By Michael Battista Sports Editor
Following any sporting event, coaches usually gather their players around and give them a talk. They discuss how to improve, what they did well and what to tweak for the next event around the corner. However, while every varsity sport at the College has a head coach, track and field lack coaches that specialize in certain events.
Track and field, as the name implies, is more than just running. There are a number of events that athletes can train for and participate in, all of which take time and dedication to master. The throwers at the College have faced some difficulties during the current season, though, as they lack a coach that specializes in the throwing events.
“We’ve been without a coach since (the end of last season), which is frustrating because each of us puts in time and effort into getting better,” sophomore thrower Daniel Nason said. “But the potential is capped when there isn’t a coach to instruct us and make improvements that make us better.”
Throwing events are contested in both the indoor and outdoor seasons of track and field. During the winter months, athletes participate in the shot put and weight throw events — events that have implements that will not travel as far, and thus, can be performed indoors. During the outdoor season, the weight throw is left out of the lineup and athletes can participate in the shot put, as well as the discus, hammer and javelin throws. Throwers are awarded points by comparing how far their implement was thrown compared to the other event participants.
In any part of track and field, whether it be the throwing group or any of the four other events athletes train for at the College, having someone with expertise is always a benefit, according to junior throwing captain Billy Castore.
“When you make a mistake, there’s four other people trying to tell you what to do and we all think we’re right,” Castore said. “But if someone was a coach… he would kind of be the authoritative person to tell you, ‘This is what you need to do, this is what you’re doing wrong.’”
The technique-heavy aspect of throwing, according to Nason, is one of the key reasons why having a throwing coach would be highly beneficial.
“The throwing events rely heavily on technique, so having someone who knows what to look for can really help us not only throw farther, but also give us a better chance at placing and helping the team,” Nason said. “A coach does more than just know the technique, however. A coach also inspires his or her athletes to do their best and makes the athletes excited to come out and compete every day, whether in practice or at the meets.”
The College’s head track and field coach, Justin Lindsey, echoed that sentiment.
“Well, ideally the challenge is working on the technical aspects, and that’s definitely the biggest challenge,” Lindsey said. “That’s the reason we’re looking to get a new coach in… and we’ve discussed that with the group every other week. The biggest challenge is not having someone there to correct the technical mishaps.”
And not having the finances as a team with as many specialized events such as track and field has can add to that challenge.
“Where we are as a program financially, it makes it challenging,” Lindsey said. “This is not just our program. There’s a lot of programs around, even in Division I, that struggle with getting all the events covered with a quality event coach given the finances and resources at their disposal.”
Even when the group is able to practice, Castore said the different events that are a part of throwing also pose an issue.
“With throwing, you basically have to be watched a lot because that’s how you get fixed,” Castore said. “With running, the coach is watching you run the track because they’re timing you, and with throwing events, someone needs to be looking at you full time. It was kind of hard, even when coach Anthony (San Fillippo) was here, because javelin is all the way across the field, discus is over here, shot (put) is over there. So you would need three coaches at once to fulfill his role.”
While the lack of an event coach has hampered the group, the Lions continue to improve in the throwing department.
The group had a disappointing start to the 2015-16 season, as they faced tough opponents like Princeton and Monmouth universities.
At the Metro Holiday Season Opener on Saturday, Dec. 5, the group’s first meet without an event coach, both the men and women struggled. Sophomore Joseph Ratner placed 16th out of 37 in the men’s shot put and was the highest-placed member of the men’s group.
The women didn’t fare much better, as sophomore Megan Nugent placed 31st out of 37 in the women’s shot put. Nugent and senior Allison Ruszczyk placed 20th and 22nd, respectively, out of 25.
Since then, the group has improved in every subsequent meet, finishing higher each time. Nason feels the continued improvement since then is a testament to the team’s ability.
“I think a lot of it can be attributed to the character of the throwers and their ability to continue to work hard in spite of not having an (event) coach to guide us,” Nason said. “The fact that we are still improving shows that we are putting the work in to get better outside of just the sport. The strength and conditioning coach, Addison Savela, designed a program specifically for our event group that helped us, as well, getting in better condition for the season.”
Nason thinks that while the team can still improve this season, they are also looking forward to the outdoor track and field season once this current one is over.
“Hopefully we can continue this success into the upcoming outdoor season by continuing to work hard and improve each day so we can help the team bring home a conference title at the end of the season,” he said.
However, Nason believes that in spite of not having an event coach, the group hasn’t made one of its own players an impromptu coach. The men’s team is composed of three sophomores and one junior, Castore, while the women’s side has two freshmen, one sophomore and a senior, Ruszczyk.
“I don’t really think any one person could be attributed with the title ‘coach,’” Nason said. “So far, we’ve just tried to use our collective knowledge of each event to help improve each other’s technique. By this point, everyone has had at least some experience in each event, so we know what to look for and try to correct it by watching and recording throws in practice to work out the kinks. That being said, the upperclassmen have stepped up in the leadership role. Both Billy and Allison try to help us in our events and motivate and encourage us to work hard to improve.”
Nugent also praised the upperclassmen of the group.
“I mean, Billy’s captain and Allison is a senior, so I feel they’ve been helpful and coaches almost,” Nugent said.
As the outdoor track and field season continues up until late May, the event group may be getting a coach soon. The Sports Information Desk has posted, as of Wednesday, March 2, information on the NCAA website trying to hire a new throwing event coach.
“(The) desired candidate will design and implement a full training program for the throwers, recruit competitive athletes for the program and fulfill other duties as assigned by the head coach,” the announcement said.