The Long & Strong page is PUMPED to bring you the first in a series of interviews with John Smith. John is the husband/coach of Connie Price-Smith, America's arguably America's greatest female thrower ever. As you are about to see, John is very candid and honest regarding the world of throwing. I recently had the pleasure of a long phone call with John and it was eye opening to say the least. There's no bull---- here.
This first interview will give you some background info on John and those that will follow will give you John's views on Connie, technique, training, and some of the fallacies and myths that are associated with elite athletics. LISTEN UP!!!
L&S: John, please give our readers some background information on yourself as a competitor. Do you compete currently?
JS: in which one still exist, still hold the school shot put record, and was an all-American in 1984 on a team that placed 5th at the NCAA'S that contained 14 all-Americans. I also did all the throws coaching from my sophomore year on. I made a USA team in 1986 against Great Britain and two Olympic festivals teams.
I became a grad assistant for the women's team in 1985-1987 where I improved to 65.1shot, 187.9 discus, 206.4 hammer, 63.51/2 35lb wt. In the fall of 1987 I had reached 68.0 feet in practice but I fractured my foot 5 times in 11 months which basically ended my career.
I do not compete currently, but train with Connie and sometimes throw against high school kids. I may try the Scottish Games, because a friend at the health club had me try a few events. I threw the 28lb wt 68 feet after doing it twice the 56lb wt 32.3, the 16lb hammer 108, and the 22lb hammer 76. Haven't tried the other events yet, but they look like fun. I can still clean 145k, snatch 120k, squat 550, bench 400.
From L-R: John Schulte, Terry Schulte (Father), John Smith, and Connie Price-Smith
L&S: I first recall hearing of your home in Portage, IN, which was something of a haven to up and coming throwers. Please tell us about that time period.
JS: The backyard throwing facility in Portage Indiana consisted of two discus rings, 1 shot ring and one hammer ring with cage and a weight room in the homemade gym, with an indoor throwing net. The backyard was a great place and to this day it's what I missed most about living in Portage. From 1980-1993 the backyard produced 18 state champions-10 girls and 8 boys, 38 other top 6 state finishes, 18 division one full-ride athletes, 3 state record holders, 3 high school all-americans,1 national champion, and 5 USA junior team members. The backyard kids won 27% of all the state places from 1980-1993. The backyard records were 65.1 boys shot, 217.1 boys discus, 48.2 girls shot, 159.8 girls discus. In this time at least 50 division schools visited the backyard, along with Brain Oldfield in 1993, who put on a great show on a wet cold afternoon in April. George Dunn also used to come over at times and bring his throwers. At times their would be 20 kids waiting for me to get home from work to do some coaching. The house is sold now, but I'm told by the new owners that people still come by and ask if they can use the backyard and throw.
L&S: Since your move to Bloomington, what does your coaching schedule consist of?
JS: My real job is being the office manager for the family Industrial Painting business which takes 45-50 hours a week. During Connie's season we usually lift Monday and Thursday nights if the meet falls on Saturday. I work with her throwing on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, on my lunch hour and Friday she is usually traveling. The high school kids I work with come down on the weekends and the local kids I work with on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Currently I have one boy who has thrown 62.8 and 189.10, and one girl who has thrown 44.10. I also coach 9 guys on Friday nights and Saturday mornings that belong to the Iron Pit Powerlifting Team. I would say I still spend 10-15 hours a week coaching as my hobby.
L&S: Contrast the satisfaction of being a competitor versus that of being a coach.
JS: Its much harder being a coach than an competitor. As an athlete I was just responsible for myself. As a coach I feel responsible for all failures for anyone I work with. The satisfaction for me is the same for both. I have two rules for my coaching. I treat all athletes the same despite their talent level and the athlete is to receive all Glory for their throwing. I instruct all my kids to never mention me in any article, but I will help promote them when recruiting time comes.
L&S: Most people in the throwing community might be more familiar with your wife, Connie Price-Smith. Tell us how you first met and how she got her start in throwing.
JS: In 1985 after Connie completed 4 years of basketball, she came out for track because she was bored. I was coaching at SIU and she decided she wanted to throw shot again, and I said great but you also have to learn to throw discus. The first day I seen Connie throw shot, she threw 42 feet, the same that she had thrown in high school. I was amazed by her ability and I quickly started teaching her to lift and throw as fast as I could. The first day she lifted, Connie squatted 225, hang cleaned 135, and benched 135. These are good lifts for someone who never lifted, and at this point I knew she was something truly special.
L&S: Is it difficult to work with your wife in this capacity?
JS: Sometimes being a coach/husband can be hard, but for the most part its been a good situation.
L&S: From our phone conversation and from seeing your posts on the net, you seem to be very open regarding your knowledge of technique and training at the elite level. This is refreshing as there are some in throwing community who are very secretive about such things and tend to be arrogant about their levels of success. How did you come to be so open?
JS: When I was young I searched hard for someone to help me with my throwing and greatly appreciated it when I found a man name Jim Moody. I went to college because of a coach named Rob Roeder who worked with me for one year. To this day I credit Rob with 80% of what I know and how I coach in regards to throwing. Rob ended up working for our company and spent many hours coaching me and for me in the Portage backyard. Now back to the question, I tend to be more open because I got tired of coaches and athletes doing articles and doing clinics and not giving you the real story. In the past I have seen so-called great technical throwers lie about their weight room pb's and lie about their standing throws distances, etc. For example myself and Connie where invited to a women's throws summit in Florida a few years back. It was supposed to be a exchange of training and technique ideals ect. But to my amazement when strength levels were asked, and standing throws, and how to peak was discussed I was one of the few talking. I even threw out 3 years of Connie's training and no one even looked at it. If the throwers/coaches who read this could see the power levels of some of our so-called top technical throwers, then the aura of greatness of the athlete and their coaches would go away. Later in this article I will post Connie's weight room personal bests. When I post them I want you to remember that in the past 10 years there's been 10 US women stronger than Connie, and one of them was 30% stronger then Connie.
L&S: I firmly believe that you can often learn alot more about throwing from a local competitor than from watching an Olympian. Do you agree?
JS: I have seen many novice throwers try to copy a top thrower, that they were already technically better than. If I know a throwers standing throw, weight room pb's, performance tests, ect. and see them throw in person, then I can make an good decision on their technical ability. I've seen many college throwers who were on the small side physically, that technically did great things and threw around 60 in the shot and 180 in the discus.
Sometimes it can be damaging to a whole generation of throwers who try to copy one great thrower like in the case of Big Al and his style of gliding. Al as a small man, threw a world record which gave him the title of greatest technician ever. Almost everybody since AL has been teaching and doing his technique, along with myself with Connie in 1985-1986. This is why, I believe that America has converted to the spin and we have no world class gliders except for Connie. In 1982 Goerge Woods predicted that this very thing would happen.
In fact, I had no facts to support this until recently on THE RING Andy Baren stated: "They called AL "The Technician" and considered his technique to be the perfect biomechanical technique. This was also given the stamp of approval by their top biomechanist and probably the worlds top one for many years Professor Gerhard Hochmuth and the training programs were established based on this technique including all relevant drills that were supposed to be used in training. However, they had many problems with this for they had some athletes that just couldn't do what they did in training (drills ect.) and when it came to competition these athletes would leave their foot at the 10-11 o'clock position. Believe me they tried everything, but in the end the coaches and biomechanists decided to tackle the problems with other answers. If you look at Timmerman you will see where he places his right foot and as I stated this caused a problem as to the sound biomechanical effectiveness of A'ls technique. The answer my friends lies in the speed that Timmerman and others, who could not adapt to bringing that right foot under, and although the right foot "left behind" it made the turn before the hips and shoulders which was/is the main objective."
When I switched Connie in 1987 from AL's technique to the old American/European type Gliding Connie's throwing went from 56-60 in five weeks with the same 53 foot standing throw and strength levels. If the Germans gave up on Al's technique with their systematic approach to throwing, then as a country we really have to asked ourselves, do we spin because it's America's shot technique or did it evolve because, as a country we failed at the glide. Andy Baren has given out what used to be top-secret information on the German throwing system. When he appears, everyone on The Ring should ask questions.
L&S: What do you consider the biggest problem facing the throwing events today? Is there a remedy?
JS: The biggest problems as I see it, is one the lack of support once an athlete finishes college, and the second is throwers taking drugs. I have seen to many talented kids give up because of the hardship that follows college. The USOC does a poor job of supporting our athletes and I don't see it changing until our sprinters start losing all their medals. As long as track has a good medal haul nothing will change. Throwers are looked upon as a high risk discipline that requires to many years or training and expertise, with a chance that they may come up banned. On the other hand all the throwers in this country that have tested positive has killed it for everyone else. Shoe Companies have taken a very tough position on having throwers and their so-called unmarketability. It will take years to recover from this and better testing is the only way out, because the sport has to show better creditability.
L&S: Can you name some elite level competitors who you feel are the best technicians?
US Women's glide shot: Price-Smith, Steer, Cavanaugh
US Mens glide shot: Stulce, Brenner, Matson, Woods, Feuerbach
US Mens spin shot: Oldfield, Laut, Doehring, Crouser, Tafralis, Godina
US Womens discus: Cady, Boyer, Barnes, Powell, Price-Smith
US Mens Discus: Wilkins, Powell, Silvester, Buncic, Hiesler, Crouser
WORLD Women's glide:Kumbernus, Neimke, Lisovskaya
WORLD Mens glide: Timmerman, Gunthor
World Women's discus: Hellmann, Khristova, Gansky
World Mens discus: Wolfgang, Riedel, Ubartus, Schult, Hjeltnes, Fernholm
L&S: What do you see for yourself in the future?
JS: I see myself running the family business, doing more things with Connie outside of track, and coaching any thrower that happens to come along.
And we're just getting started!!! John has much to share so be smart and soak up as much as you can. THANKS JOHN!