by Peter Houston-Hencken
Many coaches of college-level sports have competed in that specific sport in their past. It is not uncommon for them to have played their sport in high school and college. However, this is not the case for Whitworth javelin coach Eloise Cappellano.
Finishing up her eighth year of coaching for Whitworth, Cappellano has had some impressive achievements. Her first major achievement while coaching at Whitworth was the NCAA West Region Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year for 2011. In 2012, Cappellano began a string of successes by sending two javelin throwers to the NCAA Division III Championships, one of which earned an All-American Honor. Since then, Cappellano has coached 12 throwers to earn All-American honors. In one of her most impressive years—2013—Cappellano coached five of the top 20 male throwers in the country as well as two of the top 20 female throwers.
“It was almost like a perfect storm of a year where everyone peaked at the time they were supposed to peak,” Cappellano said. “They were throwing their best throws of the season right before we went to nationals.”
What makes these achievements even greater is that Cappellano has never thrown in any sort of javelin competition. After competing as a runner for Glassboro State College’s track and field team, Cappellano graduated and took a job at Deer Park High School teaching special education classes. She was encouraged by the Deer Park cross country coach to apply for a job coaching track and field. Upon learning that she could only apply for a position coaching throwing events, Cappellano attended a clinic that would teach her how to coach the throws.
Unfortunately, Cappellano said the clinic was not helpful, so Cappellano began meeting with Mead High School track and field coach Gary Baskett.
“He is a great coach and he was and still is a great mentor and I just learned a ton from him,” Cappellano said.
Cappellano began talking to as many javelin coaches and professionals in the sport as she could in order to get better and learn every secret there was to know.
In 2007, Cappellano took a position at Whitworth and began coaching javelin at the college level.
“She is someone who is competitive…. She loves to learn. She learned the craft of the javelin. That’s why I hired her to coach the javelin,” head track coach Toby Schwarz said.
Cappellano’s athletes said she gives specific instructions regarding specific students’ needs.
Sophomore Kelee Lambert believes Cappellano’s lack of personal experience throwing allows her to look at each student differently.
“She doesn’t really have the view of the thrower. So none of her opinions are biased in that way. She’s focused on you and your difference,” Lambert said.
Cappellano is not only limited to teaching throwers who have never played a sport before. She has also taught athletes who have picked up alternative ways of throwing from playing different sports.
“I played baseball my whole life. I had never touched a javelin until my junior year and she’s the one that really turned me around,” junior Tyler Coopman said. “I wouldn’t have had the success that I did without her.
However, one thing that truly stands out to her athletes and fellow coaches is how much time and effort she has put into learning the sport of javelin.
“She’s put in so much work going to extra clinics,” senior Chase Wright said. “She didn’t throw, but she knows so much about the event and has talked to so many professionals from all over the world.”
During the practices, Cappellano does not throw the javelin in order to show her athletes what a throw should look like. Instead, she focuses on detailed explanation and examples from the upperclassmen on how to throw effectively.
“She’s so good at explaining it in detail. A lot of times she can push us and shove us and pull us in different directions to make us feel what it’s supposed to be like. We don’t really need to watch her throw in order to know what’s good,” Coopman said.
Cappellano has said that she loves working with athletes on the college level and would like to continue coaching javelin at Whitworth in the years to come.
“The young people that I get the opportunity to work with are extraordinary. It is an absolute labor of love every day,” Cappellano said.