I received a lot of positive feedback about last week’s post about re-evaluating expectations when returning from winter break. I also received some indifferent feedback about meeting your goals and expectations. I appreciate all the feedback I received!
I do want to revisit this topic again because I think it is important to provide coaches out there with some strategies and tools they can implement when encountering situations like this. First off, I’d like to share some feedback I received when I was working on a project a couple of years ago.
The scope of my project was to ask post-collegiate throwers why they continued throwing after graduating from college. I was really fortunate to interview three American Olympians for the project. I cannot share their names or the events they competed in because it would give away their anonymity (and would show poor ethics on my part).
While I was conducting the interviews, I asked everyone the same follow-up question about how much time each individual spent training per week and season. When I interviewed the Olympians, I asked them how much time they spent training for the respective event per Olympic quad.
The first thrower told me that he spent approximately 10 hours training per week. That included both throwing and weight room sessions. He would train for 48 weeks a year, so approximately 480 hours a year. The second thrower told me he would spend between 30-40 hours a week for 48 weeks. Quite a bit more than thrower 1. Finally, the third thrower told me he would complete 10 training sessions per week. When I asked him how much time that took per week, he did not share that information with me. He also did not tell me how many weeks a year he trained. If he trained at least 10 hours a week for 50 weeks, that would equal about the same amount of time spent training as thrower 1. I hope you are still following along…
I’m sharing this information with you for a few reasons. First, I believe in the goal-setting process and accountability. When I would spend time with my athletes putting plans together with them for the indoor or outdoor seasons, we embedded accountability metrics along the way. Throwing far is one thing, but if you don’t prepare both physically and mentally for the task ahead you are not giving yourself the best opportunity to throw as far as you are able to. I was never going to have my athlete’s train 30-40 hours a week at the Division III level. Even if we wanted to, there wasn’t going to be enough time each day when you take in to account how much time an athlete sleeps and the time they spend in class!
Second, I’ve had plenty of athletes tell me they wanted to be great and that they wanted to throw far. However, when I or their teammates tried to hold them accountable to their goals and plans, things would fall apart. I’m all for supporting my athletes, but there does come a time when a serious heart-to-heart conversation needs to take place. Making progress is one thing, but missing steps along the way is not going to help.
Third, every athlete is different and should be treated accordingly. The three Olympic throwers I interviewed all had very different training philosophies and training programs. What works for one athlete might not have worked for the other. The same can be said about our collegiate throwers. What works for one might not work for another. That is the great thing about coaching. Our circle is like a classroom. We need to differentiate our coaching in order to meet the needs of our throwers. In order to get the best out of them we need to adapt our coaching to meet them where they are.
I share all this with you this week because if you are truly working towards accomplishing your throwing goals I congratulate you! However, if you talk a big game but don’t follow-up with your actions you have plenty of time to right the ship if you will. If you truly want to be great, then do great things. Take care of your body, get the proper rest, fuel your body, get your training sessions in, focus during practice. I promise you will give yourself a better opportunity to be great and become the thrower you achieve to become.
Some throwers returned to action this past weekend. Others will be returning to action this upcoming weekend. One piece of advice I would share with my throwers before they left for break was to continue training as they would if they were still here at Nazareth College. I always understood that some high school facilities or gyms do not offer the same type of equipment we had at Nazareth, but if they could continue to train at least three days a week they would be much better off than if they didn’t train at all. Unfortunately, for the better part of my coaching career, athletes would return back to campus after their four-or-five-week vacation in much different shape than they left. This is when things got a little tricky.
You see, as college coaches at the Division III level we really can’t make our athletes do anything over the course of any break. They are left to their own devices with regards to training and throwing. In all honesty, I really didn’t mind if they weren’t able to throw because at least that way they wouldn’t be developing poor habits without the assistance of a coach watching them. The weight training, on the other hand, often set us back quite a bit because you simply cannot make up that lost time under the bar.
When our athletes returned back from break, I would sit down and meet with each thrower to gauge what type of physical and mental shape they were in to start the spring semester. I would always ask about training and how their vacation went. I was fortunate that my athletes for the most part were always really honest with me. In their sharing, they would often reveal that they didn’t spend much time at all in a weight room. And yes, as coaches, we can tell especially after a five-week break. If looks didn’t reveal anything, that first training session back would.
For the athletes that stayed the course and didn’t fall behind with training, we were able to pick up where we left off. They often times had far better results through the indoor season compared to their peers that didn’t train during break because it would take about three or four weeks to get back into some resemblance of shape from when they left for break.
In re-evaluating expectations after break with my athletes, I would; 1) review their goals with them, 2) develop an action plan with them on how to get back on track, 3) input accountability metrics along the way, and 4) share with them that at least for the first couple of meets (usually through the beginning of February) to focus on the process of getting back into throwing shape and not stress or feel anxious about the distances they thought they should be throwing at this point in the season and weren’t.
In my coaching career, I think the process over outcome mentality is a difficult one for athletes to embrace. It seems as though our current society is about immediate positive outcomes and results without necessarily putting in the work to achieve those results. I’m sorry, but if you don’t train for five weeks you shouldn’t expect to walk back into the weight room and hit numbers you were hitting before you left for break. That in-part also has an impact on throwing outcomes as well. Holding yourself accountable to your action plan, making sure you complete your workouts, and taking care of your rest/nutrition will give you a better opportunity to hit your goals as opposed to the opposite (not training, not holding yourself accountable, and not taking care of your body).
As you prepare to compete again this spring semester, think about the training or lack thereof you put in over break. If you don’t achieve the results you expected when you returned, what can you do differently moving forward to give yourself an opportunity to reach your goals? What can you immediately begin to do differently in 2020 to realize your throwing dream(s)?
Over the holiday break I had the chance to get a swim session in at the local YMCA with my dad. It was my first swim training session since September, and my plan was to complete 1000yds in under 20 minutes. I didn’t quite make it under 20 minutes, but I was satisfied with my session (and I wasn’t that sore after the fact either).
After the swim session I spent some time in the sauna. When I walked in, there was an older gentleman sitting on the top row. Not one to shy away from conversation, I asked him how much time he spent in the sauna every day. He told me that he spends about 45 minutes in the sauna each day after he works out in the gym. In total, he told me he and his wife spend about 3 hours at the Y every day.
As we spent time talking, he asked me what I was currently training for. I told him I’m focused on competing in a few Olympic distance triathlon events this summer, increasing the distances from this previous one. He told me that when he was younger (I’m guessing this gentleman was in his late 70’s – early 80’s) he would train five days a week, but that he never competed in power lifting or Olympic lifting meets. I asked him if he was familiar with those two sports, and he said that he followed power lifting through reading the old Powerlifting USA magazine. I told him I used to have a subscription to the magazine when I was in college and shortly after I graduated.
I usually get anxious after sitting in the sauna at around the 30 minute mark, but on this day the time was flying by. Before he left the sauna, he asked me what gave me the inspiration to train as much as I do at my age. Earlier in the conversation I told him I was going to turn 38 in February and that I had three little boys. I said to him, “What inspires me to train as much as I do?” He said, “Yes.” Without hesitation I told him about my friend Adriane (Blewitt) Wilson.
It those last few moments in the sauna, I shared with him of how I came to meet Adriane at a track meet in Akron, OH in May, 2004. I told him how she was one of the greatest throwers in Division II history earning 13 All-American awards and winning a bunch of national championships. Most importantly though, I shared with him how Adriane beat cancer and finished 5th in the 2004 Olympic Trials in the shot-put. He said, “She must be a pretty special person.” I told him, “Without a doubt one of the most inspirational people I have ever met!”
I guess attending that track meet in Akron as a senior in college made a lasting impression on me. First, I was fortunate enough to have my coach at the time, Adarian Barr take my teammate Jen and I to the meet. Second, it may have been by chance or fate that Jud Logan would be competing in the meet along with Derek Woodske, Joe Woodske, and Kibwe Johnson. Third, not shying away from conversation, it gave me the opportunity to approach them and introduce Jen and I.
As I remember it, Adriane was wearing a baseball hat and an Ashland University track & field shirt that listed all of the throwing accolades the throwers had accomplished over the years there. I don’t remember the number of national champions and All-Americans listed on the back of her shirt, but I thought it was a cool idea and something that I thought Fredonia should have put together for our throwers (1 National Champion, 25 All-Americans, and dozens and dozens of conference championships in the shot-put, discus, hammer, javelin, and weight throw). I don’t know the exact number of conference champions Fredonia has had, but from 1975 to 2004 our male throwers won at least one conference championship in a throwing event each year. Anyway, getting back to meeting Adriane.
At the conclusion of the meet, I approached Adriane and asked her and her teammates if they would take a picture with Jen and I. That began what I’d call an almost 16-year friendship with the Ashland crew.
Over the years, I traveled to Ashland quite often for coaching and training/throwing related purposes. My training partner John and I frequented Ashland quite a bit to train with Adriane and AG Kruger (mostly with AG when he hosted throwing camps). I saw my largest growth as a thrower while Adriane and I were working together to boost up my hammer/weight throw technique and strength in the weight room. But that isn’t the reason why she is so inspirational to me. What she continues to do from when I first met her is.
Adriane was diagnosed with cancer early on in 2003, had surgery to remove the cancerous cells, and went through chemo and radiation treatments into 2004. With all that going on in her life, and after having gone through her last treatment, Adriane not only qualified for the Olympic Trials in the shot-put, but finished 5th! After training for a couple of months after treatment, she finished 5th. She also competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials as well. She overcame cancer, almost hit a lifetime best in the most high stakes track & field meet in the United States, and almost qualified for the Olympic Games. How could I not take inspiration from that?
But there is more to the story. While I was still training and living in Fredonia, I asked Adriane if she would be interested in visiting Fredonia and speak to our track & field team. I’m not sure how the athletes at the time felt about it, but I sat there in awe as she shared her story. I knew part of it, but didn’t know about how she made the decision to attend Ashland, her family history, and what it was like to be an athlete at Ashland in the early 2000’s.
I briefly shared my sauna story with Adriane the other day. I didn’t go in as much detail as I did here, but I wanted to let her know how inspired I am by her and everything she has accomplished in her professional and athletic career. Her 2004 story is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe this can turn into a two or three part series with a cool podcast interview. We’ll see what happens, but I’m definitely looking forward to watching Adriane compete at the Arnold Classic in a couple of months. She will be competing in the Highland Games competition on Friday afternoon. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that Adriane is a multiple time Highland Games World Champion too! How could you not be inspired too...
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.