The search for healthy competition outlets and fulfilling training regimes can be difficult for athletes post NCAA. Durocher wants to highlight the world of Highland Games and the opportunities available to throwing athletes after they graduate from school. This interview explores his journey through sport and the new strategy he has put in place to obtain his future goals.
1: Curtis, can you provide a brief introduction to your history in sport?
A: I started throwing discus in High school, learned pretty quickly that I had a knack for it. I actually thru nothing else, just discus and I thought that since I was a good Canadian thrower every school in the NCAA would offer me a full athletic scholarship. This was not the case.
I went to Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona and was coached by Selmer J. Olsen, a man that had a huge impact on me. Actually, the whole experience opened my eyes to how bad I was and how much better I needed to get. I actually switched my focus to hammer instead of discus, within two years I threw the hammer 60m and the weight 20m.
From there I was awarded a scholarship to Northern Arizona University, coached under the current Cal Berkley Coach, Mohammad Saatara. I was introduced to the Bondarchuk (Dr. B) training system in those years as well as trained with Dr. B a number of times…”PUSH HAMMER!” haha
After college I knew I did not want to live the life of a “professional” thrower. I instead looked for other competitive outlets. Bobsleigh, Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting. I had talent in everything, but I did not have the same passion I had for throwing.
I remember doing a highland games in 2009 in university and had a blast. So I contacted Rob Young, a highland games athlete in Calgary. The first time I picked the weights up I knew this was for me. I won my first competition, the 2014 Victoria Highland Games. I watched the pro athletes compete and I knew right there that I could compete with anyone in the games, I just needed time and reps.
2: When did you start working with Justin and what led to your decision to
work with the RODHE SPORT system?
A: I started working with Justin in the second week of June 2015. The week before the IHGF World Championships in Norway.
I am a personal trainer, I do this for a living, I know training programs, sets, reps, different systems, and special exercises. I know how to get strong, fast…but I was focused on my athletes and not myself. I would skip a day here, skip a set there. I had nobody to answer to; I knew that I was not working to my full capacity and not pushing myself to get better. I needed a coach.
Justin was a no brainer. I knew his former coach, Bondarchuk. I knew the basics of the system. Justin was a new coach. I knew that his ideas were fresh and he knew how to get better. This could not have been a more perfect fit for me.
3: In your own words, how does the RODHE SPORT system differ from
systems you have used in the past?
A: Like I said before, my coach in University used a similar system. But it is not the same. I believe that Justin is an evolution of Bondarchuk. He takes what worked gets rid of the stuff that didn`t and adds other things he has learned outside of Bondarchuk.
The biggest thing other athletes need to ask themselves about their training program is…are you a weightlifter who throws, or a thrower who weight lifts. If you do twice as much weightlifting than throwing, guess what, you are. Justin`s system is very much, “you are a thrower first, only be concerned with your distances thrown, nothing else matters. “
4: Have there been any struggles in your adjustment to the new system?
A: I knew what to expect, you start to feel like a robot, no emotion. Your nervous system takes the hit, its not muscles. You feel like you can`t put everything into your throw, like things don`t click. And then you peak for a competition and everything is firing on all cylinders; the “where did that come from” moment.
You must learn to recover and wait for your body to adapt on this system; the results will come when it is time.
5: What improvements to your training have you observed in the last year?
A: With highland games, certain events are very technical and weightlifting does not help a whole lot. This is why older, weaker men beat me in the start, like the caber for example, or heavy weight for distance. You just need to do it over and over again.
One of the events that tests how strong and powerful you are is the weight over bar. If I am hitting big numbers on that I know something is working. This year I hit 16’6” and hit the bar 3 times at 17feet. I was the second best Canadian at WOB and one of the best Amateurs in the world at it. That was proof in my eyes that the training system is working.
6: Can you give an impression of your 2015 season and where you saw success
A: In the 2015 season I wanted to compete at every big level Amateur competition, then turn pro at the national championships. I wanted to compete against the best athletes that I could find.
I did everything I wanted to this year. It was hard at the start of the year. I would hit a personal best in a competition and get 8th! I remember competing against Ryan Stewart, a pro from Utah. He told me, “you are going to get beat for a while, don`t worry, it will only make you better.”
It`s hard to lose all the time. But every competition I entered I hit a personal best and multiple season bests.
The goals were top 5 at nationals. I was 4th, Top 5 at worlds I was 5th. There were certain distances I wanted and all were achieved. I remember driving home after the national championships thinking to myself, “the job was done.” I hit 4 personal bests and 2 season bests in that competition. I was not happy, just satisfied, I put in the time to finish top 5 and I did.
7: What are your goals for the 2016 season? And beyond?
A: Next year is the first pro season; the biggest challenge will be competing in Scotland. I will be traveling with Duncan McCallum, a great thrower from the US. I plan on doing 10 - 15 competitions there in about 3 weeks. It will be a real test.
There are certain distances I would like to hit in 2016. I will keep them to myself. I feel like I can make large improvements in all events. I am still learning how to unlearn track and field movements and learn highland games movements. The heavy weight for distance and the discus throw are not the same technique.
As for beyond, I feel like I have the ability to be as good as anyone in the games in time. I plan on just keeping my head down and getting better. There are certain huge distances in my mind that drive me. It is rare that I ever get too excited when I throw a personal best right now. Because I know I will throw farther soon.
8: Do you have any advice for athletes, young and masters alike, wanting to
improve their Highland Games achievement?
A: Young athletes: Do not be afraid to fail. Stop reading random training crap on the Internet and watching YouTube videos. Get strong and throw a lot. If you want advice on something ask people who have accomplished something. They may not have all the answers, but they have more than you. I worked for John Godina, one of the best throwers ever. He is a normal, funny guy with no ego. Ask him a question, he will answer it.
Masters: Do not neglect mobility and diet and don`t be afraid to add in some light conditioning. I have competed with great masters throwers and throwers that used to be excellent in there youth. Many have the same problems. Tight, poor conditioning and generally get too heavy. Braidy Miller from the USA is 46 and the best Amateur HG athlete in the world. He has great conditioning, is in great general shape, works hard on mobility and listens to his body.
Athletes in their prime: Stop lifting so heavy! Your 600lbs squat is useless. Stop thinking you know everything and listen to the older athletes that did this before you. Don`t make the mistakes they did.
9: Where can our readers follow your achievements? Do you have a web/social
media presence? Where will you be training and competing this next year?
A: I try to stay out of social media. I have Facebook, but really I do this for myself because it makes me happy. If you see me at a games please introduce yourself and talk with me. I love meeting and talking with people who are interested in strength or throwing because it is the best way to learn.
I live in Calgary, Canada. I do not have my schedule yet for 2016. But I compete all over the United States, Canada and Scotland. Hopefully I can do 30+ games next year.