Interview with Art Venegas,
Head Track & Field Coach, UCLA
the premier collegiate men's and women's throwing coach in the
nation, Art Venegas also has a worldwide reputation because of
his coaching expertise with many world-class throwers.
his arrival in Westwood in 1981, Venegas has coached his athletes
to 26 NCAA individual titles in the throws, a level that no other
university approaches. Some of his former greats who won NCAA
titles for UCLA are Godina, Sua, Dawn Dumble, Valeyta Althouse,
Erik Smith, Jonathan Ogden, Tracie Millett, Eric Bergreen, John
Brenner, Toni Jutjens and Greg Johnson.
athletes such as Godina, Brenner, Althouse, Dumble and Suzy Powell
have broken collegiate records in the shot put and discus. Brenner
followed his collegiate record in the shot put (71-11) in 1984
with an American record of 73-10 in 1987. Godina has won two World
championships in the shot put (1997 and '95), and earned a silver
medal at the 1996 Olympics. Godina is the current collegiate record-holder
in the shot put (72-2).
1990s, Venegas' coaching record with his javelin throwers is reflected
by two national championships and several top eight finishes.
In the shot put, UCLA men's throwers have scored at the NCAA meet
(indoor and outdoor) every single year since 1983. The Bruin women
have scored in the top four at all but one NCAA meet.
also worked for 10 years as the throwing and weight training coach
for Jackie Joyner-Kersee. He has also planned the strength training
routines for many of the world's top sprinters, including Mike
Marsh, Steve Lewis, Kevin Young, Quincy Watts, Gail Devers, and
currently Ato Boldon and Jon Drummond.
1998, Hispanic Business Magazine named Venegas one of the 100
most influential Hispanics in the U. S..
there a certain body type you look for when recruiting shot putters?
by the nature of the event have to be a little thicker or have
the potential to be thicker. If they are slender, I like to see
wide shoulders. As far as height 5'10 is about the minimum, the
tallest would be 6'8' if they were coordinated
you look at marks when recruiting, and is there a minimum you
that you look at, or do you look at the body type?
bad coaching there is a minimum. The explosiveness required to
be successful in college is a genetic gift. A kid with no coaching
56 or 57 feet is the minimum. Spinning and pretty well coached
61 or 62 is the minimum.
other factors you look for?
aggression, and throwing well at the big meets like CIF, Arcadia,
and State. You don't want get a guy that throws 64 feet at all
the small meets, and every time he goes to the big meet he throws
you get a new thrower how do you decide to have them spin or glide?
are already spinning I keep them spinning. If they glide, I give
them a chance to spin. If they seem like they can coordinate the
throw spinning I have them use the spin because it's easier to
much film do you have your throwers watch?
much, because I have my own technique. I like to see them relax
and do what I tell them, I don't want to have them over think.
Maybe once a month or every six weeks during the raining season.
are your favorite shot putters to watch on film?
the guys that have traditionally thrown the farthest. World and
Olympic champions, past and present. I usually pick out a point
or two from each guy we watch to pay attention too. Like if a
guy has a good drive out of the back or really knows how to use
important is it for throwers to watch film?
be, but its not totally necessary, I've had throwers throw at
really high level without it. Beginning coaches that don't know
much about throwing should watch film. This will help them to
understand how the throw works.
the large number of throwers how do you breakdown your workouts?
down into a two-week cycle. One week the shot putters throw Monday,
Wednesday, Friday, with the discuss throwers on Tuesday and Thursday.
The next week we flip flop. So people who throw both …(shot and
disc)… will throw hard 3 or 4 days and drill on the others. I
can't watch everybody all the time but they are expected to drill
their technique on a daily basis.
many throws do your shot putters throw each workout?
at the amount of fatigue involved but at least 30 to40 including
stand throws and drills at the end of workout. Fatigue is a factor
in how long I let them throw.
do you know when they are to fatigued and reach the point of diminishing
good form start to drop off and they lose three to four feet.
Then the form really starts to drop off, even if they give me
really good aggression and still lose three to four feet. You
try to stop it before it gets there, sometimes after a really
good series of throws I'll cut them off knowing we did good work
that day. It's the opposite from Europe for many years where if
you didn't take 7 to 8 thousand throws each year, it was not considered
a quality-training program. I think with all the Olympic lifting,
power lifting, running and body building, you need to limit the
amount of pounding the body takes. Most of my throwers are throwing
in multiple events, and I have to take that all into account.
kinds of injuries are most common in shot putters?
jump from the 12-pound shot to the 16-pound shot, the primary
injury is hand problems, you get a lot of tears in the tissue
around the small bones in the hand along with ligament damage.
Not as common are wrist injuries mainly from Olympic lifting.
Lower back pain is also sometimes a problem, I think this is mainly
the product of heavy lifting. I stress to my throwers the need
to use proper technique when lifting. This limits the occurrences
of lifting injuries in my throwers.
do you do different when a shot putter has injured his hand or
few years, I've had them throw overweight shots real easy to work
on technique, this way they don't put their hand in a bad position.
It helps to strengthen the affected area without damaging it.
We also have a great medical staff that treats and monitors any
there one lift that shot putters have to do?
If I had
to pick one it would be close between the clean and the back squat,
those to lifts are the most important.
a new thrower how do you teach them to Olympic lift?
with light weight until they understand the lift. My older throwers
help to teach them when I'm not available. Technique is so important
for continued lifting growth, and to avoid injury.
there certain amount of weight that throwers need to lift to be
really look at the body weight issue. I've found over the years
to be a top-level college thrower, the all-American type thrower.
They need to lift 600 pounds or better back squat, about 325 to
350 power clean, 250 power snatch, and 450-pound bench. If they
hit those kinds of numbers they tend to be an All-American type
thrower. If they are very tall obviously the numbers will be lower
because the weight has to move farther.
kind of cross training do you have your throwers do?
includes medicine ball drills, power ball drills, bounding, Running
hills and stadiums. I like the fact that most of my throwers participated
in other sports in high school. Some like to play basketball or
racquetball in the off-season and I encourage this because it
helps with agility. The important thing is that they don't injure
themselves doing something they have never done before.
looking at a possible recruit do you take into account other sports
they may have played in high school?
kid hasn't specialized in throwing there may be a lot more potential,
however the same kid may not have the discipline to stick to one
sport when they get to college. I look at each kid individually.
I like to have very athletic kids that won't get board training
all season in one sport.
you were a high school coach would you encourage your throwers
to participate in other sports?
a tough question for me because there are many factors involved.
If the kid needed a scholarship and he was talented I would have
him throw year round. If money weren't an issue I would have him
participate in other sports. He would be a better athlete that
way, and have more fun. If you had a kid that plays tight end
in football and forward on the basketball team and throws 59 feet,
he may be hard pressed to get a scholarship. If he drops everything
and trains hard in the weight room he could throw 67 feet. And
have college coaches all over him.