Sioux Falls Project TJ and Jav Clinic with Sanford is a massive success

by Steve Underwood

If you had dropped in at any point during the NSAF’s groundbreaking Project Javelin Gold and Project Triple Jump Clinic this past weekend in Sioux Falls, S.D. – held with and supported by Sanford POWER and the Sanford Sports Science Institute – you might have witnessed one or more of the following:

  • More than two dozen top prep jumpers, throwers and multi-eventers jumping, sprinting and shuttling through some intensely fun group testing at the Sanford POWER Fieldhouse;
  • Olympian and triple jump world-record setter Willie Banks – serving here as a guest coach – joyfully (and very skillfully) leading jumpers through an innovative aerobic dance class-like warmup routine at Howard Wood Field;
  • Olympians and American record-setters Duncan Atwood and Tom Pukstys patiently teaching the youngest javelin throwers both indoors and out, and marveling at their (in many cases) amazing pre-teen skills;
  • Not one, not five, but SEVEN Olympians hosting robust roundtable discussions at the Sanford Coyote Center at University of South Dakota with the above-mentioned jumpers and throwers;
  • These same student-athletes moved to tears of self-realization during Dr. Margaret Ottley’s fully engaging sports psychology sessions;
  • Some of the sport’s hottest technology on display and on trial, whether it was VULCAM’s synchronized multi-angle video production or Agogie’s wearable resistance tights;
  • A plethora of fun, informative and challenging training and classroom sessions for more than 70 participants spread over five days, four world-class venues and taught by more than half a dozen of the world’s best event coaches.

The clinic had something great for everybody –all levels and abilities of young athletes, using an inclusive, holistic approach.

The week started with our 19 Project athletes – including four new jumpers and two new throwers on the 2017-18 rosters, plus 11 returnees and two multis athletes – and expanded to include 50 additional athletes and coaches by Saturday. Twenty-five (!) states were represented by the 71 participants.

The Project Triple Jumpers included newcomers Tatiana Marsh, Ty Trihn, Triston Delicema and Nick Drayden – two attending their very first NSAF event – as well as returnees Saudia James-Heard, Allyson Weiss, Marcus Floyd and India Turk. The newest Project Javelin throwers were Dana Baker and Sam Hankins, both of whom joined during the American JavFest weekend. They were joined by returnees Gavin Darcy, Roman Mitchell, Ty Hampton, Joe Nizich, Zechariah Blake, Skylar Ciccolini and Lillian Hill. Also training with Project Javelin last weekend, improving the penultimate event of their respective decathlon and heptathlon, were #CSICuba17 Team NSAF members Kyle Garland and Anna Hall.

Testing at Sanford

Let’s start with Sanford, the NSAF’s new partner, whose facilities were profoundly enjoyed and appreciated and whose testing was challenging, mutually beneficial and … fun!

The battery of tests included detailed physiological evaluations in a controlled environmental chamber, comprehensive gait analysis, fitness testing, sport nutrition testing and consults – all during private, individual testing appointments during the first two days for the Project athletes. Then there was Thursday morning’s group testing experience: That generated a great deal of excitement, on the field and in the gym at the Fieldhouse, as groups of 5-6 athletes were tested on vertical and broad jumps, short sprints, lateral movement and a climactic 300-yard shuttle run.

“That was an experience, let me tell you,” laughed Gabby D’Amore, who has trained with Project Coach Barry Krammes at The Javelin Factory in Pennsylvania. Like several athletes, she was pleasantly surprised with receiving one of the highest Sanford Scores during Sunday’s test results presentation and special t-shirt awards by Sanford’s Thayne Munce. “I didn’t expect to place that high."

The testing will be particularly valuable for returning athletes, who can retest, compare results and learn how they correlate with performance.

During the testing, and throughout the weekend, the athletes and coaches were able to enjoy much of what Sanford had to offer in its massive Fieldhouse, with 62,000 square feet of field turf and a well-loaded gym, as well as the unique Stanford Pentagon – which included convenient meeting space along with its impressive five-sided array of basketball/volleyball courts.

Meet the Olympians at USD

Thursday night included a side trip to the University of South Dakota – which was special in all kinds of ways. The athletes got to train for a few hours on USD’s brand new Lillibridge Track Complex and Gottsleben Field, with the throwers doing some additional javelin-specific testing and the jumpers getting some initial instruction from Coach Banks.

Then the evening included dinner and a special program that was developed in recent weeks as the NSAF realized it could potentially have seven Olympians in one place to share their experiences with the kids. The golden seven included USD coaches Derek Miles (pole vault, ’04, ’08 and ’12) and A.G. Kruger (hammer throw, ’04, ’08 and ’12); former UCLA teammates Banks (triple jump, ’80, ’84 and ’88) and Greg Foster (110m hurdles, ’84; at the clinic with Agogie); Project Javelin Gold coaches Tom Pukstys (’92, ’96) and Duncan Atwood (’80, ’84); and Project Triple Jump Head Coach Peter Pratt – who qualified for the ’76 and ’80 Games for The Bahamas.

Each Olympian introduced himself and touched on his experiences, then the session graduated to roundtable discussions – three tables with 2-3 Olympians and several student-athletes each. Some extremely lively Q&A and discussion ensued, including Banks’ retelling of his triumphant 1981 Stockholm meet in the triple jump where he inaugurated the now-common practice of rhythmic clapping during jumps (and now throws).

Several great training, classroom sessions

Coaches and athletes – their numbers risen with additional weekend and single-day participants – then settled into two-and-half days of extensive pre-season training in their respective events, Friday through Sunday. At Howard Wood Field, the javelin throwers made good use of the brand new javelin runway, construction expedited for availability for this weekend, as well as the lush surrounding fields. Meanwhile, the triple jumpers had two side-by-side runways to work with, as well as the main stadium field with its quality artificial turf – which of course had football markings useful for drills, as well as being well-suited for Coach Banks’ unique, above-mentioned dance/warmup.

Coach Banks led several of the TJ sessions, infusing his own coaching style and meshing with the guidance of Coach Pratt and Coach Macka Jones – the Project TJ Coordinator. Meanwhile, Coaches Pukstys and Atwood were joined by Coaches Krammes and Kim Hamilton – both Olympic Trials finalists in the recent past.

The largest group of athletes, next to the Project kids, were the half-dozen youngsters – along with coaches, family, etc. – from the Cornhusker Flyers TC, based just a few hours away in Omaha, Neb. “It was fabulous,” said Flyers Coach Bianca Mata. “Great facility, great coaching here … I am blown away by what we’ve learned this weekend.”

Also, most of the jumpers and throwers were captured on video by VULCAM, a company founded by Asko Roine, who developed technology to use multiple smartphone video capture to create a “revolutionary floating viewpoint.” The resulting set of videos displayed jumps and throws from multiple angles – simultaneously in a stitched video. Near clinic’s end, coaches and athletes were able to analyze them during review sessions at the Pentagon and Fieldhouse.

Sports Psychology with Dr. Ottley

Finally, all in attendance were able to benefit from Dr. Margaret Ottley’s sports psychology sessions. Dr. Ottley – who has worked with multiple USA and Trinidad & Tobago Olympic and World Championship teams – has served with Team NSAF on its annual Cuba/CSI trip for many years, but now helps athletes other NSAF meets and Project clinics, as well. With Project Triple Jump featuring four new athletes out of eight, she first had a special session with them Friday evening – with some moving and impressive immediate results.

The Saturday session, however, was the largest (more than 80 athletes, coaches, family members) Dr. Ottley has ever conducted with the NSAF. The large meeting room at the Sanford Pentagon became an intimate one very quickly, however, as she took the attendees on a journey to understanding themselves and harnessing their mental faculties in ways they hadn’t imagined.

Meeting Dr. Ottley and the sessions may have been most special for Titiana Marsh who, it turns out, aspires to the same profession. “She’s helped me out a lot … and I can just see how she’s affected other people’s lives and that’s how I want to be. So it’s just been a great experience.”

Welcome to the family

Many of the athletes, especially those in a Project event for the first time, had a transformative weekend in Sioux Falls that gave them renewed energy for their athletic careers. Perhaps Triston Delicema, the rising junior triple jumper from Nashua North HS in New Hampshire, summed it up the best.

“When I first got here, I was like, ‘What’s going on, I don’t know who these people are … I was a little confused, a little nervous,” he recalled. “After a while, I started to meet people … it’s really like a mini family, you finally get to be with people who are like you, the same kind of elite athletes. The coaches really want to make sure that we grow and focus on not doing things wrong, and doing things the right way. They really want us to be something big.”


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