If you have been following along with what I have been sharing the past couple of weeks on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, you’ll see what I’ve spent quite a deal of time discussing deliberate practice. I first discussed the topic a few years ago. I’ve written about it in the past and shared some insight, but I didn’t really speak about the research behind the topic.
In his book Peak, Dr. Anders Ericsson introduced us to the term deliberate practice and the research behind the topic. Over the course of his research career, Dr. Ericsson focused his time on studying experts in the fields of music, medicine, athletics, education, and business. What he discovered was that contrary to the 10,000 hour rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell, was that the quality of the time spent practicing a specific skill was more important than the total amount of hours spent practicing that specific skill.
Essentially Dr. Ericsson’s research suggests that quality, and not necessarily quantity, is what will give individuals the best opportunity to become experts in their chosen fields.
I find Dr. Ericsson’s research is rather interesting. It may go against some societal norms that suggest how much time we spend on something is going to produce higher quality results compared to the time spent on trying to accomplish something.
Dan Chambliss found similarities in his research that examined national caliber swimmers training for the 1984 Olympic Games. Dr. Chambliss found that when a group of like minded individuals (swimmers) are completing the same tasks (mundane) in a highly competitive environment (Mission Viejo) over a long period of time (Olympic Quad) with consistent feedback and refinement from their coach, they give themselves a better opportunity to achieve their goal (qualify for an Olympic team) compared to their peers that may be missing an ingredient from the recipe shared.
Fast forward 20 years and similar ingredients were brought together to help a different recipe take shape, qualifying for the Olympic Games in track and field. A group of elite level throwers were brought together in 2001/2002 with the aspirations of representing Canada and the United States in the shot-put, hammer, and discus events in international competition. This group was called Ashland Elite. Their coach was 4x Olympian Jud Logan. This group of like minded individuals (throwers) were following similar training plans (mundane) in a highly competitive environment (Ashland Elite; Ashland, OH) over a long period of time (Olympic quads) with consistent feedback and refinement from Jud. This training group produced Olympic Games qualifiers in Kibwe Johnson (2012, 2016) and A.G. Kruger (2004, 2008, 2012) in the hammer throw. Derek and Joe Woodske represented Canada in international competition in the hammer throw. Crystal (Smith) Johnson also represented Canada in international competition in the hammer throw. Adriane (Blewitt) Wilson competed at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Trials in the shot-put and has gone on to win 5 world championships in the Highland Games. The right combination of ingredients were mixed together that ended up producing quite a potent recipe for athlete success.
When replicated under different training conditions (track and field-throwing and swimming) similar athlete outcomes are achieved. It is certainly a conversation for a different day, but under the right circumstances with a determined end result high level athletes tend to achieve their goals. In these two examples, the end results were representing their respective countries in international competition. On the surface it seems like an easy recipe to put together. A difficult ingredient to measure out is sacrifice, the willingness to put other aspirations (life) on hold long enough for one to achieve their unique and specific goal.
Anders, Dan, and Jud all shared similar outlooks when it came to what it took to reach a certain level of elite status as an athlete. They understood that under the right conditions and quality amounts of time that elite athletes would be better able to achieve their goals. Now it isn’t to say that elite level athletes training alone won’t achieve their goals, but training with a group under the watchful eye of a coach gives the athletes a better chance. It makes sense considering that there are Olympic training centers around the United States (Chula Vista, CA, Colorado Springs, CO, Geneva, OH, and Lake Placid, NY) in place to give elite athletes the opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games. When referring back to our figure on deliberate practice, the Olympic training centers are all following the same pattern, bringing together elite athletes so that they can 100% focus on their goals under the watchful eyes of coaches that give the athletes the best possible opportunities to qualify for an Olympic Games.
From the conclusion of our CSAC championships in 2021 to the start of the same championship in 2022 there were exactly 365 days. Depending on your perspective, that is either a long time or not enough time. As a coach, I error on the latter. For an athlete, I would guess the former.
When attempting to discuss goals and long-term aspirations with athletes, I try to take a year by year approach to the conversation. We look at what went well, what didn’t go well, and what we think we can do differently for the upcoming season. In most cases, the typical concepts about training harder over the summer, coming back to campus in shape, and being more diligent (not sure how you track this without tracking what diligent is) during the course of the season.
Intentions always begin well and good. The athletes go home for the summer, they have a training program, and things go pretty well for a couple of weeks (maybe even 3 sometimes). Then the reality of training hits, disengagement occurs, and the athletes maybe don’t train as hard as they should. They might miss a session or two, which then snowballs into a week or two. Before they know it, they are back on campus at the end of August with two months of potential lost training time. And then the season begins…
I share this for a couple of reasons. First, last year at our CSAC conference championships, Dylan had a pretty good overall performance. He scored in the shot-put, discus, and hammer competitions.
Overall, he was well within 90% of his then personal best distances. He ended the season with a personal best of 46.16m in the discus and 49m in the hammer. The former set the school record. The week after the competition, at Regionals, we had a conversation about expectations for the upcoming 2021-22 season. We discussed goals, expectations (of course), and aspirations to reach and accomplish his upcoming senior season. Together, we developed a plan that would help him get 365 days later, to our 2022 CSAC conference championships.
So far this season, Dylan has thrown the discus 52.25m (+6m), the hammer 52.84m (+3m), and the shot-put 14.27m (+2m) compared to last season. It is often said that it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. In Dylan’s case, let’s say his collegiate experience (4 years). I’ve known Dylan for two years. He completes all of his weight room sessions, is attentive in practice, and is determined to accomplish his throwing goals. All while balancing a course load as a future engineer and a GPA over 3.8. And then mix in the social aspects of college.
For the younger or new throwers out there that see what I share via social media, if you close enough you’ll see some of the lowlights as well. I try to keep things honest with throwing and my perspective as a coach. We’ve grown from the lows of last year. The highlights are a manifestation of the work and diligence Dylan has put in over the course of the last 365 days. Hitting personal best throws in competition when it matters is great, but also take into consideration the misses and foul outs from prior years.
What I’d like to share is this. It takes hard work, persistence, an open mind, and a willingness to learn in order to develop into an elite level thrower. It does take time. There will be days when you will think to yourself why am I still doing this, or I’m not getting better, or it’s too hard. I can assure you that all of us at one time had thoughts like that. The perceived losses of today help build and illuminate a brighter path for the successes of tomorrow. It’s having a plan, sticking to the plan, and giving your best effort on that plan. It isn’t trying one path for a couple of weeks, then taking a detour for a week, then missing a week, then trying to come back where you left off. It is engaging in conversation with your coach(es) over the summer and figuring out what might not be working and tweaking the path a bit. It is about staying accountable to your process goals. It is about managing expectations. Your expectations. It is as simple as staying true to the course and winning the daily moments. It isn’t easy, but it is that simple.
This past weekend Alfred State hosted the 2022 Outdoor CSAC championships. The hammer and discus competitions were held on Saturday, May 7th. The shot-put and javelin competitions were held on Sunday, May 8th (Mother’s Day). As our group of throwers competed over the two days, we couldn’t have scripted a better outcome for their performances.
Nicole, Emma, Kelly, and Kenzie got things going with the first event of the day, the women’s discus. The conditions were good for throwing; about 55 degrees, some sun, and very little wind. Our throwers came ready to compete! Nicole won with a throw of 33.56m, just 1cm off of her personal best. Emma finished 3rd and Kenzie finished 7th. It is the second consecutive year a female thrower from Alfred State won the discus competition. Last year Emma won with a throw just over 30m. (16pts.)
The atmosphere created by our female discus throwers continued into the men’s discus competition. From my recollection, besides attending an outdoor national championship meet, Dylan and Dan had a great duel with monster throws. Dylan won the competition with his 2nd round throw of 52.25m. That is a conference and meet record throw. At the time of this writing (Monday, May 9th, 2022) it currently places him in 3rd overall at the DIII level. Dan finished second with a throw of 49.20m, which currently places him 20th at the DIII level. Dylan had 5 fair throws all over 49.63m. So far, this is his best series of the season. James finished 3rd with a throw of 36.21m, and Wilfredo had a personal best throw of 27.58m. (16pts.)
Continuing with where our female throwers left off in the discus, Nicole hit a big throw of 39.05m to win. Kenzie finished 6th with a throw of 22.41m. (11pts.)
Similar to how the women fared, Dylan won the competition with a throw of 52.53m. This throw is a conference championship meet record. James finished 3rd with a personal best throw of 39.01m. (16pts.)
My overall thoughts about how Day 1 went are nothing short of pleased. Not just pleased with the distances our throwers hit in competition, but with the energy and excitement they competed with. This was fueled by their teammates that were there to watch and cheer everyone on. Yes, the distances are nice, but having support from your teammates and bringing a fire and enthusiasm to competition is exciting to watch as a coach. It wasn’t a pep talk or magical words of encouragement that brought the fire, but a culmination of 26 weeks of work. Having home field advantage is nice, but the competitors from the other teams competing also brought a fire and intensity that I hadn’t yet witnessed in an outdoor competition this season. Everyone was engaged in what was going on and focused on the task at hand. It was a good way to end Day 1, with the hopes of the same energy and excitement spilling over into Day 2.
Emma and Nicole had a great shot-put competition. Emma finished 2nd with a personal best throw of 10.79m. Nicole also had a personal best throw of 10.30m to finish 3rd. Overall, Nicole scored 26 throwing points over the two day competition. Emma scored 14 throwing points over the two day competition. (14pts.)
It was a day of personal best throws! The women got things going, and the men’s squad didn’t disappoint either. Dylan finished 1st with a personal best throw of 14.27m. Wilfredo also hit a personal best throw of 10.07m to finish 7th. Dylan scored 30 points for the men’s squad. He set two conference meet records, as well as overall conference records in the discus and hammer. (10pts.)
This past weekend was a great way to begin the conference championship and postseason part of our competition schedule. All of our throwers showed up to compete, were engaged in what was happening around them, and cheered on their teammates throughout the two day competition.
It was a good day to have a good day. We had plenty of sunshine throughout the whole day’s worth of competition and our throwers left with some nice performances in the men’s and women’s hammer throw, respectively.
We ended on a high note with a personal best performance by Nicole in the hammer. She threw 10’ over her previous best, finishing the day in 10th place with a throw of 42.47m. She hit that mark in the first flight, round 3. The suspense of waiting until the second flight finished was difficult. Unfortunately another thrower in flight 2 hit a mark 12cm (4”) farther than Nicole. She was bumped out of the finals by the slimmest of margins. Nicole also continued to build a solid technical foundation in the discus. She had another meet over 30m, lining herself up for a great throwing weekend as we host the conference championships this weekend.
James and Nicole got our days started with the women’s shot put and men’s discus competitions. James didn’t quite hit the mark we were looking for. He still had 3 fair throws. We worked on some technical cues to get ready for our conference championships this upcoming weekend. We knew there was going to be a chance that he might hit a bigger mark, but that was the risk of the week. Nicole had another great shot day, finishing just under 10m. Nicole built upon her series and ended with a mark of 9.72m, putting herself in great position for our conference championships.
Dylan had another great discus performance. He finished with a throw of 48.40m and won the competition. He had two big fouls in round 5 and 6. We know those throws will be there in the next coming weeks. While looking at the nationals landscape, it’s better to hold one of those throws for Spire on May 26th.
James and Dylan both had personal best performances in the men’s hammer. James threw 35.77m and Dylan threw 52.84m. James improved his personal best by .4m, while Dylan improved by over 3’.
When preparing for meets of this nature a week before the conference, our focus was on 1-2 cues per event for each athlete. The marks were good in the hammer and discus. We tried some new things we have been working on in practice over the past couple of weeks. We knew this meet would be the appropriate time to incorporate some of those new physical and mental strategies before moving forward in practice this week.
Our athletes’ last day of classes are Friday, May 6th. They then begin finals the following Monday. We have managed to stay focused on the task at hand and we have been emphasizing strong technical models in practice. The weight room gains are beginning to show, as well as all the hard work everyone has been putting in this semester. Now it’s time to reward yourself by putting all the throwing puzzle pieces together and having a day at our conference championships. #nextoxup
It’s fitting that last week I shared thoughts shared from 3x Olympian AG Kruger III about the willingness to put in the work in order to get the results you desire. When you step back and reflect on his thoughts and the idea about working towards a goal, it really is simple. It’s not easy, but the concept is simple enough for us to understand. If you are willing to put in the work, you are giving yourself a better opportunity to reach your goals. I watched it come to fruition this weekend at Nazareth College.
Even though St. John Fisher College was hosting the meet this weekend, the throws portion of the competition was held at Nazareth College. St. John Fisher College is updating their throwing venue to prepare for the 2023 Division III Outdoor National Championships. It was a pretty good day weather wise. Much better than the conditions of last weekend.
Women’s discus got things going. Alfred State had good performances by Kelly and Kenzie. They opened things up in flight one, and had good days. Not great days by their standards, but they got things rolling for our team. Nicole had a solid day in the discus, making the finals and hitting a throw over 32m. Nicole had quite a busy day for us. She made the finals in the hammer and shot-put as well. Nicole finished with a throw over 37m in the hammer, which is consistent with what she threw a couple of weeks ago. She also flirted with 10m in the shot, hitting three throws over 9.50m, with five of six throws going over 9m.
Wilfredo and James got things going on the men’s side. Wilfredo hit a seasonal best in the discus, and James just missed the finals by less than a meter. Dylan won the meet with a throw of 51.17m. That set the facility record, and at the time moved him into 4th place in the DIII men’s discus rankings. As of this morning (April 25th, 2022) he dropped one stop to 5th place. Overall, Dylan had his most consistent series. He opened at 48.50m (15cm under his personal best), F, and 49.92m in round 3. His 3rd round throw was a personal best. He then hit 47.92m in round 5, 51.17m in round 5, and had a F in round 6. His highest meet average of the season and two throws over his old personal best.
In the men’s shot put Wilfredo and James had solid performances. Wilfredo had a seasonal best toss, and James stayed consistent. James and Dylan both narrowly missed the finals. Dylan by 1cm and James by about 30cm. It was Dylan’s lowest marked meet throw of the season. Shot put came right after the men's discus. This may have contributed to his performance in the shot.
Both Kenzie and Kelly had personal best performances in the shot put. Kelly built upon each throw and finished just under 7m. Kenzie finished just under 8m. Kelly just recently joined the throwing group about a month ago. Kenzie is a first sport swimmer, joining our team a few weeks ago as well. She threw in high school, but is coming off of a very long swim season. As Kenzie and Kelly continue to take a higher volume of throws in practice and build rhythm with their respective events, they will become more comfortable with the discus and shot put as our conference championships approach in a couple of weeks.
Men’s hammer saw James throw a personal best and just miss the finals by about 1m. In round 2 and round 3 he eclipsed his previous personal best throws. Dylan finished 2nd with a throw of 48.01m. He took the lead in round 4, but that throw was surpassed by someone that hit a personal best in round 5.
Overall it was a fantastic day for our Alfred State throwers. Lots of personal best marks, seasonal best marks, and throwing nuances to work on over the next couple of weeks in preparation for our outdoor conference championships. All the credit for the successes of our Alfred State throwers goes to Head Track and Field coach Tim Giagios. He has been with the throwers everyday, ensuring that they are prepared for both practice and meet competition. I’m not sure how he is able to juggle everything as a head coach, but I’m in awe of his ability to do so and respect the fact that he is able to ensure our throwing group is receiving the support they need while balancing the needs of all the other event groups on the team. At this point in the season I’m ‘along for the ride’ offering support from a distance when able. Tim, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to still stay involved with the throwers. Watching their growth and development from a distance has been a rewarding experience for me!
We are a few weeks into the outdoor season, and the conference, regional, and national leaderboards have found themselves in constant flux. As different regions across the country have started competing on a more regular basis, the state of the leaderboards has been in disaray. New leaders and new athletes populating the most important top 20 distances at the Division III level. The top 20 are the most important because those are the athletes that, if entered, will compete at the outdoor national championships this season.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve written a lot about building confidence and instilling a sense of self-efficacy in oneself. An activity that I shared with my Holistic Coaching athletes this week focused on constructing our own personal highlight reels in our minds. Recalling three performances/outcomes in which we really shined was the emphasis of our conversations this week. The idea of reviewing three occasions and creating a one minute Sportscenter type highlight reel of our performances. The undertone of the idea being centered on imagery, how powerful imagery can be as a learned skill, and how to incorporate imagery into our daily routines.
Sometimes, however, if we haven’t quite mastered the skill of imagery, a sense of self-doubt starts to creep in. We may have the best intentions of how we want to compete, but because of our lack of preparedness or anxiety to incorporate the skill, we revert back to our old selves and allow doubt to sabotage our competition. A strategy to divert doubt and transform our negative thoughts into more positive ones goes like this.
Most throwers are aware that there is a conversation going on in their heads in and out of the throwing circle or javelin runway. These conversations might go in a variety of directions; either extremely positive, extremely negative, and of course somewhere in between. What would you do if the other throwers that you are competing against that day started talking to you the way you talk to yourself? The value in this activity is in recognizing this internal dialogue as a mechanism to separate ourselves from the undermining voice of self-doubt. One of the characteristics of self-doubt is that it tends to strengthen as the challenge increases (attempting to hit a distance standard, competing at a small meet vs. competing at nationals, having to set a personal best or near personal best to qualify for finals) or as it represents an increasing risk (attempting a new technique during competition for the first time).
Training our mind takes a concerted daily effort. Much like training to throw the shot-put or discus, it is not automatic. We spend countless hours learning proper throwing technique, yet fail to practice mindset techniques that will help us overcome anxiety, fear, or the frustration of throwing. A research based strategy to help us refocus when we sense self-doubt creeping in is to create power phrases for yourself. Destructive power phrases associated with self-doubt might include “I won’t…,” “I can’t…,” or “I am not…”. Redirected positive power phrases begin with “I will…,” “I can…,” or “I am…” Following the examples below, you can create and develop your own positive power phrases to assist you in overcoming self-doubt when you feel it attempting to take up space in your mind at practice, before, and during competition.
When you think “I will…,” this is a statement about positive change or intention. Our focus is directed towards what you want and what you intend to make happen. When competing, what are one or two “I will…” statements that will help you stay focused on what you are going to do during the competition?
When you think “I can…,” this is a statement about your potential. It is a positive statement about your ability to accomplish your goals and dreams. When you think “I can…” you focus on your belief in your ability to do something. When competing, what are one or two “I can…” statements that will help you stay focused on your abilities to accomplish your goals?
When you think “I am…,” this is the most powerful power phrase because it is a statement about who you are. Your reality and future can take shape from the phrase “I am…” When you think “I am…” you focus on the traits that you already have inside you. When competing, what are one or two “I am…” statements about who you are as a person and individual.
“To be great is not how good you are, it is how well you train and prepare.”
AG Kruger III, 3x USA Olympian, Hammer Throw
The last time I visited Ashland University, I took a picture of a quote written into one of the support beams. The quote was written by AG Kruger III. He is a 3x USA Olympian in the Hammer Throw. He wrote this before he left Ashland as he made the transition from athlete to coach.
As AG mentioned on Instagram, how well we train and prepare is not just a mindset or methodology about track and field or throwing, but a reminder for the challenges and obstacles we face on a daily basis. Our willingness to prepare for life will be an indication of how great (at something) we might become.
A lot can be said about the willingness to prepare, how our training is structured, and the limits we are willing to endure along our own unique journey. It is in that willingness to sacrifice where the great separate themselves from the good and the good from the average. But, are you willing to train well and prepare for the struggles and obstacles that we may encounter along our path?
Recent research suggests that athletes that are willing to endure and persist through extreme adversity or have a willingness to do whatever it takes identified as being more mentally prepared for the rigors of training and competition (Wilson et. al., 2019). Similarly, Jaeschke and colleagues (2016) found individual sport athletes are more accustomed and willing to take a greater initiative to push boundaries of extreme measures to satisfy their athletically related aspirations. Much of what one is willing to endure is going to be reflected in their performances, whether athletic or in life in general.
In order to better prepare oneself for the rigors of training, research has reported that to persevere, gain perspective, and to engage in preparation, a sense of presentness was required to navigate times in which distractions may impede training on our journey (Wilson et. al., 2016). What distinguishes those that achieve greatness from those that don’t satisfy their aspirations is the notion of being present and fully engaged without distraction with the task at hand (training, throwing, weightroom), rather than to simply be going through the proverbial motions (Kaiseler et. al., 2009; Nicholls et. al., 2008).
In order to sustain a perspective centered on preparedness and a willingness to overcome, another central tenet in the literature has been reported about gratitude and being grateful for opportunities and experiences that generate meaning and purpose in one’s life (Gucciardi, Jackson, Hanton, & Reid, 2015). Athletes that value growth and development in their respective sports have higher perceived mental toughness compared to their peers not valuing the growth aspects of development within their respective sports (Dweck, 2015; Gucciardi et. al., 2015). Practicing gratefulness is a topic that has been widely discussed across many genres of literature from such authors as; Jon Gordon (Energy Bus), Kate Leavell (Stick Together), Carol Dweck (Growth Mindset), Greg Everett (Tough; Olympic Weightlifting), Lou Holtz (former ND Football coach), Amber Selking (Selking Performance Group), and Rick McGuire (former University of Missouri Track and Field Coach).
As a prompt for practicing gratefulness, a strategy you can incorporate is as follows.
Every morning upon waking up, write down 2-5 things you are grateful for. I write mine down in a gratitude journal that I have with me all the time. I usually write them down during breakfast. The purpose behind the prompt is to think about your life and recognize the things you are appreciative of. I usually write down 4 or 5 because I have two that are the same everyday. The idea is to think about aspects of your life, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, that you are truly appreciative of and why. An important aspect in the development and continuation of this habit is to write down why you are grateful for those things in your life. Why are you grateful for this part of your life? What meaning or value does it bring to you? If it wasn’t a part of your life how would it affect you?
Wandering Minds Want to Know
Over the course of the past couple of months I have had the great pleasure to work with a wonderful, enthusiastic, and driven group of throwers through my Holistic Coaching program at Forza Athletics. The feedback I have received from the athletes that are participating has been extremely helpful in ensuring that I am offering them the best mindset and mental preparation support possible. To assist these athletes along their journeys, we have had some frank and delicate conversations. One such topic that has come up with multiple throwers has been about engagement in competition.
As you might have guessed, I keep specific notes about each conversation I have with each thrower. Since the outdoor season has started, a topic that has been repeated in conversation has been focused on engagement, or rather lack of engagement in competition. This was not a topic that came up during the indoor season.
After four different athletes made reference to the topic, I engaged deeper, trying to discern what they meant by lack of engagement in competition. The surrounding details are to be kept confidential, but hearing their stories makes me think that others might benefit from the strategies I shared with them in conversation. It also leads me to believe that lack of engagement in competition is not something that only happens to elite level throwers, but to a majority of throwers with varying levels of ability.
Strategies to Combat Lack of Engagement During Competition
1. Recognize Our Thoughts
I’ll be one of the first to admit that attending track meets can at times be quite boring if you let it. There is so much happening around the track and in the field events that there is a lot to pay attention to.
When the initial thought(s) of boredom or lack of engagement begins to creep in, be able to recognize this is happening. Then ask yourself why you might be feeling this way? What is happening or not happening around you that has caused you to lose interest in what is happening? It is ok to have this thought, we are human.
2. Intentionality - You Give Power to What You Focus On
After you recognize this thought, bring yourself back to thoughts of purpose. Why are you here competing? What excites you most about competing? Take two or three deep breaths and become more mindful in the present moment. Take in the experience that is happening at that moment, not what has happened in the past or what you might be thinking about happening in the future, but what is happening in that moment.
Attentional control is all about being locked on to the right things at the right time. It is a purposeful process. When we think about performance and executing when it matters most, we have to bring our minds back to the current moment because this is where the performance is happening.
3. Your Why
When you bring your mind back to the competition, think about your purpose and why you are competing. Think about your aspirations and what you want to accomplish this season. You may have a technical cue you are working on, bring your emphasis back to that specific objective for the meet.
The Illusion of Choice
If you’ve been reading along the past few weeks, I hope you have noticed a theme focused on goal-setting, accountability, and choice. The transition to outdoor track leaves us with about 10-11 weeks left of the spring semester. Still plenty of time to address goals, decision-making, and time management strategies for our outdoor season. Hold this thought for a moment.
Last week I purchased Getting to Neutral by Trevor Moawad. A couple of years ago he released his best selling book It Takes What It Takes. In Trevor’s new book, he shares stories of how coaches have implemented his teachings around the topic of remaining neutral in moments of stress, anxiety, happiness, and joy. On page 30 of Getting to Neutral Trevor included a section about the illusion of choice. Essentially we have choices and decisions to make all throughout the day. In some instances, however, it seems as though we have the illusion of choice.
In any endeavor we find value in pursuing, there will be decisions to make along the way. Decisions that on the surface may seem inconsequential in the moment, but that may lead us down a path away from the goal we ultimately aspire to achieve. The illusion of choice.
I shared this concept with one of my throwers this week. Along with a couple of snippets from Trevor’s Instagram page where he discusses this illusion of choice with Division I football and basketball players. The response I received back from my athlete was, “Coach, I’ve never thought about it that way before.”
Autonomy is something I share quite a bit of with the throwers I coach. We have a specific schedule in place with regards to throwing and weight room times. The events we emphasize during each throwing session might vary based on the physical and mental condition the throwers come to practice in. I believe that flexibility is very important. It allows each thrower to be accountable for their session based on how they feel, whether they will be late because they are coming from a class, leaving early to go to class, etc.
Autonomy, in essence, is about choice. Allowing others to dictate the direction (in this case throwing) they want to head down. But sometimes there is the illusion of choice. Something I’ve never really discussed with all my athletes before, but with a few that had higher aspirations of throwing compared to their peers.
In the goal-setting process, when thinking about outcome and process goals, process goals offer a great deal of autonomy to our athletes. Winning those individual moments (process goal items) will give us a better opportunity towards ultimately achieving our outcome goal. There is a choice. But the illusion of choice.
Oftentimes in order to achieve our goals we really aren’t afforded many choices. You aren’t going to throw far (your definition of far) by not throwing. It’ll be much more difficult to finish an Ironman Triathlon race if we just show up one day without having trained to swim for 2.1 miles, ride our bikes for 116 miles, and run 26.2 miles all in the same day with time limits. We can say to ourselves that everything will be ok and work out alright, but will it?
Getting back to our throwing example, there are certain habits and routines that the very best of the best throwers prioritize in their day-to-day lives. They have a choice to either complete them or not, but not doing so would put them behind their competitors who are going above and beyond to be the best, too! So, when you say you want to be the best, the choice is yours. Or is it.
“You can succeed when no one believes in you. You have no chance to succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.” Lou Holtz
I shared a video about the topic of self belief a couple of weeks ago. And this quote by Lou Holtz resonates with me on a multitude of levels. In some ways I see some similarities with this quote and when athletes share that they have a chip on their shoulder.
This idea became more profound after my conversation with 2021 Olympic Trials silver medallist discus thrower Micaela Hazlewood. In sharing her story about throwing in high school and the recruiting process, she made reference to the fact that she has a chip on her shoulder. Micaela shared that it (the chip) stems from her time as a high school senior with a handful of collegiate coaches showing interest in her attending their university to throw.
Micaela also shared this on social media a few weeks ago. The idea that so many people doubted her, her abilities, and what she was capable of throwing. Essentially, she has bet on herself and the bet is paying off.
So, why wouldn’t you believe in yourself? As Coach Holtz stated, you have no chance to succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.
If you don’t believe you can accomplish something, why would others think you could?
Much of our belief system stems from prior experiences (good and bad). From those experiences we are able to ascertain potential successes or failures moving forward. From my experiences as a coach, athletes at times seem to lack the patience required to achieve a certain level of success. Or however they as the athlete perceive their success to be.
For those of you that have been listening to the Forza Athletics Life and Coaching Podcast for a while, you know that I ask a question like this of all my guests, “What advice would you have for someone that was interested in continuing to pursue their throwing dreams after graduating?” All of my guests have suggested to those listening that they indeed should continue throwing/training as long as they can and want to under the condition that it is still pleasurable and enjoyable to them.
Those that ask are probably asking for a couple of reasons. First, seeking the counsel and guidance of someone that has achieved what you want to achieve will give a great indication into what it will take to accomplish a similar goal. Second, those same individuals asking may be asking to get a sense or indication as to whether or not the other person thinks they should continue pursuing their throwing goal.
I remember when Luis graduated in 2016 and we were beginning to put a plan together for the 2020 Olympic Trials. I shared something on Twitter about making the transition to post-collegiate throwing and received a response from Jud Logan. In a few words he basically said that if you haven’t hit the ‘A’ standard it’s going to make things much more difficult. I appreciated his honesty then and am appreciative that he took the time to share his thoughts on it.
Similar to the athletes I coach or have coached in the past, I have always encouraged them to continue pursuing their interests/passions after college. For those that have wanted to continue throwing, I’ve helped them as best I can as a post-collegiate thrower. If anyone were to ask me today what I think they should do about post-collegiate training, my response would be a resounding YES. Yes, continue pursuing your goal. Continue training. Try to find other like-minded individuals and ask them what has worked, hasn’t worked, etc.
The journey has to start with the individual. They have to believe they are pursuing their goal for the right reason(s). To continue training for the sake of training without a passion for it might lead to burnout, disengagement, getting physically hurt, bored, frustrated, etc. You have to believe in yourself that you will be able to accomplish this goal. You need to have a ‘Why’ behind this pursuit. Find a support system, a group of others that are pursuing similar goals. Think about what you’ll need to do differently as a post-collegiate athlete; facilities, training, coaches, recovery tools, etc.
Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.