By Glenn Thompson
They are the defenders of an art form thought to be largely extinct outside of Europe. An art form that is the domain of oversized bench press champions from the old Soviet Bloc countries. In the U.S., especially at elite levels, practicioners of this method are the minority. If you check Darwinian evolution, man began throwing from the glide shortly after he began walking upright, but moved quickly to the rotational era, in which we live.
There are pockets of resistance however. One such clan is the DiGiorgio family of Bayonne, New Jersey, hard in the shadows of New York city. Name doesnt ring a bell? Its probably still warm under that rock I suggest you crawl back under it.
The DiGiorgio family has mastered the glide and have been a constant presence on the national high school shot lists for the past six years. Eldest brother Kevin (now age 22) set the family standard, only to be surpassed by Glenns (age 18) mastery of the discus as well. And the baby of the brood, Steven (age 15), is now in his sophomore year at Bayonne High and is a relative giant at 61", 220 lbs. A giant because neither Kevin or Glenn stood 60" or weighed more than 220 pounds at graduation. Typical gliders no, but masters of the form, yes.
Masters to the extent of having won eight national championships, a feat unmatched by any other American family. Kevin and Glenn both hold national meet records, and have every freshman through senior class record for the state of New Jersey, excepting the senior discus record, held by the New York Giants Ron Dayne. At the National High School Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina, Kevin hit 698" at age 16 and Glenn set the discus mark of 2134" at age 17.
But to understand their success, you need to know the patriach of the clan.
in Jersey City, New Jersey. Upon graduation he moved on to Columbia University in New York city.
"I was going to be a dentist but things did not work out as well as I had planned," Dominick recalls. "I was majoring in biology while I was there. During the later years of college I opened up my sports bar, DiGiorgios, located in Bayonne, while working for General Motors at the same time. With all of this going on, I never went back to college to fulfill my plans of becoming a dentist. During the latter part of these years my wife and I had Kevin."
As a high-schooler Dominick, at about 6', 240 lbs., participated in football as well as track and field. He was a defensive lineman (All-State honors) and put the shot and threw the javelin for track team, where he earned All-County recognition. Dominicks best with the shot was 58' ..from a stand throw, "because we were really never taught the form." He was also a 170 javelin thrower. "I was a better football player than a shot putter because of the coaching, facility differentials and availability between these two sports," says Dominick. "I played football at Columbia. Track never really had my interest too much until I had my boys."
And oh, how his interests would change.
Establishing The Legacy
Kevin began as a freshman in high school. He had never touched a shot before but hit 44' outdoors. No one thought he would amount to a good thrower because he only stood only 56" and 150 lbs. Kevin, however, was lightning fast compared to the other kids and that is what you need in this sport to be successful," says Dominick. Kevin began the family tradition under Dominicks direct tutelage.
Kevin advanced quickly after that freshman year and was a fixture on the national scene by his junior year.
Kevin considers his first major victory to be the 1997 Indoor National championship on his last throw as a junior. "I was down by a foot or so and all the pressure was on me to come up with a big throw," he recalls. "I dug in deep mentally, saw myself hitting the winning distance past the runner-ups, and did it. I hit 6410" on that throw. Times like those are what made me love to be in this individual sport. All the pressure is on one athlete to succeed or crack, and I loved that pressure the most of all."
Another particularly satisfying victory came when Kevin won the Outdoor Nationals that same year. "I came out determined to push the state record out further than I had done a week or two earlier," he says. "On my second throw of the meet I bombed one at 698" and no one came back after that one. The meet was the best of my life. All the great high school putters where there. Throwers of tremendous caliber such as Scott Denbo, Van Mounts and Reese Hoffa were all on hand. I can truly say that was like the Olympics to me; so many good throwers and you have to do your best in order to come out victorious."
After high school Kevin headed south to in-state Rutgers. "I went to Rutgers because it was close to home and the coach was pretty well known," says Kevin. "I didnt really take any visits as a senior so I could not look around to compare schools. So I decided on Rutgers. I wanted my dad and my brothers to come see me throw still, so I stayed close for that reason as well."
A difference in training philosophies lead to Kevins departure from Rutgers after his freshman year in 1999 with a best performance of 598". He is now enrolled at Jersey City State College and will graduate in a year-and-a-half with a double major. "I plan to become a elementary classroom teacher and a general or private coach, while still hopefully having enough time to train myself to become the best I possibly can," Kevin says.
"Right now I am getting myself back into the best throwing shape that I possibly can," says Kevin. "I took a year off from throwing to get organized with school and such. I am the same, if not better than, where I left off at throwing-wise, and by far better off than where I was with my education."
"My immediate plans for next year are to go 63 if not better, and yes, from a glide!" continues Kevin. "I am very excited to compete again. I miss the pressure of having to win on your last throw and just the pressure of competition in general. You cant beat that feeling.
"I dont believe if someone thinks they are good or great at their sport that they will ever amount to anything successful," says Kevin. "I try to be humble about what I do and I never try to make myself think I am some special person. I just work hard and try to be good, thats all."
And The Discus Too
Unlike Kevin, who eagerly professes his disdain for the platter, Glenn has excelled at both at the national level. "I have always considered myself, and always thought, I would be a much better discus thrower than a shot putter, because for one I enjoyed it more and I also have more of a discus throwers body than that of a shot putter. While I was in Junior Olympics at around the age of 12 I was always a better discus thrower, but since entering high school I dont know what I am better at. Especially when I look and see I have won four national shot put titles and only one national discus title. I can say I do hold more records with the discus; I have two national all-time age group records as well as three class discus records in my state. If I was told I could only do one, I would say the discus."
The competitive intensity burns not too far from the surface for
Glenn. Speaking of his discus meet winner of 2134" at the National High School
Championships this past June in Raleigh, North Carolina, he recalls, "I was losing
the meet until my last attempt of competition. My father talked to me and said, This
is it. All of your years of hard work are on the line. What are you going to do? And
he left me at that. So I then stepped into the squared circle, all pressure on me, all
eyes on me, and I ate up that pressure and spit it out, winning the meet by 5 feet."
Glenn has no regrets about his decision. "I am very glad I chose to do this," he says. "It gave me an entire year to train like crazy and build myself up for the 16-lb. shot, while talking to colleges, taking visits and making the best decision I possibly can about what university to attend."
Glenn acknowledges the challenges presented by his 511, 225-pound frame. "I look at it as another challenge for me to conquer and it is on my list as we speak." His self-confidence shines through as he says, "I agree I am small compared to these 300-pounders, but the way that I will get them is through technique and speed. I know that I can slap on more muscle, but I will never get to the same size as half of these guys. So I have to use other methods to take down these goliaths."
"For my weight I am a pretty strong," he says, "but I definitely have to get that up as well. One thing I also see, especially in high school, is that these big kids may come out 100 pounds more than me and a foot taller, but they do have a lot of fat on their large frames. With me I am solid muscle and when I put on weight it is all muscle mass. I like staying solid for one main reason; you stay quick."
Despite growing up in a throws-oriented environment, Glenn shows
no signs of burnout. "Next year I will be in the heaviest training period I have ever
encountered and I will also be throwing in open meets. I am very excited to get started on
it and I cant wait to throw against everyone in college."
"I think that my height and arm length is my biggest asset," says Steven. "I have really strong legs too, compared to my brothers at the same age. So if I develop my legs more I will be doing much better at throwing."
As to his preference, Steven takes after Kevin. "I like the
shot put," he says without hesitation. "I tried the discus and did not like it
that much. I think I will really focus more on the shot and see how that goes."
In my family we have never really thought about spinning," continues Kevin. "I tried it and dedicated myself to it 110% and never got any results that I appreciated. My body, along with others, are not built for the spin. In my family we trained our legs to the extreme. We wanted our legs to be so strong that when we glided across the circle and pushed on the ball that it felt as if it were only 8 or 9 pounds. The saying in our family is the faster you glide, the lighter the ball becomes. This is a very true statement, simple but brilliant, and one many people do not even think about. We trained our legs so heavily that the glide came easier for us to perform."
My Three Sons
"Kevins drive for success was the highest considering he was the first to start the shot-putting legacy within our family," continues Dominick. "Glenn has an extremely high level of drive as well, but he had Kevin to look up to for extra support. Kevin relied on looking at videos of ancient gliding greats and reading just about everything he could get his hands on concerning the shot put. It is still too early to fully come to a decision pertaining to Steven. I will have to wait and see what the next three years hold for him and how he will react in the same situations that Kevin and Glenn came out victorious in. I will have to see if Steven can match the deep inner drive that Kevin and Glenn displayed in order to come from behind in their respective national meets on their last throws and put out a huge one that no one could handle and top. That in my book defines a real true athlete. Something along the lines of the greatest shot putter in history, in my eyes, Ulf Timmerman, did when he won the 88' Olympics on his final throw of the meet."
"I believe that what you hit at the national meets should be your best mark of the year and an indicator of what type of person and athlete you are," says Dominick. "You have a lot of guys hitting big numbers in the first two weeks of the season and when they get to the nationals they are nowhere near that. You tell me what goes on with that. When a kid can get his PR at the National meet, thats when you want to have happen."
"There are really no secrets to our agenda," Dominick concludes. "We work very hard and are probably some of the most dedicated throwers you may ever meet. My sons are very interested in this sport and love doing it. All my sons help one another out. We are a very close family." *LSTJ*