Interview with Roger Steen

Team USA's Roger Steen qualified for the World Indoor Track and Field Championships in the shot put and competes Friday, March 1 in Glasgow, Scotland. Roger took some time with Velaasa Athletics to discuss his throwing career before his big competition. You can support his efforts by using his code steen15 to save at checkout and by rooting for him on his Instagram

Can you walk us through the moment you realized you had qualified for the World Indoor Championship?

I knew the top two made the team going into the competition, but it didn’t really sink in until after the meet was finished, when USADA tapped me on the shoulder and followed me after. A large reason my coach and I decided to compete in the indoor season was to make the World Indoor Championships Team and it was a great feeling to achieve that goal. 

Can you tell us a little about where you grew up? What about your upbringing do you think helped you attain the type of success you’ve had in sports?  

I grew up in a little town named Luck in Wisconsin that had Kindergarten through High School in one building. It was a close knit community that I still admire today. Both sides of my family attended Luck so I had ties to the school at a young age. My father was a 5th grade teacher so I was in the school early and at the school late growing up. After school I would wander the halls talking to the teachers, playing in the gyms, and trying to sneak into the weightroom. 

Growing up my family was supportive and competitive. Sports were in my life at a young age. My parents played slow pitch softball, coached volleyball, reffed basketball games, and as a family we golfed ever since I can remember. We had a busy life growing up, my siblings and myself were in sports every weekend so there wasn’t much sitting around. My mom and dad tried to get to as many sporting events as they could. My extended family helped nourish my competitive nature as well. We have a family golf tournament, and we play polish poker at Christmas and only a few family members have cried. 

Back in your high school athletics days, what inspired you to start shot putting?

Back in high school I did as many sports as possible. I had football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and in the spring I did both golf and track in the same season. I was talked into going out for track and field my sophomore year by two friends of mine Landen and AJ since I was a bigger high-schooler and fairly strong. We had to drive to the next town to throw because our track was asphalt and the throwing area didn’t have a net for safety. Having a throws coach at that school also helped with keeping me focused at practice. He was our football coach and my mother’s co-worker, so I had a great relationship with my coach in my high school shot put career.

How does it feel to defy the odds and qualify for the World Indoor Championships coming from an NCAA Division 3 background?

I think a large reason I am here at the World Championship is because of my Division 3 background. I went to college to play football and then asked to join the track and field team with some encouragement from other guys who were doing both sports. Plus, my mom thought being on a consistent schedule would help with school.  I wasn’t on scholarship so I had to work through school and now working through competing doesn’t seem that different. I just have fewer classes I have to attend. I didn't get to this point alone. There is a whole family to reach this dream I've had. It comes in many forms... my college coaches letting me tryout, my training partner and now best friend Curt Jensen moving close to train with, and valuable guidance from John Smith for both of our careers. Then just never stopping learning from every opportunity I have had to adapt and change with each opportunity to become the best version of myself I can be. 

What is the most valuable lesson you've learned during your shot-putting career?

This question reminds me of what my college coach would tell me.

“Dance with the girl who brought you here.”  -Paul Conlin

I’ll help define that a little better. You have to stick to your strengths and attributes to get to where you want to go. You can’t wish and hope for someone else’s physical or mental gifts. Trust in the technique that best fits your skills, trust in the lifting my coach has for me, and trust that this all leads to being the best prepared I can be for the biggest stages. Trust in the process. 

What is your preferred schedule on an ideal training day in terms of throwing and lifting? 

The day can change depending on what time of year it is, off-season or competition season. My preferred weekly schedule goes like this: Sunday we will get the large lifts out of the way before the work week starts and before I coach the athletes at UWEC. Monday I will throw more heavy shots then light shots. Tuesday I get to pick up Curt and Elise’s son Zane and bring him to practice until they are done with work. Then I get my 2nd day of lifting on Wednesday. Afterward, I will do mobility, stretching, and pre-hab exercises to keep my body healthy.  Thursday I will throw, then to finish the week I will either pre-meet lift, or have a longer lift depending on time of the year. Then I end the week with either coaching or competing myself. 

How has your technique evolved over the years, and what are you currently focusing on? 

There have been a number of different things that have evolved over the years but for Curt and I the largest change has been working the ground through the throw, and getting a consistent drive across the circle. I used to have airtime in my technique and needed to address that issue because it kept me from applying as much force as I could generate in the throw. 

Right now I am currently working on my continued acceleration of the throw. I am trying to get rid of this pause I have from my wheel to my power position. I slow down which in turn gives me a shorter distance in my throw. 

What mental strategies do you employ to stay focused and perform under the pressure of major competitions?

During competition I tend to focus on the same things I have been working on at practice. I know the shot will go farther just with meet intensity. I don't have to go to another level just to compete. I use my same ques from practice but just don’t think. I execute and do what Curt tells me to do if I need a change. When the competition happens the work is already done, that is just the fun part of it. 

What is your current support structure in terms of coaching and training environment and how has that played a role in your success?

I have a great environment for training and coaching. I am an assistant coach at my alma mater UWEC and help create an encouraging environment in the field side of track and field. With this opportunity, I am able to use the facilities with the head coach Chip Schneiders approval. 

I live with my coach Curt Jensen and his family Elise and Zane. We have a gym in the garage and lift when we want to and don’t have to work around another team or a public gym. If I do have questions for my coach it is easy to talk about since we are a little obsessed with track. 

I think that helping the athletes at UWEC reminds me of the little aspects of the throw. That can be overlooked and reminding them helps me go back to the basics and improve my technique little by little. 

As a shot putter from a smaller school, what message would you like to share about athletic opportunities at the D3 level?

As I talked about before I don’t think I would have reached this level without my D3 experience. I had the same distractions as any college kid, but a difference was I had to hold myself to my decision. At upper divisions coaches sometimes have to hold you to your commitment. I knew that the other people on the team were there because they chose to be there and prioritized it.  We chose to get better together, to compete together, and we flourished together. I had the opportunity to compete with upper divisions many times in college. The coaches will get the athletes opportunities who deserve it. If you do the work and buy into the program, you can be that athlete to your team. 


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