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Friday, January 20, 2012
Starting a new sport is a tough proposition. Learning new techniques can be frustrating and embarrassing, and the mental roadblocks that are created can be hard on a young athlete. Imagine starting that process at the collegiate level and you’ll have a good idea how Lipscomb junior Taylor Mason felt in 2010 when she joined the Bison track and field team.
Mason was a stand-out athlete in high school at Spartanburg Christian Academy in Inman, S.C. She was all-state in softball and all-region in volleyball during her time with the Warriors.
Although she was recruited by a number other schools, she had her heart set on attending Lipscomb. Her older brother Steven was a member of head coach Bill Taylor’s track and field team after transferring from Faulkner.
“I absolutely love Lipscomb,” she said. “I knew it was where I wanted to be. I was dead-set on going to Lipscomb, but I knew I couldn’t play volleyball here and I still wanted to be involved in athletics somehow. My dad encouraged me to talk to Coach Taylor.”
At the time, there was a shortage of throwers on the Lipscomb roster. Coach Taylor decided to let Mason walk on to see what she could do. Her brother had come from Faulkner with no previous track experience and had become a top runner for Taylor in the short sprints.
The adjustment was tough in the beginning, for Mason and the coaches.
“There were a lot of technical aspects that were difficult,” Mason said. “I had a great coach my freshman and sophomore seasons in coach (Kyle) Willoughby, who competed at Alabama. He was very patient and took me under his wing. He taught me a lot; I owe most of the success I’ve had to him.
“The coaches were so patient. They put in a lot of extra work with me.”
The strength exercises and stretching are different than she experienced with softball and volleyball.
“We do a lot of strength and flexibility training,” Mason said. “Without an indoor facility, we do a lot of practicing on our technique and our run-up using the medicine ball. We do strength and flexibility exercises when we can’t get outside.
“Basically, we work on everything we can control up until the throw. If the technique is perfect, strength is less of a factor.”
Despite her rapid progression, Mason does not yet consider herself an expert in the throwing events.
“No,” she said with a laugh. “I’m still learning a lot. Watching the professionals and their form and trying to replicate it is the best way to get better. There are so many technical aspects, from shoulder movement to hips to body movement that having a general knowledge isn’t enough. Each tiny aspect makes your throw go a little farther.”
Lipscomb assistant coach Luke Syverson has taken over Mason’s training since the departure of Willoughby. He said her progress has been significant.
“When I took over (the throws), it took me a few weeks before I realized she hadn’t competed in high school,” Syverson said. “She’s a quick learner and a great athlete, which has helped her progress.
“What sets Taylor apart is that she’s a hard worker. She’s stubborn, almost to a fault. She’s very coachable and still has a lot of room to grow.”
Coach Taylor echoes Syverson’s sentiments.
“She’s a hard worker,” Taylor said. “She has a lot enthusiasm for everything she does. Her brother had never run track either before he came to Lipscomb. She’s a lot like her brother, she really gives it her all.”
As for Mason, she preaches patience if you’re trying to get into a new sport. No one will become an expert in one day.
“Be patient,” Mason counsels. “It takes some time to get everything right. You have to keep an open mind and be ready to learn. I got frustrated in the beginning; I had played softball and volleyball for a long time, and I knew what I was doing. I didn’t know what to expect and everything was new, so I didn’t get it right away.
“You know when you get the perfect throw. It may only happen a couple of times a year, but it’s a great, awesome feeling. All the hours and hours you put into the technique, when you finally nail it you feel wonderful.”