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Mac Wilkins' Throwing Tips

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Mac Wilkins' Throwing Tips

Mac Wilkins

Allen Steele/Getty Images
Former discus throw world record-holder and 1976 Olympic gold medalist Mac Wilkins turned to coaching shortly after his track and field career ended. Wilkins, who competed in all four throwing events at the University of Oregon, offers advice and tips for young throwers and their coaches. Wilkins was interviewed in February 2012 while attending the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association’s annual track and field clinic.

About.com: What advice would you offer to coaches with beginning throwers?:

Mac Wilkins: “I try to get beginners throwing with a full movement as soon as possible, like the very first day. You need to know what to do and what’s important and how to make that happen, but give them a sense of accomplishment. Give them something that they can learn. And give them a sense of, ‘Hey, it’s going better and better, and maybe I’ll come back tomorrow.’”

What should a coach look for in a thrower?:

“Motivation. The motivated kids are always the easiest to work with. Motivation is always the biggest factor.”

Is it better for a young thrower to specialize or to try multiple events?:

“As a young age it’s best to do multiple events, to learn different skills. To learn how to learn skills is important. To get overall, all-around development of learning skills and the strength and conditioning that comes with being able to do different events.”

By college age, are there certain throwers who should specialize?:

“I think in college these days, everybody has to do multiple events, more than one event. So that may or may not be good for their development in one special event. But that’s the way it is because the coaches need to keep their jobs and they keep their jobs by having their team score points, and you have teams score points, because you’ve only got so much scholarship money and you have to get as many points as possible per scholarship dollars that you have. So you have finite dollars and you need to get a maximum number of points, and so if you have somebody who can throw the shot put, they also need to throw the discus to score, and maybe the hammer as well. If you’re a javelin thrower you’re limited to one event, and that’s outdoors. You can’t throw javelin indoors, and you can’t throw the javelin in cross country. So distance running is usually the main event group that gets the most scholarship money, and so that’s the way it is in the American collegiate system and that’s not a system that develops international athletes, and it’s kind of like a dead end for track and field, and it’s a perversion of developing athletes for international sport. But it’s the American collegiate way.”

Should anything be done to change the U.S. college system?:

“For 95 percent, 98 percent of the collegiate track and field athletes it’s a way of helping to pay for their college education, so that’s a good thing. For the five percent or so – I don’t know what the number is – that go on to compete after college, the most important thing would be to find a way to not have to give so much blood to the college program. When you’re in college and after college, have a way to help bridge the gap from being a top college performer to being an international performer, where you can make a living, if you ever get to that point. So that’s the difficult part. You’ve got to have a full-time job to support yourself, but if you do that you can’t train. But you need money to support yourself while you train, and how you get that is kind of the question.”

How can a thrower develop the right mindset for an individual event?:

“I think you have to know what you’re doing and you have to have success every day and build on that success daily, throughout a period of time. And just focus on what works. If you don’t know what works, if you’re not having success on a daily basis it’s going to be hard to be confident when you compete.”

What went through your mind when you were in the circle?:

“Generally I tried to focus on one thing, whatever that might be at the time in terms of my technique and my throwing and so on.”

Read more about the Mac Wilkins Throwers Academy and discus throw technique.

Check out part 1 and part 2 of the Mac Wilkins interview, as Wilkins discusses his throwing and coaching career.

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