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5 Questions with Coach Tony Ciarelli


5 Questions with Coach Tony Ciarelli

Tony Ciarelli coaches football, track & field and weightlifting at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, CA. Tony began coaching in 1979 after completing his throwing career at the University of Hawaii alongside former World Record Holder Terry Albritton and under the guidance of legendary coach Bill Starr. Tony’s roster of athletes is nearly unmatched, producing eight 60-ft shot putters, and eight 180-ft discus throwers, including three over 200’ Scott Moser (213′ 11″) and Bo Taylor (213′ 7″)—the #1 and #2 prep discus throwers in California history. In total, he has coached 40 California State Meet qualifiers, 4 State Champions, 5 National Scholastic Meet Champions, 3 Golden West Meet Champions, and 6 High School All America performers. In 1994 Tony was selected California Track Coach of the Year. Tony has been coaching post-collegians for more than 15-years, including 1992 Olympian Brian Blutriech (discus), U.S. Olympic Trials finalists Erik Johnson (1996/discus), Melisa Weis (1996 & 04/discus), and Carl Brown (2000 & 04/discus). Since 2006, he has been coaching 3-time Olympian Jason Tunks (discus), 2-time Olympian Lieja Tunks (discus & shot), 2003 U.S. World Championship Team member Nick Petrucci (discus), and Sam Lightbody (discus). In weightlifting, Tony coached 2000 Olympian Cara Heads, he has also coached 15 qualifiers for the Senior National Championships along with 35 qualifiers for the U.S. Junior Championships, seven (7) National Junior Champions, and two (2) National Junior record holders. His daughter Maryn was the 2006 National Collegiate Weightlifting Champion and his daughter Katelyn, (a member of VSA) was a 2-time Big West Champion and NCAA Championships qualifier in the discus while at Long Beach State.

1. What are 2-3 common mistakes you see being made in the training of throwers?

From where I’m standing the #1 mistake is a lack of understanding of the back of the ring and how it affects the rest of the throw. Most young throwers I see are going to fast, not balanced and not lined up with their own powers vectors. Another mistake is the lack of understanding in programming, strength and throwing, affecting in the short term a throwers season and the long term the planning of a throwers career whether it’s 4 years, 8 years or beyond. Last the development of Will power, many throwers in this day and age tend to accept failure and are ok with not getting better. There is a lack of drive from coach’s to promote the ideal of striving for perfection of form. No one can defeat everyone but everyone can work to defeat the self, no on can attain perfection but everyone can strive for perfection!

2. Make a case for using the Olympic lifts in the training of non-Olympic lifters?

There are many reasons why a person who participates in an explosive sport should do Olympic lifting. First they are ground based whole body lifts, like the sport an athlete is participating in. Second, the Olympic lifts help promote the understanding of perfecting movement through the Kinematic Chain. Third, they help an athlete understand the importance of technique and just by improving that technique they can become a better athlete. Forth, the ability to increase the force production of an athlete that has a greater carry over into their sport.

Tony's yearly throws clinic is a great resource for athletes and coaches and played a huge role in Chad Wesley Smith's success as a thrower!

Tony’s yearly throws clinic is a great resource for athletes and coaches and played a huge role in Chad Wesley Smith’s success as a thrower!

3. What are some tips for applying Special Strength concepts to non-throwing athletes?

Special Strength exercises should mimic the sport movements done and energy systems used on the field or court. I think most coach’s do a good job seeing the movements used in their own sports but less of them understand the idea that for the exercise to be a Special exercise you must use the same energy system that is used when the athlete is participating in competition, speed, duration, and movement!

4. What is some advice you would give to a young throwing/weightlifting coach?

Technique, technique, technique! Take time to develop good technique, the strength will come with good programming. Don’t let ego get in the way of success. Search for knowledge, be a scholar of your sport, know the movements inside and out. Never accept bad technique, never get tired of correcting. My coach, the great Bill Starr taught me “it takes a 100 reps to create a bad habit and a 1000 reps to correct it.”

5. What needs to happen for the US to be more successful in weightlifting and throwing events besides Men’s Shot Put, in 2016, 2020 and beyond?

This is a tough one, I think one of the big reasons is a lack of interest and participation in these sports in the U.S. Crossfit has definitely increased interest in Olympic weightlifting, but I’m not sure it will increase the number of Olympic caliber lifters in the country. If you want to be an Olympic caliber weightlifter you have to do Olympic lifting type programs not crossfit, but if it creates a bigger pool of athletes than chances are that we will find Olympians. As far as throwing goes it is about the same, some how interest has to be improved, also lower level coaching needs to be improved to establish and create a better pool of athletes to choose from. The post collegiate athlete has to have more opportunities to improve and compete. We have a strong support for U17 and Junior systems, I think more effort to bring back the U23 competitions would help some. The U.S. is doing it in the shot, I see no reason why we can’t compete at the world level in the discus, hammer, and javelin.

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