Mark Hoefer this spring took on head coaching duties for the South Tahoe track team. He's also the cross country boss in the fall and nordic coach in winter. He can talk about running sprints or long distance all day long, but when it comes to throwing weighty metal spheres and heavy frisbees, he knows his limitations.
"We were feeling a little disconnected with our throwers so we've put some feelers out there," Hoefer said.
In stepped two-time Olympic medalist John Godina.
The American shot putter won the silver medal in the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta and bronze four years later in the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia. He also qualified for those Olympics in discus, the first American to qualify in both events for almost 100 years. He also qualified for the 2004 Olympics where he earned eighth place in shot put. He has won three world championships and was placed into the UCLA athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.
Godina works with Barton Performance by ALTIS Sports Performance Director Nick Ward and has been frequenting South Lake Tahoe for the past year and a half.
Godina has five throwing academies, three in Arizona and two in California (San Ramon and Sacramento) where he trains top-level athletes.
Godina connected with Hoefer and South Tahoe through Dr. Jenifer Norris, a mother of Ivan Kaiser Norris, a thrower for the Vikings. Dr. Norris approached Hoefer and asked if he minded if she sought help through Barton for the throwers.
"Sure," Hoefer said.
Godina and Hoefer figured out their respective schedules and the Olympian showed up for practice in late March.
He coached a small group of three kids and gave them one-on-one coaching for about 90 minutes.
"Working with a few kids is a lot easier than hundreds of kids," Godina said. "I have a series of track camps I used to do and working with a few kids is a lot easier than hundreds of kids. It's just a fun day for me. My energy is up."
Godina focused on techniques, especially how to get the throwers to use their legs and lower body. The throwers learned more in the hour and a half than they've ever learned.
"I'm really excited to be taught be an Olympic thrower, it allows us to learn more," said Ivan Norris. "We haven't had much practice because we've been inside, and being inside it doesn't feel like shot put. I learned a lot about technique. Usually I'm just throwing but I learned at the last meet, just throwing I won't be able to compete with others so I'm real excited to be learning new techniques."
Hoefer hopes his throwers can remember everything they learned and apply it throughout the year.
"We hope that will transpire into something more and they can get workouts they can use throughout the entire season," Hoefer said.
So far Godina helping the throwers was a one-time thing, but all parties would be interested in continuing the relationship. Godina said he'd love to return and help and Hoefer is still trying to find consistent help for the throwers. He says once a week would work, but twice per week would be ideal.
"I'd love to come back here and coach more," Godina said. "I come up here quite often and now that I know the door is open and I'm welcome, I'd love to help the kids as much as I can."