By Matt Inglis Fox for Runner’s Tribe
Hi Garry, thanks for taking the time out from your home in Phoenix to have a chat with us at The Runners Tribe. You are the previous coach of the controversial Jarrod Bannister and now own your own company: www.javelincoaching.com. First things first, how and when did you first become involved with Jarrod?
Garry Calvert: Well I lived in Melbourne where I competed and coached. I moved to the mid-east coast for a business opportunity and eventually to a job in Townsville North Queensland. There I reached out and had a series of javelin clinics. After that I made a connection with Coach Gary Cairns in Townsville and began to coach numerous javelin throwers as well as some talented Discus throwers like Julie Bennell. This is where I met Jarrod Bannister as an 11 yr old.
This was in 1997. In that group was also a young javelin thrower called Mitchell Johnson who as you know is now Australia’s number 1 fast bowler in cricket.
Not many track and field people at world level realised that Jarrod had previously competed so well at World Juniors with 4th place, with just 40cm separating 1st to 4th. I thought his performance there was special as he set the scene for what was to come. Performing in ‘bigtime events’, his 4th place was with a personal best.
The main concept I was developing was a world leading technique, the cutting edge of throwing. This technique which I had used successfully with Australian Record Holder Petra Rivers (69.28m) and 18 yr old Daniel Kratzman (75.38m).
So after the World Juniors Jarrod was living in Townsville and his training and form dropped off. In 2005 after I coached Julie Bennell to the World Youth Silver Medal in discus, I contacted Jarrod to undertake a comprehensive re-learning of the javelin event along with an elite conditioning program.
I set a plan which included the next 4 years of development which started with the goal of reaching the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, 2006.
So with Jarrod’s PB of 73.32m from WJ we progressed all of the training goals and he made the Commonwealth Games Team and produced a PB of 78.12m. This was in line with the plan and goal which I had laid out of a minimum 5 metres (improvement) each year.
So this pattern was successfully on target each year. The only way this can be achieved is to set up an unorthodox but methodical delivery of every aspect of training and competing.
At the 2007 Nationals, which was the World Championships selection trials, Jarrod threw 83.70m. This was another 5m PB and on target with the Plan to be on-top in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
As history shows Jarrod in March 2008 threw an enormous PB of 89.02.m, shattering the Australian Record and reaching Number 1. in the world. This was a 5m PB. This shocked many people especially the High Performance management at AA.
The target at the 2008 Olympics was 94m and all indicators showed that this was achievable. My analysis of Jarrods execution of technique during his 89m throw saw another 5m jump.
Of course that’s if you peak on the day and that conditions are conducive. The Olympics was won by Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway with a throw of just over 90m.
Q: Everybody remembers the 2008 Australian Championships and that monster throw. What happened following the trials?
Garry Calvert: I had not given Jarrod any time off for over 2 years so we just took a break for a couple of weeks and to regroup. I had spent a lot of time planning the next training block and I wanted us to be recharged and re focused for the run in to the Beijing Olympics. We had always been driven by the idea of success against the best in the world and this was the right stage.
Then we hit a hurdle. Our discussions about training etc were starting to have differing opinions.
Throughout your career we all have influences and in my case I had learned some key life ideals, one of which was from my former coach the legendary Franz Stampfl. He taught me the importance of isolation, honesty, focus and severing anything that can impact on the persuit of the highest of performance levels.
I spent many years nurturing, mentoring and preparing Jarrod on the path to sporting success. I also became his biggest influence in the realignment of his values and equipping him with better life skills. We had a unique bond athlete/coach/friend.
Jarrod and I had a verbal agreement in place based on trust, which was working until his world reaching performance. The agreement broke down.
Why? External influences were starting to have an impact on the agreement, with family and friends misinterpreting the value of that agreement, and the commitment that had been spent up until then, and what was needed in the 2008 Olympic year and beyond.
The agreement was simple. Broken down into three future income sources. Income from competition, grants, endorsements/sponsorships. As I was coaching and managing Jarrod up until then the next 2-10 years was going to be demanding. I had just spent 11 years of my life doing so for little to no return.
Q: It sounds like a very stiff situation in that Jarrod broke right through to the top of the -world and immediately had others telling him that you didn’t deserve much recognition for the achievement. So after the disagreement, what happened from there?
Garry Calvert: I advised Jarrod to not deal with ignorant people and especially people such as accountants and lawyers with questionable reputations. Well he put forward to reduce my small 20% commission by half. I gave a clear indication that we had an agreement in place and that a breach of that agreement I would not accept. The discussions continued on for over 7 weeks and with the 2008 Beijing Olympics creeping up, time was an issue. So at the end of the last meeting, I informed Jarrod I no longer wanted to coach him, and under the breach of trust I was unable to continue to commit so much to the coach / athlete relationship where my position was being compromised and I was taking all the risk. The coach/athlete agreement was always great when there were no payments involved.
I informed Athletics Australia HP Manager Max Binnington of my decision. It formally stated that as Jarrod was ranked Number 1. in the world, the breakdown need now to be handled by AA. Athletics Australia did a very poor job of handling the situation.
Q: So Jarrod went into the 2008 Olympics coach less?
Garry Calvert: My understanding is that Jarrod contacted Uwe Hohn from (the former East Germany) and he agreed to try and coach Jarrod. AA arranged a 6 month coach position for Hohn at $60,000+
This was a bad management decision and a real kick in the face of Australian Throws Coaches as there had never been a paid HP throws coach position before. Hohn was with Jarrod at Beijing.
I received a call after a few weeks and I went into Athletics Australia to meet with them. The meeting was terrible. CEO Danny Corcoran who I have known for 25 years and Mike Poulton Coach Education, were just very condescending and really mismanaged it all.
Q: Did they give you any indication as to why Uwe Hohn was selected for this role over you?
Garry Calvert: Well I guess Uwe Hohn had been approached by Jarrod so AA moved everything to engage him as a (Throws Coordinator ) and pay him a very high salary ($60,000+ equivalent to $120,000 a year). The appointment wasn’t transparent. But you can do that if you don’t have accountability. So Hohn was appointed without any interview process and a call for qualified Australian coaches. I was very upset for the leading Australian throws coaches at the time.
Q: It sounds like a very unfair situation for the Australian coaches. Is this what made you leave Australia and head to the USA?
Garry Calvert: Well not directly. I was gutted and just felt that we had some real outstanding coaches who had brought up and nurtured so many of our top world class performers. Gus Puopolo with Scott Martin and Ben Harridine, Dennis Knowles with Dani Samuels and myself with Jarrod Bannister. It was clearly unfair to not even consider these coaches and people.
But I guess one thing that really disappointed me was when Mike Poulton, National Coach Education Manager, successfully eliminated me from the Coach of the Year Award, which was to reward coaches who had a world ranked top 10 athlete and were awarded $10,000. Sharon Hannan and I were the only two eligible coaches that year. But AA and Mike Poulton changed the rules retrospectively. Just something you don’t do in sports management.
You get very tired of how AA operates in this non transparent way.
So I guess I needed a break from the track and field scene in Australia, not the great athletes and coaches, but from the type of leadership that was apparent at AA during this period.
An opportunity came up to travel to the USA and coach 3-4 throwers who had Olympic aspiration, so i decided to go to the USA and coach.
Time flies I have been here now for 4 years!
Q: Very nice. So you started off in New Jersey and now you’re in Phoenix, what took you to Phoenix?
Garry Calvert: I started in New Jersey where I lived coaching the 2008 USA National Champion Bobby Smith. But after 2 winters with snow, ice etc I decided to move to a place where there was great weather similar to Australia. So it stood-out the desert of Phoenix Arizona, where the hot summer lasts 5 months and the winter is mild. I have been here 2 years coaching many athletes. I have coached around 400 athletes since I have been here, some absolutely wonderful talent.
Q: Awesome. Many future Olympians or 89m+ throwers in the pipeline?
Garry Calvert: Well I think there is some awesome talent here with Sam Crouser and Haley Crouser from the infamous Crouser family! They are the future of the event in the USA. They are both now at the University of Oregon. There is a huge amount of talent currently here such as Kara Patterson. She could make a big impact if she relearned the event. Sam Humphries shows potential. Many, many others
I am still deciding if I will return to Australia or stay here in the USA. A lot of that depends on if I build an elite squad here or look at basing myself in Melbourne again. That purely depends on whether athletes are on the same page as me. Or if an opportunity arises for a position back in Australia at AA, AIS or somewhere else
Q: Would you be open to an opportunity to work at Athletics Australia after what happened back in 2008?
Garry Calvert: Well the answer is yes. There has been a complete change in management at AA with Danny Corcoran, Mike Poulton and now Rob Fildes moving on. I made it clear to them I could not work with them while that management was in place. I think everyone in the sport lives in hope of positive change. I have already sent 2 emails to Eric Hollingsworth over the last 18 months re my availability. I would be happy to be approached but I also say that in light of my utmost respect for the great coaches we have in Australia.
After being in the USA for 4 years I am absolutely clear that Australia has the highest quality sport management and coaching candidates and there is no need to search abroad for foreign appointments.
Q: There were rumours that a few High Performance coaches in Australia had asked you to return to coach Jarrod before the London Olympics in the hope to bring him back to form… is this true?
Garry Calvert: Yes it is true… Around 18 months before the London Olympics I had some well intentioned High Performance coaching colleagues ask me would I consider coaching Jarrod Bannister again. I guess due to the opportunity for Australia to bring home a medal. After some soul searching I agreed to send communication to Jarrod with a plan that needed AA support and endorsement, and Jarrod’s commitment. I also let the AA HP manager know. I didn’t receive a reply.
Q: Garry it would be good news for Australia if you could be back here producing future javelin throwers.
Garry Calvert: I miss Australia and the great people in our sport. I am hoping that the throws community gain equal support as other areas of our sport. There are big opportunities sitting right in front of us.