Created: Saturday, April 12, 2014 8:03 p.m. CDT
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I’m Just Saying ... with Cary-Grove graduate Josh Freeman

Cary-Grove graduate Josh Freeman is off to a fast start in his sophomore outdoor season at Southern Illinois-Carbondale. Freeman won the shot put gold medal at last year's Pan-Am Games in Colombia. (Photo provided)

Josh Freeman throws things for a living. Two weeks into his sophomore outdoor track and field season at Southern Illinois-Carbondale, tthe 2012 Cary-Grove graduate broke both the SIU and Missouri Valley Conference shot put record. A week later, he broke his own records with a throw of 63 feet, 6 inches – a mark that ranks sixth nationally.

Breaking records isn’t really something you strive for, but it’s just something you get along the way. It’s something that happened in the first two weeks of the season and so to break (the records) that early and to get those marks right off the bat like that is huge because it sets you off right and then by the end of the season, when we start to taper our training, you hope for even better marks.

A lot of people in the sport are looking for immediate results. They’re looking for, ‘I want to throw (a certain distance) right now.’ But that’s not how it works. It’s one of those things where you work for months for maybe just a foot farther. You have to kind of have patience and just try to stick to it and keep moving on and realizing that what you’re doing is worth it.

I don’t really view success as how I do against another person. I view success based on how I feel. If I finish in second place behind someone who threw farther than I did, but I set a new personal best, then that’s a success. It means that I did as well as I possibly could. So I probably define success differently than a lot of other people do. The majority of the time, you’re not competing against the person next to you. You’re trying to beat your own personal best, and wherever you land in the (final results), that’s where you land. But if you get a personal best, that’s pretty much all you can ask for because things are going to fall where they fall. So I would say the majority of the time in practice, it’s me going against myself.

I don’t think most people understand how mental throwing is. You have three opportunities to get another three opportunities. I’ll give you a perfect example. When I was at the indoor national championships a few weeks ago, I had always kind of been a hot dog in high school and I always thought I could just always walk into a meet and not being nervous because I knew what I could do. But I came into the national meet and I was ranked 13th, and I had to move up four spots just to make the finals. I got nervous, and it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. At that point, it becomes a mental game and you have to overcome your nerves. You have to focus on you and not worry about what everyone else is doing. So a lot of it is mental – just as much as it is physical.

Before every throw, I visualize not only what it looks like, but I think about what it feels like. I’ll do that all the time – I’ll sit back and put my arms up and visualize. Or when I’m warming up or stretching, I’m already thinking about what a throw is going to feel like. That way, when I get into the ring, I’ve already done all the thinking I need to do and then it’s just a matter of me doing my job. Some people try to overthink it when they get ready to throw. But once you get into that ring, you’ve already done everything you can possibly do. So there’s no reason to think. You just have to throw.

• I’m Just Saying is a regular Sunday feature. If there’s someone you could like to see featured, write to me at jarnold@shawmedia.com or send me a message on Twitter @NWH_JeffArnold.