Cory Martin, the 2008 NCAA champion in the shot put and hammer who has spent the past five years at the top level of the professional ranks (he finished ninth at the 2013 World Championships) has been named throws coach at the University of Indiana in Bloomington.
Though it is often said that great athletes make lousy coaches because their talent makes them arrogant (think Michael Jordan or Jay Cutler), they cannot relate to the “average” athlete, they have no patience for the grunt work of recruiting, or whatever, I am here to offer five reasons why Cory will be an exception to that rule.
1. Cory does not have an arrogant bone in his large body. When I interviewed him minutes after he won the NCAA shot title the same way he’d won the hammer title two days previously–on his final throw–all he talked about was how much he owed his success to his coach, Jerry Clayton. “I trust him so much,” Cory said at the time, “that if he told me eating dog poo would make me throw farther, I’d do it.” Hard to imagine Jay Cutler saying that about Mark Trestman, eh?
(A note to future IU throwers: if Cory invites you over for dinner, you might want to bring carryout)
2. Cory, the son of teachers, is a fine teacher himself. We hold a track clinic at Wheaton North every December, and last year I was lucky enough to get Cory to speak on rotational shot technique. I believe this was the first time he had presented at a clinic, but you’d have thought he’d been doing it for years. His presentation was clear, simple, and totally applicable to “average” throwers. I’ve been coaching high school kids for twenty years, and I walked away feeling like I’d learned a lot. I believe that there is such a thing as having a gift for communicating, and if so, Cory has that gift.
(A note to future attendees of presentations by Cory: you’ll learn a lot, but he sweats profusely while demonstrating so think twice before grabbing a seat in the front row)
3. Cory himself was trained by two remarkably successful college throws coaches: Jerry Clayton and John Smith. Assuming he was paying attention all those years–and I think that is a safe assumption–Cory has built up a tremendous knowledge base about how to construct a top notch throws program.
4. He is a big fan of Notre Dame football, which denotes him as a very patient man.
5. His wife, Taryn, is really nice and if Cory was a jerk she would not have married him.
Here is a conversation I recently had with Cory via email:
What are the steps necessary to lift the IU throwing program to the level you experienced at Auburn?
The Auburn throws program, while Coach Clayton was there, was one of the tops in country. In the 5 years I was there the group of throwers won 5 NCAA titles. He recruited top talent and continually made them better. Obviously he didn’t get it there overnight; it requires time. The first step is obviously identifying the talent. I am looking for the right kids that will fit in the program. This starts with getting the kids within the state of Indiana. We have had a lot of good talent leave the state and look elsewhere for college and that needs to change. I also have to look outside of the state and attract the top level talent and show them that IU is a great university, has a beautiful campus and is serious about becoming one of the top throws programs in the country. The second step is improving the performances of the student-athletes already here. It is a lengthy list of steps to make the program competitive in all events on both sides.
What will you borrow from the philosophies of Jerry Clayton, John Smith, and any other coach who has influenced you?
I have known Coach Clayton for almost 10 years and John going on 16 years. John was actually who got me started in throwing and also introduced me to Coach Clayton. I envy both of their coaching resumes in track and field. Both coaches’ philosophies start with well-rounded throwers. They want athletes that will come and do 4 events. There is a primary, secondary and tertiary focus within those four events that are being practiced. They also pay attention to the little details within training that end up being the difference makers as the athletes continue to progress. Those are two among many things I will incorporate into my program.
How will this decision influence your career as a world class shotputter?
My time as an athlete, in my mind, was going to end after five years in college. I was good enough to continue on which I thought would be until 2012. I have been fortunate enough to earn a living throwing a ball while traveling around the world, which is an awesome and amazing experience. My body has had a lot of beating over the years and I have had some great massage therapists and physios keeping it glued together. Eventually, I will have to stop. Coach Helmer and Indiana University offered me a great transition between competing and coaching. This year has been a year that I have seen some huge gains in certain areas and not in others. Throwing has been my occupation, but recently it has become a job. The fun of traveling and the necessity of looking at the sport as a business has weighed on the thrill of competition. I am going to see how coaching and competing work together next year and make a decision at the end of it. I would like to take a run at another World Championship team and Olympic team, but if it all ends tomorrow I can walk away knowing I accomplished more than I ever thought.
As you can see, this is a thoughtful young man. His career as a world class thrower might be nearing an end, but Cory has prepared himself to embark on a long and successful career at IU. My guess is that he will prove a worthy successor to men like Jerry Clayton and John Smith.