The nearly dozen or so throwers on the Iroquois High School track team don't compare to what Melissa Kurzdorfer, their first-year coach, did a decade ago when she was setting New York State records at nearby Lancaster High School. And that's okay.
Kurzdorfer doesn't expect her charges - she coaches both boys and girls - to be able to do what she was capable of doing as a 16-year-old. Not yet, anyway. So when she speaks about her team and some of their current shortcomings, it's not because she's bragging about her past - she's not - or saying she doesn't have faith in her team - she does. She is simply stating the obvious.
What Kurzdorfer is hoping to do is to turn the Iroquois throwing program into the type of program in which she was nurtured, one that helped her become a rock star among New York state prep throwers. So when she points out that her kids aren't quite there yet, it's said with the intention that she wants them to be there and to exceed whatever she was able to accomplish.
"Most of my kids are freshmen and there's a little bit of a learning curve," she said. "I had to think long and hard my first couple of weeks here and after my first meet. What is the difference between my team now and the team I was on? Lancaster had established throwers and we knew what was expected of us.
"When I was in seventh grade I could see how many kids were ahead of me. They were able to take me under their wing and say do this, don't do that, remember this, don't forget that. Those are basics. I have a young team and they have a program but it's not built to where it could be. So I'm developing it from the ground up. I don't want to call it spoon feeding but it is. We're starting from the basics."
Kurzdorfer said that she's taking all the little miscues in stride as she works the program going. So when she has to remind her team not to drop the shot on the track or not to drop the discus and roll it over the rocks it simply serves as a reminder that her students are just starting out.
"Some people will get wrapped up in I knew this [when I was their age] stuff," Kurzdorfer, 27, said. "But this is fun. This is where it starts and the passion begins to grow. And I hope it becomes something bigger for them."
It was certainly big for Kurzdorfer, who was one of the premier prep throwers not only in the state but in the country when she left high school a decade ago. While some of her state records have since been broken, she still holds the shot put mark for seventh- [37-3.75] and eighth-grade [41-10.75] girls as well as freshmen [45-5.5], sophomore [46-6.75] and seniors [50-6] in the shot while holding the second-highest spot among juniors [48-2.5].
She holds the top spot among seventh [31-5] and eighth [42-6] graders in the 20-pound weight throw and for the better part of a decade held the top spot among, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Those records have since been broken but she remains in the top four in every grade, including having the second, third and fourth-highest throws among seniors.
Kurzdorfer also went on to star collegiately at Kent State and Penn State, earning All-America honors three times.
It's that wealth of experience and success that made Kurzdorfer such an attractive coaching candidate. She's currently an administrative assistant and is also working on getting an MBA so sometimes it takes a bit of juggling to get to practice. Kurzdorfer usually arrives at practice by 5 p.m. and will spend Fridays with the entire throwing squad.
Occasionally she'll even get in the circle and throw a few herself for demonstration purposes. Kurzdorfer is also hopeful of getting the team to start throwing the hammer.
"This [coaching] is something I have contemplated for a couple of years," she said. "I didn't have the time or the opportunity but the school is close to where I live and I thought it's about time I start giving back. This is something I enjoy. And if it progresses towards anything more that would be awesome."
"The kids ask me all the time if I'm going to be a teacher. It's something I used to think about but for now just want to finish out my MBA and go from there. They [the kids] crack me up. They say the way you talk to us, you're way better than the other teachers at the school. I'm flattered but I'm not sure that it [teaching] is what I want."
Kurzdorfer will also soon have one other youngster to whom she will have to pay close attention in addition to her team. She is pregnant with an early November due date. While she plans on enjoying motherhood as much as possible she's also looking forward to working with the team next winter during the indoor season.
"I'll have to take a little time after the baby and make sure I'm recovered enough," Kurzdorfer said. "I won't be able to go every day right away but it will give me more of an opportunity to be at practice when the kids are there and work with them on a more consistent basis as opposed to the couple of kids I see once a week."