Ryan Whiting is one of the greatest shot putters ever to chuck the orb. As a collegiate thrower at Arizona State, Ryan won six NCAA titles (five in the shot, one in the discus) and set the NCAA indoor shot put record with a throw of 71’3 ½”. As a professional, Ryan won shot put gold at the 2012 and 2014 Indoor World Championships and silver at the 2013 Outdoor World Championships.
As his career has advanced, Ryan has taken an interest in coaching, and many young throwers have benefited from the drills and technical advice that he posts on Instagram. In addition, Ryan happens to be a great guy. Rob Lasorsa, the long time USATF Shot Put Development Chair, says that “Not only is Ryan a tremendously accomplished athlete, he is also extremely intelligent, a wonderful family man, and an excellent coach. For younger athletes at all levels, Ryan is the epitome of a perfect role model. Simply an immensely professional person and the definition of ‘Class.’”
The Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association is pleased to announce that Ryan will be presenting at our annual clinic, which will take place January 11 and 12 at the Lombard Westin Hotel.
I recently conducted a Q&A with Ryan via email so that he could give folks a better idea of what to expect from him in January:
First off, I saw you have a new coaching website. Can you tell us about that?
I wanted to begin coaching in a more formal way, so I decided to begin Desert High Performance for that purpose.
So the website is designed to help you build a group of athletes that you will train in Arizona?
Yes, in Arizona and online as well. A lot of areas don’t have good throws coaches available, and I am looking to cater to them and teach them things they couldn’t have learned locally.
It is widely believed that the best athletes do not make the best coaches because it is hard for them to relate to the struggles of a less talented person. How are you able to find common ground with a sixteen-year-old trying to improve from 35 feet to 45 feet in the shot?
Throwing is all about self improvement. I try to relate to them on that level, because in the end we are both trying to do the same thing: throw further and improve. I have found that in my time coaching over the past few years, I have understood my throw better than ever. That better understanding has led to a better ability to relate what I feel during a throw into useful cues and drills for someone just starting or looking to squeeze out the last few centimeters.
Can you tell us more about the online coaching. There are likely kids in Illinois who would be interested. How does it work?
I started my website when I got back from my travels this year and wanted a more formal avenue for people to come to me for coaching. I want to teach people not only technically what I learned from all of the great coaches I have had (Glenn Thompson in high school, Dave Dumble in college, TJ Crater, Pat Ebel and Brian Blutreich as a pro) but mentally what I have learned from competing. On top of that, I have learned a lot about strength and conditioning and the little extra things (grip, diet, plyos, sleep, etc.). One of the most important things I feel that I can offer is the wealth of experience and knowledge I have gotten from interacting with the most elite athletes in the world for the past ten years. People like Aries Merritt (2012 Olympic champ in the 110m hurdles) impressed upon me motivation in the face of adversity (he set the world record and one year later needed kidney surgery). The sport has given me a lot and I feel like I have been processing it all and organizing it in my mind into a useful skill set that I can offer to other people. I am trying to offer online coaching that provides a service that I feel is missing from the track and field community. I want to provide a technical expertise, a mentor and turn kids into not only great throwers (distance wise), but also receptive and coachable athletes for the coaches that I inevitably pass them on to. I appreciate my athletic gifts, and the best gift I was given as a young athlete was from Glenn Thompson telling me that he wasn’t the best coach in the world and that I needed to be receptive to all coaching and learn how to take the things that make sense to me technically and discard the things that don’t work. This is how I got where I am. I can feel it, and I want to pass it on from where I sit now. Hopefully, people listen…and throw really, really far.
Can you give me a brief overview of the topics you’d like to cover at the January clinic and what coaches can expect at each session?
For rotational shot and discus lectures [Note: Ryan will be doing a traditional presentation on the shot and another on the disc on January 11, followed by a learn-by-doing session on each on January 12] I will be going through a basic drill progression as well as a general mental approach to throwing.
For the learn-by-doing, I will go over basic drills for both shot put and discus. In addition, I will be teaching and showing basic hand positioning for both shot put and discus. I will also be discussing and demonstrating some basic plyometric exercises useful for both shot put and discus.
And the learn-by-doing sessions will give coaches the opportunity to dust off the old throwing shoes and actually try the drills if they want to, right?
Yup. I will make examples of them and what they are doing wrong