Throwing coach uses lessons learned from experience to lead Hawkeyes

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 03, 2012 6:30 AM

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It all started in a gym.

Iowa assistant track and field coach Scott Cappos was in eighth grade when he first picked up a shot put. He was standing in the gymnasium during physical-education class; his coach told him to throw it from half-court.

"I hit the wall on the other side of the gym," he said and laughed. "My coach told me to go out for track and field. That's how that started."

The Cappos family was no stranger to athletics. Cappos had two older brothers who played semipro baseball. He tried to keep up with them but found more success through track and field. And since the sports run in the same season for Illinois high-school sports, Cappos had to choose.

"The track coach at my high school told me that if I keep working hard, I have the chance to do some great things as an athlete," he said. "So I was able to win a state championship."

He went on to have a stellar Division-I college career. He attended Indiana, where he claimed two Big Ten titles in the shot put (1991-92) and was a three-time All-American.

Cappos began his coaching career right out of college, starting at West Salem High in Wisconsin. Western Michigan gave him a chance to coach at the college level from 1995-96. Cappos tutored seven All-Americans and brought home both Mid-American Conference and Central Collegiate Conference titles during both seasons.

He was still competing during that stretch; he threw shot put for Nike during his first few years as a coach. He stopped competing in 1996.

"That's when I came to Iowa," he said.

Iowa's throwing program became a conference force the moment Cappos stepped into the position. The Hawkeyes have earned 14 All-American honors in the throwing events since 1997, Cappos' first year.

But he said there's no secret formula to his success.

The assistant coach of 16 years focuses on small details to help his athletes improve as throwers and all-around athletes, and his pupils said they support the coaching strategy.

"We basically show off what he's teaching us," junior javelin thrower Matt Byers said. "He understands us pretty well, he relates to us well, and he's not uptight about anything. He's a pretty loose coach. He really cares about us."

Byers said Cappos deserves full credit for the success he has achieved to this point in his Hawkeye career. Byers took first place this past weekend in Fayetteville, Ark., in the javelin throw.

"I came in throwing 219 or 220 [meters]. But since then, he's helped me reach distances I never thought I would reach," the junior said. "He helps me mentally prepare, too."

That preparedness is something Cappos capitalizes on with his athletes. He said his athletes' mental state is important — especially for throwers, because technique plays a huge role in their execution.

Cappos also emphases bigger lessons like teamwork and how his athletes grow together as a group instead of individually. He said this helps them all become better throwers, no matter which event they throw.

"That's one of things I focus on: When we build as a team, we want to build the whole group together," he said. "Let's cheer each other on and be excited for your teammates. Even if you're a little disappointed and had a bad day, you still need to get out there and cheer your team on."

That teamwork and camaraderie was showcased this past weekend at the Arkansas Spring Invitational. Cappos said he was pleased with how his throwers executed — but more importantly, how they worked as a team.

Women's head coach Layne Anderson agreed.

"We certainly had a variety of highlights," he said in a statement. "It was a great trip that gives us something to build off of."

Follow DI women's track and field reporter Cody Goodwin on Twitter.

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