This fall, Cal State University Northridge appointed the fine American shot putter Eric Werskey as assistant track coach in charge of the throws.
Recently, Eric was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding his coaching mentors and the CSUN program. We also touched on his inside knowledge of the German throwing community courtesy of his relationship with the outstanding hammer thrower Kathrin Klaas, and a very timely video he appeared in this summer alongside Klaas, Robert Harting, and Julia Fischer.
Congrats on your new job at CSUN! First of all, can you tell me how this came about? Did you have a master plan of transitioning into coaching or did this opportunity sort of pop up?
Coaching at the collegiate level has been a career goal of mine once I saw myself “retiring” from sport. When training for the 2012 Olympic Trials in my hometown, I would volunteer coach at local high schools. With the development I had under Jerry Clayton at Auburn University plus my volunteer experiences, I knew I wanted to develop student-athletes at the collegiate level. However, after the USA Trials, Art Venegas reached out to me about training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. It was a no-brainer decision to pack my bags and move to Chula Vista. I spent three years learning Art’s system as well as training among some of the best throwers in the USA and world (Joe Kovacs, Whitney Ashley, Tia Brooks, Jessica Cosby, and many others). I learned an invaluable amount training among these athletes and wanted to begin to share my experiences and develop athletes myself. After the 2015 season’s completion, I discussed several options with Jerry and Art and we all decided it was best to pursue my coaching career.
I knew a head coach would be taking a risk on me considering I had no collegiate coaching experience. With that said, I want to thank California State University Northridge head coach Avery Anderson and his staff for bringing me on board! I am very excited and looking forward to the opportunities here. Cal State Northridge has a tradition of throws dating back to the late 1970’s and our goal is to bring the throws program back into the light again.
Are you going to continue training and competing?
Currently, my focus is on the kids and getting the program heading in the right direction. I still lift and do some drills with the kids, yet my focus is on the student-athletes.
Can you give me one thing that you learned from Art and one thing from Jerry that you have applied to your coaching so far?
It is very hard to pick one thing specifically that Coach Clayton and Art left me with as they both taught me an invaluable amount. Coach Clayton laid the foundation and helped spark my interest in becoming a coach. He would have a systematic approach to each event and taught us to really take ownership of our training and pay attention to our bodies. Art helped further my interest in coaching. He advocated believing in the system you are in and taught me to seek the finest details that ultimately build the bigger picture.
Can you tell me something about CSUN? What is it about the place that would be attractive to a prospective recruit?
CSUN is definitely a great place to be. The school itself is very modern with solid facilities. Plus, us being in Southern California and suburban Los Angeles, we are able to train year round. For a “smaller school” (though CSUN has over 35 thousand students) we are not shy when it comes to our competitive schedule. In the past the team would travel to the NYC Armory, Texas Relays, and the UCSD Triton Invite to name a few. We believe to contend for championships we have to give our student-athletes the best opportunities to compete among the best in the country on a regular basis. Also, for throwing training, we actually have our own field designated for throws only. It’s a great set up and allows us to get great training in with minimal distractions.
Have your experiences in Germany and knowledge of the German system influenced your ideas about coaching?
Absolutely! I have been fortunate enough to spend the last two summers in Germany. I have learned a lot from my girlfriend, Kathrin Klaas,..
…and how she structures her training and what cues she feels and looks for her in her throwing. I’ve been able to discuss many ideas with her and adopt some of her drills and cues into my own training plan. I have been lucky enough to watch her prepare for the 2014 European Championships and World Championships at their federal training center in Kienbaum as well. In Kienbaum, I was able to watch the best German throwing athletes train and gather some good ideas. Also, I spent many days discussing training ideas with German Federal hammer and javelin Coach Helge Zöllkau. I was given some incredible insight into his program and how he approaches training with his club athletes and elite level athletes.
One last topic. You made a vid this summer with Kathrin, German discus champion Julia Fischer, and Robert Harting. That vid seems pretty timely after the release of the recent WADA report. Can you describe how that vid came about and share your thoughts about the current situation with the IAAF?
The video was created when the first articles were released over the summer stating the IAAF had been sweeping positive tests under the rug and accepting bribes from GOBs to protect certain athletes. Not only is it ethically wrong, but the integrity of our sport to the highest level has come in question. The video is to show that athletes are tired of battling the cheaters of our sport and, now, the governing body.
The video came about actually during a training camp in Kienbaum. The leaked articles were being discussed during breakfast and Robert and Julia asked Kathrin and I if we would be in support of and be part of making this video. We spent the next two days between training times creating the video and reaching out to people who had been affected by doping. We created the hashtag #HITIAAF (honesty, integrity and transparency) to help create awareness about how we as a whole are not only battling cheaters in our events, but also the IAAF. The video went on YouTube on a Sunday afternoon and by Tuesday we had over 80 thousand views, I believe. If you have not seen it yet, here is the link:
In light of the new findings of bribery and doping scandals, this video definitely drives home what we we stand for… Honesty, Integrity and Transparency #HITIAAF.