On a late Tuesday night after classes, the five members of the Dalhousie University Tigers throws team assemble in the depths of the Dalplex in the appropriately named throws room. The dimly-lit room, despite high ceilings, feels small. Two circles on the floor are littered with heavy balls and throwing hammers that will get launched into a large net on the far side of the room.
It might not seem like much, but this room has been crucial for the throws team. Before the renovations to the Dalplex in 2018, they were left without a place to train for their field events, shot put and weight throw.
Now with a designated space to train, the team practices five times a week. The average practice is an hour and a half of throwing reps into the net and technical work in the throws room, followed by an hour in the weight room doing strength training.
“It’s pretty intense. I didn’t realize how competitive my training was until I started comparing it to other people I saw train and asking them about their training schedule,” says third-year Temi Toba-Oluboka. Last season, she had a 10th place finish at the U Sports nationals in the weight throw. “It’s a really good program and competitive, even though we are so far out east.”
Most of their training is focused on technical work. That’s a deliberate choice, says throws coach and former Dalhousie Tiger Kirk Jessome.
“Building a huge technical foundation, especially in the beginning […] comes first, and strength is secondary,” he says. “If they [the athletes] are here for four or five years, we have lots of time to build strength, but the technique takes a long time to come.”
Not only do these athletes need to be in top physical form to launch heavy metal balls upwards of 10 metres into the air, they also need to be prepared mentally. Success for fourth-year Andre Hendricks is based on focusing ahead of time on what he needs to do when he steps into the circle.
“It is crucial, because not being mentally prepared could be the difference between last place and doing my best in a competition,” he says.
It’s seemed to work for him so far. Last season, Hendricks finished 11th at nationals in shot put.
Emphasizing mental training is a change that Jessome has tried to bring to the team since becoming the coach in 2018. That includes involving mental performance coaches when they need to, but a big part of it is recreating a meet-like atmosphere during practice.
“In our training [we] try and incorporate as many competition style environments as we can, just to prepare athletes as much as possible,” says Jessome.
At the time of writing, the team is preparing for the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) track and field championships, set for Feb. 21-22 in Saint John, N.B.