By Oliver Whaley
Most of us throwers here at BYU have a very unique situation in comparison to other college throwers in that we have all served 2 year missions for the LDS (Mormon) church. Which makes us 2 years older than other throwers at the end of our college careers. This has brought a lot of scrutiny as many people think it gives us an unfair advantage. Whether unfair or not is not the basis of my post today. I just want to give some insight into what it is like competing at the college level as a Mormon athlete.
First off, I just want to express my gratitude for being able to compete after serving a mission. The NCAA has allowed us to take off two years and still come back and pick up our eligibility where we left off. I love track and I love competing, but my faith is far more important to me than either of those things. So if it was put to choice, either to serve a mission or to throw. I would choose to serve, but I am grateful I can do both.
In a lot of respects, the Mormon culture is far different from any other. It puts great emphasis on church, faith, service, education, and family. Its very common for young LDS men to serve missions, return home, get married, and start families while still in school. And anyone who is married and has started a family knows it brings a lot of added responsibility and use of time. Most LDS athletes and most of us throwers here at BYU have to balance church service, athletics, family, school, providing financially, and just dealing with the basic stresses of life. We know its a choice we have made to do these things, so when it comes to throwing and lifting, we all just try to do the best we can with what time we have.
For me, this year has been very tough, but rewarding too. I got married last year and my wife and I decided we were ready to start our family (were having a baby boy due June 26th). So this past summer I worked three jobs to put money away and kept one job for this school year. Its an early morning custodial job at BYU (right now sleep is the only time I can afford to give up). I normally work from 5 am to 8:30 am, but the transmission on our vehicle went out awhile back and we had to have it completely repaired. So I have been putting in an extra hour every morning working 4 am to 8:30 am. After work I go to school, I was taking 15 credits but couldn't handle it so I dropped a class and now have 12. I throw 5 days a week and lift 4 days, but I keep the volume low as I don't get as much recovery time (on a good night I get six and a half hours if I fall asleep by 9:30). Mix in competition, travel, a pregnant wife lol, homework, tests, church callings, paperwork, everything else, and it can all be very stressful lol.
Leif is also married and has had to deal with both the paper work and financial issues of getting his wife US citizenship. Danny, one of our shot putters is married and has a one year old son. He is finishing school and works at Domino's and coaches track at Spanish Fork High. Blaine, one of our javelin throwers is also married. Sean, another javelin thrower is not married but has to work part-time to pay for school. And we have a few other throwers with similar situations.
Two years ago, a former thrower here at BYU named Dustin Lawrenson missed the birth of his first child while on a trip to Arizona. Our flight home was delayed and while we were waiting in the airport his wife went into labor. The flight was later canceled and we had to stay an extra night. Dustin was able to get on a later flight, but still missed the birth. He decided to forgo his last year of eligibility.
Lol I'm not relating these situations to get sympathy for us Mormon throwers, but just to show the unique situation that most Mormon athletes face on top of competing in athletics.
As far as missions are concerned, I can agree that it does make us older and probably more physically mature than other throwers. But athletically I don't think it gives us an edge in terms of training and throwing far. I served my mission in the U.S. I tried to stay fit, but throwing was non-existent for 2 years (I didn't start throwing the hammer until I got home as a 21 year old). Missionary work entails a very vigorous schedule and doesn't leave much time for anything else. In the morning I got up a little earlier than our scheduled time of 6:30 am to exercise. I brought some heavy bands with me and was sometimes lucky to pick up a home-gym bench set and weights from someone that no longer used them and wanted it off their porch lol. Leif served in Taiwan and Danny went to Mexico and neither had access to weights. Most of the others served in the states.
All in all, serving missions and living the lifestyle we choose as Mormon athletes creates a unique situation for us throwers here at BYU in comparison to other college throwers. We may be older and probably more physically mature with age, but I think in the end, most of us put ourselves at a disadvantage rather than at an advantage.
But what it comes down to is we just love to throw and are grateful we can still compete and enjoy the student athlete experience after serving missions and while balancing other priorities, and we just try to do the best that we can.
Danny 59'9" Shotput