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Push the Hammer

Anatoliy Bondarchuk was an Olympic Champion in the hammer throw (1972). He coached ALL 3 Olympic medalists in the hammer throw in 1976 (he won bronze), 1980, 1988, and 1992.

He is a pretty good coach.

While Bondarchuk is known for some fascinating ideas about the transfer of training and truly unique ideas about programming and periodization, I’d like to focus on his communication with his athletes.

He apparently had one technical instruction, ‘push the hammer’.

As I understand it, when you ‘push the hammer’, everything comes together and the hammer goes far.

In training, his feedback after throws was similar in its brevity.


Whether you were a potential Olympic medalist or one of 12-year-old novices he was coaching later in his career, that was the feedback what you got.

It was up to you to figure it out.

His skill in coaching was how he facilitated the process of figuring it out, through carefully structured training tasks, a focus on manipulating throwing distances, frequent practice, and the design of specific exercises.

The system he developed to facilitate the learning process was unlike anything the sport had seen, and the results followed.

In an insightful article, Ed Smith observed that ‘because the important things are hard to coach, it is tempting to take refuge in the small, irrelevant things because they are easy.

This was something Bondarchuk realized, and he developed a system that focused on the important things, while resisting the impulse to focus and comment on the irrelevant.

What are the important things in swimming? How can we coach them?

Answering these questions is critical to coaching effectiveness, in spite of the inherent challenge in doing so.


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