Once Tia Brooks finally decided to give shot put a try, there was no turning back. Brooks has now competed on the USA Olympic team and on two World Championship teams. She got her shot put start at East Kentwood High School in Kentwood, Michigan where she was a member of the High School Track and Field team. From there, she was recruited by the University of Oklahoma for shot put and as a junior made the 2012 USA Olympic team, competing in the London Olympics.
As the 2016 Olympics in Rio approach, Brooks is very focused on training. Due pressing family matters, Brooks recently had to move away from the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA and has now based her training efforts in West Michigan where her career first began. It may be a tough ride, but Brooks is ready to put in whatever it takes.
As she focuses on training to be the best shot put athlete she can be, Brooks provided a list of five things everyone should know about shot put.
1. Shot Put Requires More Than Just Weight Training and Strength
There is a common misconception that shot putting only requires extreme strength and muscle-building. Although that is one component, there are a number of other pieces that go into perfecting the craft. Technique is equally, if not more, important as strength. Brooks spends a total of 5-7 hours a day training. She does spend time in the gym, but also practices her approach, form, balance, and release. Another huge part of preparing for the Olympics is massage therapy and stretching. After the move to Michigan, Brooks, who moved from the Olympic Training Facility in Chula Vista, CA, has been on the search for a massage therapist to keep her body agile and in one piece.
“Strength is a huge component of shot putt, but it is not the only piece,” Brooks stated. “Currently, I spend my training hours running, jumping, weight-lifting and working on my throwing technique. In shot put it is extremely important to create muscle memory so that each time you throw the 8.8 shot the same motion takes place. This takes mental focus and stamina along with repetition.”
2. Elite Shot Put Athletes Have To Maintain A Proper Diet
For elite shot put athletes, eating healthy and mindfully is just as important as training. Brooks has maintained a balanced diet and encourages all athletes, no matter the sport, to do the same. It is important to understand how to properly fuel one’s body so that it is always competition ready. A healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats are necessary to keep energy levels high while not going overboard. Finding the perfect balance may be difficult at first, but will pay off in the end.
“When it comes to diet, it is important to listen to your body. Everyone is unique in that their body requires a different amount of specific nutrients,” Brooks noted. “All athletes, including those who shot put, should focus on feeling energized and strong. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I eat something for a special event, but it is all about balance. As athletes, we can’t just eat whatever we want. Food can be your best medicine and it is important to remember that when you feel good, you are able to perform to the best of your ability.”
3. Shot Put Is Not Just For Men
Historically, American men have dominated the shot put events internationally. However, American women within the sport have begun to be a force. In 2015, there were three American women ranked within the top 10 female shot put athletes in the world. These women were Michelle Carter (3rd), Brittany Smith (7th), and Brooks (8th).
Brooks shared, “Even though shot put is often seen as a male-dominated sport, it is important to realize that men are not the only ones who compete. As a young track athlete, I was originally against the sport of shot put because I felt like it was only for weight-lifting men, but my views have completely changed. I strongly encourage females of any age to give shot putting a try.”
4. When In Doubt, Rely On Your Athleticism
Athletes come in all shapes and sizes, and it is important to recognize that athleticism alone can lead to great achievements. In high school, Brooks was both a track and field and basketball athlete. She will be the first to admit that she wasn’t great at basketball, but it was her determination and athleticism that helped her to create success for herself. While having to work diligently at basketball, Brooks felt natural as a sprinter on the track and field team. When her coach suggested she try out shot put, she was resistant. However, once Brooks decided to give it a try she relied on her athleticism to become a successful shot put athlete.
Brooks added, “People are not often born with the desire to shot put. Instead, they progress into the sport. Therefore it is important to realize that as long as you maintain your athleticism, you can be successful in a variety of sports. I was pretty resistant to being a shot putter, but when I gave it a try, I knew it was my calling. Thanks to my athleticism, the sport came naturally to me and has led me to experiences I would have never predicted myself having. Even if you don’t think you will succeed, remember to rely on your athleticism and trust the process.”
5. Dedication Is Key If You Want To Succeed
When it comes to succeeding in sports, dedication is the most important factor. It takes many hours behind the scenes in practice and training sessions to become an elite athlete. Brooks was able to start her shot putting career in high school and take it to the next level at the University of Oklahoma. In 2012, as a junior in college, she made the USA Olympic team and in 2013 and 2015 she was on the World Championship team. This incredible success would not have come without hours spent practicing and training. Before a recent move back to West Michigan, Brooks had been training diligently at the Olympic Training Facility in Chula Vista, CA. Even though training may look a little different after the move, she is still working with a dedication to succeed.
“When I was in college the Olympics were not even on my radar,” Brooks admitted. “I was blessed with an opportunity to participate in the London Olympics in 2012 and I truly believe this was possible due to the dedication I had to shot put. I spent hours perfecting my form and maintaining a steady training program. Since then, my training has continued with great importance. I now train for 5-7 hours a day doing running drills, weight lifting, practicing my form, utilizing massage therapy, and stretching. If you want to succeed in shot put, or in any sport for that matter, it is very important to stay dedicated to your goals.”
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