So I got to thinking….
There is a small discussion happening on The Ring recently (http://www.effortlessthrow.org/) in which Steve Bartholomew of Dominator Athletics (www.dominatorathletics.com) inquires what the readers of The Ring think about a new, more affordable tungsten hammer.
On a personal note, you have to love it when throwers start building new implements and try to improve our sport. It is great to see a USA based company designing and building something, no matter how obscure it is for the rest of society. (I come from a family of manufacturers and spent a great deal of my youth in factories, so anyone who builds things for a living is OK by me.)
As it is, Nishi currently makes a Tungsten hammer that costs around $700. That is an extreme price for a 16lb hammer, but if it earns the thrower $700 more dollars in prize money, it is money well spent, right?
In the exchange, Jeff Gorski (www.klubkeihas.com) writes: “I wonder about the cost & effort to develop an implement that maybe 20 people on the planet could really take advantage of, if that.”
Jeff Gorski’s completely reasonable and logical statement is what got me thinking…
Are there really 20 people on the planet who could benefit from a hammer constructed in this manner? In my limited brain, I’m thinking 20 might be optimistic. How much difference could this kind of manufacturing make to the tape measure? I’m guessing it might add 20-40cm to an 80m throw? But that’s a wild assed guess. Maybe if a 50m thrower threw a Tungsten hammer, he could gain a full meter? I don’t know. A physicist could figure it out pretty easily, I think, but I doubt any physicist would be willing to solve a problem so few people care about. Anyway, they are all busy in Switzerland making atoms smash into each other but I digress…
So a physicist could easily quantify an answer to the question “How much would Tungsten construction help a hammer thrower?”, but, as a lifelong student of psychology, I have to ask: Who cares? As much as we (the throwing community) want to build better equipment and use the newest gear, it just doesn’t matter all that much. The more I think about it, it doesn’t matter, at all, really. Any edge gained by using a cutting edge Tungsten hammer pales in comparison to using an implement that the athlete BELIEVES will give him an advantage no matter its construction.
At this stage in our sport, it’s not about the physical properties of the implements. It is about what the thrower BELIEVES about the implement. Do you know anyone who throws with a “lucky” discus? A “lucky” shot or javelin? Ever had to go to a meet where the implements were supplied by the meet and athletes were not allowed to throw their personal equipment? Their performance that day was much more affected by how they perceived the implements provided than the implement itself.
I suspect that if meet management brought out Tungsten hammers for everyone, average marks would go up not because of the physical properties of the ball, but because everyone in the competition would “know” Tungsten is better. The athletes would approach the implement cart with a “This is great!” attitude and find a new form of confidence, not experienced before. Conversely, if the hammer cart was filled with banged up iron hammers with bad handles and tweaked swivels, everyone would think “this is horse shit” and lower their expectations for their performance.
Will a Tungsten hammer fly further than a banged up iron ball? Given identical technique, very probably. But the technique variable and the emotional confidence variable are so vastly more important, they make the implement specs wholly irrelevant.
Even in the most elite throwers, there is such a variance in technique from throw to throw and a variance in psychology from throw to throw, that the make up of the implement isn’t going to matter. What DOES matter is what the thrower (at any level) BELIEVES the ball can do for them and the confidence that throwing that implement brings. Some guys will want the new, shiny Tungsten ball and some will opt for an old favorite “lucky” ball. Whichever gives the thrower the most confidence and comfort is the one that will go the furthest.
And if an athlete truly BELIEVES a Tungsten hammer is going to help them qualify for USA’s or make the finals of an Olympic Games or just place in the top ten at their conference meet, then perhaps they should consider buying a Tungsten hammer.
The way our society is constructed, we always try to buy what we BELIEVE is better. Why would anyone buy a Ferrari instead of a Corvette ZR1? Very similar performance but there is an astronomical difference in price. People buy Ferraris because they are “better” according to that person’s psychological belief system.
Why do we buy bottled water instead of drinking from the tap? We BELIEVE bottled water is better and tap water is gross. The fact is, unless you are living in Bangladesh, the water from your tap is every bit as clean and healthy as the bottled. In many cities, tap water is cleaner!
Why do parents buy a $400 Britax car seat when it has to pass the same government regulations and testing standards as an $80 Graco? Parents BELIEVE a $400 car seat must be better.
Why would golfers buy $3000 golf clubs instead of $900 clubs? Would 90% of weekend golfers EVER know the difference? No chance.
This confidence weekend golfers get from their new Calloways vs. the Costco discount clubs is exactly the same as the confidence we gain from buying a $700 hammer instead of a $100 hammer. Confidence and BELIEF are everything.
So, Jeff, quit being so logical. And Steve, I hope you sell thousands of the things. Because as long as the athlete who throws the thing BELIEVES it is better, the tape will stretch a little further.