Sportswriter Steve Tietz will use this blog to try to duly reward the great, praise heartily the hard-working, uncover the unsung, and take to task the spoilsport, the foul-mouth and the crass in the local prep sports scene. He'll try to remember that kids are just kids and that coaches aren't in it for the money. He'll try to gently remind parents that the kids are playing for fun, not for profit and that the officials, though occasionally human and therefore prone to error, are there to ensure fair play and not out to get anyone.
Homestead boys track coach Dan Benson trusts his throws coach Bill Richards implicitly.
Because Richards goes only to the best sources for information about his discipline and that has helped Highlander athletes such as Justin Barber and Kyle Schober win WIAA state track medals in recent years.
And who might those sources be?
They include for one NCAA and three-time world shot put champion John Godina, who came out to Mequon on July 31 to put on a clinic for close to 50 high school age trackmen. Athletes from all-over Wisconsin, the midwest and California came out to learn from the best, said Richards.
“It goes back to around 2005,” said Richards. “I met him at a throws clinic in Ohio. And then this past February he spoke at the annual (Wisconsin Track Coaches) clinic and I talked to him and asked if he would do this event (in the summer) for us.”
The 39-year old Godina agreed and for about $85 a person, young athletes got to rub broad shoulders with a man who has also earned two Olympic silver medals and who routinely charges professional track athletes up to $300 a day for his training services at his World Throws Center in Arizona.
“It was a terrific opportunity for these kids to get exposure to a guy with this kind of experience and success,” said Richards, “and he was great. He was outgoing and energetic and very hands-on in his teaching style. …He also stuck around and signed shoes and took pictures with the kids.”
He’s all about improving throws (shot, discus and hammer) in the US. And the kids were great too. They had a little bit of stars in their eyes at first, but then they saw this as a great opportunity to work with one of the best.”
Richards saw in Godina, who also works closely with the United State Anti-Doping Agency against the use of performance-enhancing drugs, a great example of what kids could aspire too.
“The throws are more between the ears than most people think,” he said. “Most people think you just have to be a big guy and just muscle it out there. Muscle doesn’t hurt, but you have to be able to hit positions (in the ring) and do it on a consistent basis in order to be successful.”
He had that kind of success this past spring, when Homestead senior shot putter Kyle Schober, whom Richards convinced to switch from the old-style glide in the shot put to the more explosive but difficult to master spin style, improved an amazing seven feet in the space of two weeks to earn a state medal.
“He surpassed everything that we thought he could do,” said Richards.
Another Richards’ protégé’ Justin Barber, who placed in both the shot and discus as part of the state championship 2010 Homestead team, recently completed a successful freshman year at the University of Minnesota where he successfully qualified for the Junior Nationals in the discus and threw the 16-pound shot an impressive 52 feet (the high school shot is only 12 pounds).
Richards would like to bring back Godina back for another event before the start of the 2012 season to get even more kids some exposure to his technique.
“It’s not everyday you get to do something like this,” he said.