps before it comes out in a meet.

Earlier this season the big thing we were working on was trying to connect, trying to push. The simple stuff, just trying to make it second nature. And just chipping away at her entry. And it started looking better.

And with the weight throw indoors, we took maybe nine total practices and we didn’t even throw much during those practices, maybe eighteen throws. And she competed in three meets. I didn’t really care how far she threw in the first two meets, then she went to USAs and we didn’t even peak for it. And she ended up going over 80 feet (24.51m) for the first time and got the win.

Was it surprising that she threw so far?

Yes, in the sense that we didn’t train it that much, but no in that she had a pretty good practice the week before and the week of. It would have been interesting to see what she could have done if we had peaked, but our goals this year all focused on the hammer.

The last two years leading up to the Olympics and London she was throwing really well, but there is a lot of pressure there and the results we got weren’t an indication of what we’d seen in practice.

This year I wanted to see if we could get her best throws in the biggest meets, and so far things have worked out just as we’d hoped.

Now we have two confirmed teams we are part of, the Athletics Cup in London and then the NACAC in Toronto, and then we have to see if she gets selected for the Continental Cup.

Deanna and I have been talking about what to do for meets and training right now, and it’s kind of damned if you do/damned if you don’t. There’s a World Challenge meet coming up in Budapest, but we’d have to hurry to get ready for it, so I think we’ll focus on preparing for the Athletics Cup. There are going to be some great throwers there, so we want to be ready for it.

The ultimate goal is to win a medal at the World Championships and the Olympics, so we need to practice being at our best against the best rather than running around trying to collect money.

This is a new realm that I’m a little green at. I’m lucky to have John Smith as a mentor, so if I have any questions about international travel and competitions, he can definitely help me out. But I look forward to figuring out the puzzle of international travel, how the body works, dealing with jet lag and so on.

Speaking of complicated, have you thought about dealing with the odd schedule next year with the World Championships in October?

I try not to think too far into the future, but we will definitely have to adjust for that. For any athlete, I look at what their ultimate goal is, when they will need to peak, and then I start to work backwards. That determines how we start. As far as indoors goes next year, if we do throw the weight it might be one or two meets like this year and maybe the US Championships, Then we’ll have to figure out how to push back the season. The thing that sucks is that we have to rely on college meets for competition, but those meets are over in May, so what do you do from there? One thing I’m thinking about is putting on a summer meet or two so post-collegiates have some place to compete.

We’ll see. That might get us through to the US Championships in late July, then you have three months until Worlds. First you have to make the team, obviously, but I would hope that maybe the IAAF could help out the athletes by pushing some of their higher-end meets back a little bit. I don’t know if that will happen or not, but no matter what, we’ll find a way.

To see video of the USATF women’s hammer competition check out https://www.macthrowvideo.com/

 

 

The Mental Toughness of DeAnna Price

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By any measure, DeAnna Price of Southern Illinois University had a great collegiate career. After winning the 2015 NCAA hammer title as a junior, she opened her senior season on March 19th with a 72.19m toss at the Alabama Relays and finished with an NCAA meet record 71.53m on June 9th in Eugene. In between, she broke the 70-meter barrier in nine of the ten meets in which she competed.

It was this ability to be consistently excellent under a variety of conditions that interested me most about DeAnna’s season, and her coach, J.C. Lambert was kind enough to answer my questions about her mental approach to competition.

First question. DeAnna was remarkably consistent this year. It seemed like she threw 70 meters every week. What was it about her personality and her preparation that allowed her to do that?

She’s a tiger when she competes, she will go after throws no matter the situation. The one thing we’ve been working on a lot this year is making sure her first throw makes finals and she gets a 70m+ throw within her first three throws.

Have you two worked at all on any sort of pre-meet ritual? Are there a certain number or types of warm-up throws that she likes to take?

As far as a pre-meet ritual, she does a light lift, she likes to eat either Olive Garden pasta or half a chicken with a baked potato the night before. Breakfast the morning of, she likes to have one pancake with syrup, no butter, some eggs and meat along with coffee.

For warm up throws, she likes to start with turns with a two ball system. That’s one thing we’ve used this year to help her turns and with pushing the hammer. After that, she usually goes to a left arm throw and 1-2 80% throws and then is ready to go.

What do you mean by a “left arm” throw?

With a left arm throw, it’s a drill we use a times to warm up. You just take the hammer with your left arm, wind it like a regular throw, turn and throw.

Here is something that gives me endless amounts of trouble as a high school coach. Over the course of a season, my guys will, like DeAnna, develop their own routine for warming up. But, there are times when that routine gets disrupted. Rain delays. Officials who for some reason decide to limit the warm-up period. This year, at our state meet, the guy in charge decided to move the shot competition indoors due to predictions of dire weather. So, after eight weeks of competing outside with an iron shot, the competitors were moved into the field house and made to share four indoor shots, three of which were egg-shaped. There went their routine. That’s an extreme example, but I’ve heard stories about having flights of 25 at the World Championships, or of Reese Hoffa getting a single warm-up throw at the Athens Olympics. Have you worked with DeAnna on staying focused even when her routine is disrupted?

Deanna does pretty good in tough situations. When it gets down to the bigger meets, your athlete should be ready to go no matter the situation as long as long as the preparation leading up to the meet is done right. I learned as a athlete a long time ago that there will never be a perfect meet, something(s) will always try to get in your way. You must learn to adapt and adjust. You have to go with the flow. Deanna understands this and has done a great job so far with her mental preparation.

If you have a lump of coal you think has the potential to be a diamond, you must put that lump of coal under extreme and intense pressure. If it survives, you have a diamond. If it breaks apart and crumbles, then you just have coal. Not all lumps of coal are meant to be diamonds just like all athletes aren’t meant to be world class competitors. During practice, you must put your athletes under various situations that may pop up at a meet. Some athletes can learn and adapt quick, some have to be guided and talked through, others can just never seems to get past the little things that get in their way.

Can you give me an example of something you might do in practice to help get your throwers ready to handle a pressure situation?

For handling competition- At any time of the practice, I will bring up a meet time situation that they may be faced with. For example, Deanna might be at the middle or near the end of her practice and I will bring up a situation to where I will have her imagine that she is currently 4th place at the Olympic Trials, just been jumped by someone. I will say she has 1 or 2 more rounds to beat her best mark to make the Olympic team.

What is your role during competitions? At the NCAA meet, were you in a position where you could talk with DeAnna between throws? If so, can you characterize your interactions? Dave Dumble once told me that between attempts he tried to give his throwers a compliment on something they were doing well, then give them a suggestion on what to improve, then finish with some encouraging words. Can you tell me about your approach?

During competitions, most times I am at a place where I am able to talk to her. Leading up to big meets, I try to keep my coaching towards her simple in practice. That way if she messes up, I can use a simple cue that she’s very familiar with and it clicks in her head fast. That means less thinking and more competing. I also will let her know what she’s doing great during her throw and then will follow it up with something simple to fix. I try to be confident, aggressive, and excited when I say explain something to her. She really feeds off attitude and excitement.

Which competition this year presented the biggest challenge mentally, and how did you two deal with it?  Will the challenge at the Olympic Trials be to treat it like it is any other big meet and not get overwhelmed by its significance? If so, how will you manage that?

The biggest meet of the year for Deanna will be Olympic Trials. At a lot of the meets this year, Deanna has been trying to throw for a mark (college record). When she tried to throw for a certain mark, she actually tries way too hard and thinks too much about it, compared to when she competes against someone.

If you watched her compete at NCAAs, you could see what I am talking about. Even though she had a big throw in her and had a big sector foul over the fence, she was “going for broke” for a big mark. So far this year, she’s only had one meet with some competition in it. During that meet, her opening throw was over 70m, she had 2 other 71m throws and her final toss at 72.49m. At that meet she was more focused on the competition and it helped produce a little PR at the time in heavy training.

We will treat the Olympic trials like any other big meet she’s gotten ready for in the past. She’s going to have other high class hammer throwers that she can chase down and they will push her as well. One challenge will be to keep her excitement and eagerness contained. Coach John Smith and Coach Connie Price-Smith refer to her as a tiger when she competes, so I came up with the term “keep the tiger caged and hungry”. But she’s learned over the past couple years how to relax and keep her self slightly distracted Leading up the competition. She has a very good “on and off switch”. During practice and the day of competition, the switch is on. Most other times it’s off. If it’s not, I will help by changing the subject of conversation.

Chicagoland Throws – Elite Hammer

This video shows the entire women’s elite hammer competition.

http://youtu.be/EZD7EIrG4uc

 

Event 3  Women Hammer Throw Elite
==========================================================================
 NSAF Girls Hammer: 4 kg
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
==========================================================================
  1 Berry, Gwen                  Nyac-Nike               69.60m     228-04 
      67.37m  69.60m  69.45m  68.98m  68.97m  FOUL
  2 Smith, Kristin               USATF                   68.90m     226-00 
      67.11m  63.93m  FOUL  68.90m  63.73m  66.75m
  3 Pleger, Brooke               USATF                   68.66m     225-03 
      64.68m  65.65m  63.05m  FOUL  68.66m  FOUL
  4 Henry, Brittany              USATF                   67.05m     220-00 
      63.15m  67.01m  FOUL  66.11m  FOUL  67.05m
  5 Bush, Taylor                 USATF                   65.10m     213-07 
      64.01m  63.22m  64.20m  FOUL  65.10m  64.26m
  6 Showalter, Haley             NSAF                    59.17m     194-01 
      58.46m  FOUL  FOUL  57.47m  59.17m  56.45m
  7 Jacobsen, Courtney           NSAF                    52.96m     173-09 
      51.90m  50.51m  50.83m  50.22m  FOUL  52.96m
  8 Wilson, Alyssa               NSAF                    51.89m     170-03 
      FOUL  FOUL  49.25m  47.35m  48.52m  51.89m
  9 Antill, Kaylee               NSAF                    51.47m     168-10 
      48.30m  50.09m  FOUL  51.47m  FOUL  FOUL
 10 Thomas, Makena               NSAF                    48.01m     157-06 
      FOUL  45.39m  46.56m  48.01m  FOUL  FOUL

 

This video shows the entire men’s elite hammer competition.

 

 

Event 4  Men Hammer Throw Elite
==========================================================================
 NSAF Boys Hammer: 12 lb.
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
==========================================================================
  1 Kelly, Adam                  NSAF                    74.10m     243-01 
      70.82m  74.10m  71.27m  73.65m  73.96m  73.92m
  2 Morse, Tim                   USATF                   66.70m     218-10 
      65.62m  65.46m  FOUL  65.49m  66.70m  FOUL
  3 Whitener, Seth               NSAF                    64.18m     210-07 
      FOUL  62.28m  FOUL  64.18m  FOUL  63.81m
  4 Thornton, Darian             USATF                   62.13m     203-10 
      FOUL  62.13m  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL
  5 Alvernaz, Michael            NSAF                    60.78m     199-05 
      59.15m  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL  60.78m  FOUL

USA Hammer Throwing Needs a USA Approach (by John Smith)

I understand the European model of developing hammer throwers. Starting kids at eight years old like they do in the hammer throwing countries is beyond a doubt a proven way of developing the hammer. Unfortunately, even though there are pockets of places training young kids to throw the hammer in this country and that is a big bonus to the event in the USA, it simply doesn’t reach enough talents kids. As much as the former Soviet system was admired for the techniques they developed, their real secret to their success was the 1000’s of talented people, many talented coaches and all the training and hammer data they had collected during that process that pertained to hammer development, specific strength training and special exercises that developed and produced those medal stand guys.

We need a system much like we have now for the shot and discus in the high schools, but this will never happen in our Politically Correct school systems. There is just too much liability, too many lawyers, and too much money to build the cages and fields for many school districts. The NCAA system, then, is our minor league for this event. The best talent ends up in the NCAA system in the throws and it is up to the college coaches to identify good shot and discus guys who might end up being better hammer throwers.

The problem with this event is we won’t be successful taking the European 10-15 year approach. Our kids have to be throwing 70m-75m coming out of college to have a chance to continue. Hammer is great cross training for the discus and the rotational shot and benefits both those events. The more guys we can expose to this event in college the better chance we have of finding a guy with 80m talent. Lance is a good example of this. Excellent discus thrower, good shot putter and world class hammer thrower after he left college.

We do not have the time to start a thrower on a light implement and throw it 75-80m and then the next year hand him a slightly bigger implement and take the year to match the distance from the year before. Also, throwing a light ball far at the young ages is no guarantee that the same athlete will throw the international weight far. Europe is full of athletes that throw fantastic at young ages that never make it with the bigger implements. From what I see we need to train this event 65/70% Overweight, and 65-70% Speed during the college years to accelerant the progress of the event. Some aspects of the event will be neglected, but we don’t have a choice the way our system is set up.

Much has been written and discussed about the Bondarchuk Methods of training the hammer. His system is awesome and all based on competition length hammers that are heavy down to light. The heavy hammers are the main work of the system and the light lifting is used as the stimulus to drive the heavy hammer work. This stuff works without a doubt but takes many years to build and especially for the masses. Now back to the 65/70% Overweight, 65/70% speed. In order to make up for the years of concentrating on making light implements go far, the hammer has a unique aspect to it by allowing coaches to change wire lengths to affect speed. This allows a heavy implement to become a speed implement at the same time. Hammer training with the use of different length implements can be tweaked to find recipes that will build the specific strength and the speed at the same time by using weights, ½ wire, ¾ wire, or whatever lengths you can put in your hammer training toolbox. Even extra-long implements have a place in the training for addressing certain problems. I have athletes that thrive off of short wires as the main tool of their training, some that thrive off of weights and long hammers, some that thrive off of extra-long hammers and ½ wires etc…Every thrower has what I call their implement recipe to get the desired results. We make the hammer too difficult in this country. This event is all about time and reps. It takes years to build distance with normal length hammers for training. This event is all about ten feet per pound. If you can throw an 18lb 60m and your 14lb is 72m then your 16lb will be around 66m. The light implement is just as important as the heavy to the total outcome of the competition implement. This is simply what the Soviets were doing. Yuri threw the 10k 70m, the 5k 100M (according to Bondarchuk’s book) and the middle ground of that is 85m. If the athlete is a good technician and has speed he will exceed that number by 1- 2 per cent and if he is not he will be down by 1-2 per cent. This is the game of hammer throwing. Finding the recipe to make light and heavy implements go far. If you throw a lot of light only you will get stuck, and if you throw heavy only you will get stuck. In hammer training I have seen time and time again that the heavy ball moves first, then the light ball will move second and then the middle will move. Sometimes the heavy will go far and the light will go far and you won’t see the middle move for 9-12 months and then boom! a 5m jump with the competition weight. Hammer progress is being made as long as something in the throwing is getting better. However, the lifting to hold up to this type of training has to be more intense and certain hammer workouts have to be put on certain days to maintain progress. There are hammer workouts that go very well the day a heavy lift, two days after a heavy lift, and three days after heavy lift and this is all due to how the CNS is recovering and muscular system of the body is recovering. They both recover at different rates.

Now, to end this paper I would like to say that we hurt ourselves also. The hammer is an event where recruiting foreign throwers is a great advantage. A guy entering college with ten years of hammer experience is no match for the junior with three years of experience. The money spent on these guys does little to develop the event in this country. I have heard for 30 years now how having foreign hammer throwers will help American hammer throwing, but the numbers are not there to support this. What it really does is just limit the pool of USA athletes that can receive support for the event. Every NCAA coach in this country is needed to develop this event so we can find that guy with the 80m talent.