California State University, Northridge’s track and field coach Avery Anderson needed a throws coach to put his team at the forefront of the national stage.
Looking for staff from across the country, Anderson went to two of the most respected throwing coaches in the country — Jerry Clayton and Art Venegas.
Clayton currently coaches at the University of Michigan (formerly at Auburn University), and Venegas built UCLA into a powerhouse through the 1980s and ’90s and coaches at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
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It didn’t take long to determine the best fit for CSUN between the three.
Both Clayton and Vengas knew the right man for the job: Seymour’s Eric Werskey.
This past week, Werskey accepted a job as the throws coach at Northridge.
“It is a great feeling, honestly,” Werskey said. “I really want to thank my head coach, Avery Anderson, for offering me the opportunity. It has been a career goal of mine to coach collegiately and develop student athletes at the NCAA Division I level, and to begin my career at CSUN is very special, partly due to the fact that my most current mentor, Art Venegas, is alumni and began his coaching career here as well.”
After graduating from Seymour High School in 2006 — where he finished as a state champion in the discus his junior year and shot put his senior year — Werskey went to Indiana University for a year.
Werskey then went to Auburn University and earned All-American nods three times under Clayton.
In 2012, Werskey began training at the Olympic Training Center with Venegas and competed in the Olympic Trials in hopes of earning a nod for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I feel like I bring a solid background of competition experience and the eagerness to help bring a shadowed program to the light,” Werskey said. “When interviewed, I made it abundantly clear that I wanted to be loyal to a head coach that would take the chance on me and do all I could to develop a respected throwing program.
“In its past, Northridge has had some quality throwers as they still do. My goal is to turn the one or two athletes that succeed at a high level and to that into a few more each year beginning at the Big West Conference level. Being even keeled and (having) a positive demeanor, the athletes have bought in to what I have to offer here.”
It was in Chula Vista, at the training center, where Werskey realized his potential as a coach.
On top of his duties as an athlete, Werskey took it upon himself to work with the other throwers.
“During my years at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, my role become “player coach” by my second year,” Werskey said. “(Venegas) trusted me to help with the throwing athletes within our training group. Within our training group, we had the 2015 world champion shot putter Joe Kovacs, women’s world championship discus throw finalist (Whitney Ashley) and two more members of the world championship team (Tia Brooks in shot put and Jared Schuurmans in the discus throw).
“I do not claim to have developed or write the programs for these athletes. However, I took the system and ideas Art had for each of us and assisted in the application of his ideas to their throw when he was not present. The really unique part to the whole process is that Art had me coach Whitney at the 2015 USA Championships, where she finished second overall (winning until the very last round). This is when I realized I wanted to pursue coaching as soon as I could.”
Prior to moving to California, Werskey privately coached in Jackson County.
“My coaching experience branches out from coaching privately beginning in Seymour in the fall of 2011,” Werskey said. “From 2011-13, I assisted in the development of five athletes to varsity roster spots on their respective collegiate roster. I have also been fortunate enough to work camps and clinics across the country and share my experiences.”
This past summer, Werskey traveled around the world competing at the international level.
However, with new duties, coaching will now stand at the forefront of his to-do list.
“At the moment, my focus is on the CSUN student athletes,” Werskey said. “I have been lifting heavily with the team as if I were training to throw, though. We have some all-comer competitions and for the kids I may put the throwing shoes back on a few times and compete among them for fun.
“I had quite the summer season, though. My summer season began in Bellinzona, Switzerland. From there I traveled to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, then finished in Szczecin (Stetten), Poland. After Stetten, I came back home to visit, but still trained for my second round of European competitions. This time, I began in Thum, Germany, then two days later competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany.”
An injury slowed his progression while in Germany.
“In Berlin, I suffered a pulled muscle in the cold while competing in Berlin and fought it through till my last competition in Warsaw, Poland, on Sept. 13,” Werskey said. “This meet was special to me for a couple reasons: more than likely it would be my last international competition, and I competed there with my girlfriend, Kathrin Klaas, as well as ended my season with my training partner and great friend, Joe Kovacs.”
CSUN has the pedigree for training world class throwers, and Werskey has every intention of raising the bar.
“For a ‘smaller’ division-one school (35,000 students), CSUN has had several NCAA champions,” Werskey said. “ This past year, our women were the Big West Conference team champions. Returning from last year, I have a NCAA national qualifier that I see doing big things in a couple years.”
In his first year, Werskey has a specific set of goals for himself as coach.
“My goal for the first year is to have all the athletes bought into the program I am bringing to them and be competitive,” Werskey said. “Some of these athletes have had the previous coach for three or four years, so having athletes bought in, believing the routine and working hard toward the common goal, can be the toughest part. So far, the team is plugging away and seeing some solid improvements which makes me very excited.”
One of the biggest adjustments for Werskey will be transitioning from recruit to recruiter.
“Recruiting is definitely a challenge,” Werskey said. “It is fun, because I was once in these kids’ seats. It’s crazy to think that was 10 years ago already. I do my best explaining to the prospective athletes what the school has to offer, what I see the CSUN throws squad doing in the upcoming year and my future goals for the program and how I can help further their athletic plans through the experiences I have had throughout the years.”
Werskey already has a plan in place for his new athletes.
“Each day, I have a specific set of drills that will ultimately bring together their individual throws appropriately,” he said. “On top of the throwing, it is also syncing the appropriate lifting schedule at the correct times throughout the year. Since starting here, I have had the kids getting a great base of technical work in the rings and an even bigger base in the weight room so that the hard part is done once indoor season begins in January. Then in January through June, its time to have fun and compete.”