WOB: 3rd Attempt


Kristy Scott throws a 20′ and then some WOB in Victoria a few years ago. It didn’t go over…this time. Photo Credit: Kristy’s FB page, taken by Douglass Sisk (scottishheavyphotographs.com)

Matt and I were hanging out last weekend after a hard afternoon of patio drinkin’ and Highlander Burger eatin’ and decided to watch some of Beth Burton’s live video from the 2016 Portland Highland Games. The video’s were tons of fun and Beth’s play by play was better than anything you’d get off Fox Sports North during hockey season. Add in many cameos by folks we’ll miss seeing this year AND Jay “Big Daddy” Oneill’s announcing and color commentary and it was a pleasant way to continue avoiding anything and everything around the house that needed to be done.

When we sat down, Beth had the women’s WOB live streamed (finally, something useful out of the Facebook) so we hunkered down with our drinks; cigar, and fags. There were some great throws; many side swings and spinning magic and it hit me that WOB is a pretty fun event.


Phoenix, 2016. How did this stupid thing not go over???

Except for when it’s not.


WOB in pouring rain is still more fun than WOB in snowstorm. Guess how I know.

The first time I ever threw the weight over the bar was in Wichita Falls, Texas at my first Highlander. Texas belle, Brittney Boswell, guided me through to a 13′ clear. That was kinda fun. It took me another four or five Games to clear 13′ again, that was less fun.

And that’s WOB. While nothing in athletics is ever a guarantee, nowhere in my experience in competing in many different sports is that fact more visible than WOB. One day you could clear 15′ (my personal best) and the next day completely bomb out (as in, fail. You have failed to make your opening height and you do the walk of shame back to your chair while wondering what in the everlasting FOK just happened. Guess how I know.)

Once I hit my stride in WOB, it was a given (in my brain anyway) that this was solid. I went Games where I’d throw 4 good attempts from 12-15, hit the bar at 16′ and call it a happy day. And then in Minnesota a couple of years ago, I bombed out at 12′. Uhhhhh, huh? Yup. I was throwing the implement at least a couple of feet higher than the bar, the problem was that it didn’t go over. That’s when advice started coming from all sides of the field and with each attempt, the advice got more frantic and more confusing. By the time I got up to the standards on my 3rd attempt not only was in my own head, I had too many people yelling at me from the peanut gallery. (I’ve written about this before, a lot. This is why I’ve come to LOVE throwing with Katie Crowley. She’s calm and methodical and stays off to the side when 2nd and even 3rd attempts are being contemplated. She’s matter of fact in her delivery of ONE cue and I have yet to not be calmed by her advice. She’s the shitsznizzle.)

Anyway. After that, I struggled with WOB. My confidence was shot. While I “felt” as if I were doing the same thing just like the good ‘ol days of WOB, I clearly wasn’t which made me all the more frustrated which makes a person all the more tight and all the more miserable. I struggled with WOB at my next Games in Enumclaw and while I did okay with the lighter weight in Scotland, I was still off my game. Have been, quite honestly, inconsistent and that drives me crazy.

Now, some folks have been kind enough to suggest the side swing to me for consistency but here’s the deal, I don’t wanna. It’s just not in me to want to add the need for lateral space to be covered in an event where vertical success is needed. I know, there have been some amazing throws from the side and I believe these amazing throws from amazing people are rock solid. But I just can’t get behind adding another element into an already tough event, especially on a 3rd attempt. For me. Sorry not sorry.

And then this last May I got to watch some great WOB throws in Victoria and something just clicked. Watching the back and forth of Spencer Tyler and Andy Vincent along with the smooth power of Olivia Tyler and shit made sense. For me, it’s a dip and drive. So many people were telling me to A) bring the weight waaaaay back between my legs and then 2. USE my legs on the push. And while this may make sense to others, it never clicked with me. The further back I would bring the weight, the straighter my legs would have to be in order to achieve it. And while my legs are completely straight as the implement is coming forward, at some point folks wanted me to “use them.” WTF?  I would be told again and again I’m not using my legs and I’d get frustrated as fok and all would be lost (I needed to add drama for effect.)

However; weight back comfortably and a solid dip (think Jerk dip) that loads the legs and a nice drive as the implement is coming back up. Dip and drive, that’s what works for me. Lastly, and here’s where I always thank Steve Conway (in my head) when I accomplish it, keep throwing. Steve noticed in Portland last year that I was doing all of the hard work for a great toss but then just releasing it into the air instead of continuing to “throw” it higher. I don’t know if that makes sense reading it but it my mind it does and I throw better when I remember that cue.


Olivia Tyler’s 16′ WOB in Victoria this past May. Like room temperature buttah.

Things have been going better since I started thinking about WOB this way and even the Bigg guy hit an easy 15′ his only time out this year with the 56# in Illinois last month when I gave him this cue.

Anyway, back to last weekend. While we were watching, there were a couple of surprises in that a few ladies struggled where they don’t usually and shit would come down to a 3rd attempt. And I wondered, what is it about a 3rd attempt WOB that makes it so mind-fuckingly difficult to just relax and do your thang. Now, admittedly, this could just be me. It could be all others in the Highland Games world approaches a 3rd attempt with the same confident ease of a first attempt. But I don’t think so. I’ve watched the body language of some of the World’s best after a missed 2nd attempt and it changes dramatically. Especially at lower heights (“lower” is relative. I get that.) I tried to equate it to a baseball player who is up to bat with a full count,  bases loaded and two outs trying to stay calm to get that hit or at the very least get the walk and a score. But not really, cuz if you don’t get that hit or even strike out, you keep playing. With the WOB, you’re done. You’ve just became a spectator for the remaining throws and if you don’t want to be a spectator at 12 feet, you’re in a world of suck for the next hour. True story.

At the end of the day, this is just one of the reasons the Scottish Highland Games are fun AND don’t necessarily get the respect it deserves (or even requires. I’m always a little surprised when folks see how much fun we have and decide to get involved in the Games and upon the first practice realize this is actually kinda hard and bail.) You need the mental fortitude of a golfer (come on, 18 holes for four days in a row?); the strength and athleticism of a weightlifter; the endurance of a marathon runner; the physical capabilities of a New York City garbage man, and the sense of humor of Rodney Dangerfield. Show me another sport where you’ve got all this fun rolled into one ball of awesome. I DARE YA!

At some point, we all are forced to deal with that 3rd attempt WOB. If you’re reading this, my hope for you is that it doesn’t come until a PR or a World Record attempt. If you’re not reading this, fuck it, I hope it happens in warm ups. (But not really, I’m needing to ride the Karma train for the next few months so I’m wishing everyone success and the lightness of fairy wings for you all.) How’s that for fucking Karma??

My wife met me at the door the other night in a sexy negligee. Unfortunately, she was just coming home.

Rodney Dangerfield

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to jep6095@gmail.com At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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2 Responses to WOB: 3rd Attempt

  1. dwood says:

    Great article. My training partner/wife has serious issues with nerve damage in her throwing hand and as a result has problems with lower heights(accuracy and going over the bar just not up) so she resorted to side swing for 12/13/14 feet attempts and the stand for 15 and above. Even when she was throwing the 28 would side swing 12-14 then stand. With the 28 she topped out @ 16-3. Now with the 21 she still side swings(usually 13/14) then stands…has done 16-6 in a games and hopes to clear 17 shortly. She also totally rushes 3rd attempts and your right even world class throwers approach 3rds a different(rushed/nervous,?)way. Good stuff though

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