With the close of the indoor season that occurred this past weekend for most of my throwers, I thought it would be a good time to reflect upon their impressions of their first collegiate indoor seasons. As customary, over the past weekend I sent them all an email. In the email, I asked them to think about a couple of questions that we would discuss answers to at practice this week. The questions were:
I’m sure some of you are probably thinking, “This coach. Why does he spend so much time on this nonsense? How does this help his throwers throw farther?” Some might be thinking that this is an important step for the athletes to take as they continue on with their throwing journeys. I am particular to the latter. I am because at the time I was a collegiate athlete, I was never asked anything of the sort. I never felt as though my opinion or thoughts mattered. I was just there to fill a jersey and throw. That is painful for me to write, but in my heart of hearts I believe it is true.
For the most part, I had a wonderful collegiate experience. Academically, Fredonia prepared me for the position I am in today. I was given an opportunity to coach. I will forever be grateful for the chance to coach in 2004-05. Without that break, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
I think it’s important to have that specific type of conversation with your athletes. I think it’s important for them to be a part of the process. It offers them a sense of autonomy and some control over the path that they want to take. It also offers them ownership in the process. It assists in developing trust and respect between the coach and athlete. When athletes are part of the process, they are more apt to buy into the process as a whole mechanism, be able to view the bigger picture, and understand that the path and journey (process) are more important than the outcome.
On Monday and Tuesday I had this conversation with my throwers. I spoke to two of them on Monday. I spoke to two more yesterday (Tuesday). I will be speaking to the fifth thrower tomorrow (Thursday). We discussed goals they have for the upcoming outdoor season, their expectations for the remaining couple months of the semester, and which events they would like to prioritize during the course of the outdoor season.
Most of my throwers are main event discus throwers. Two of them competed at their respective state championships last season (one in the discus and one in the shot). One will be a main event hammer thrower. I’m not quite sure about the other two yet. One thinks she wants to be a main event hammer thrower, with the discus coming in a close second. The fifth thrower wants to try all four events and, “Let’s see what happens.” I don’t like that very much, but we will see what happens.
The importance of figuring out main events or top two events is twofold. First, where do the athletes and I think they have the best chance of performing well. Second, we have a time and daylight issue until the middle of April. Due to their extremely time consuming and hectic course loads, we need to end practice a little earlier than I have in other seasons because they have labs either at 4pm, 5pm, or 6pm. This varies based on the day, and not to mention the classes they have that finish at 3:50pm and 4:50pm. Things get a little tight, so by establishing main events and second events, we can have more structured practice days and weeks that should provide each of them with the individualized time they are due in order to reach their goals. It is confusing at times, even for me, but that is why we write everything down and keep track of the number of throws per event to ensure they are dedicating the right amount of time to the right event.
As coaches, how do you engage your athletes in conversations like this? Do you feel it’s important to discuss expectations and goals with your athletes? If so, what does your process look like?
I’m always interested in learning more about how high-school, collegiate, and post-collegiate throwers discuss the goal-setting and expectation process with their athletes. I’ve been having these types of conversations with my athletes since I first started coaching in 2004. I hope you consider taking the time to share your experiences with this process.
Rather than write, it may make for a better podcast. Let me know if you are interested, I’d love to have a discussion about this topic or any other you’d like to talk about.
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
This year marked the first time that the Empire 8 Indoor Track & Field Championships would be held over the course of two days. For the throwers, that meant we would be throwing the shot-put on Friday and the weight on Saturday. We usually don’t practice both events on the same day, so I thought our practice schedule replicated our championship meet schedule.
We arrived a couple of hours before the men were to start throwing. In both the shot-put and weigh throw, the men threw first followed by the women. My kids (my throwers, but I prefer to refer to them as my kids) were loose and very relaxed before the start of the competition. We really didn’t throw hard this week. Not much in regards of technique can be gained, but I believe a lot can be lost if the right technical aspects of the throw or lead up to the throw are not really focused on. If you’d like to go back and read a previous post about focus, you can do so by clicking here.
Overall, Gabbie and Ally had really good training sessions leading up to the women’s shot competition. The conference takes the top 16 declared throwers. In our case, there was a tie for 15th and one of our throwers did not make it in. She was the 17ththrower.
Ally was throwing in flight one. She was the last thrower in the flight of 8 women. She warmed up really well and looked pretty good through the rounds. Her best of the day was 10.11m. It was her third meet of the season in which she had multiple throws over 10m. Ally would have needed to hit a personal best of about 1’5” to qualify for the finals on this day.
In flight two, it was the first time we have had a Nazareth College female thrower in that flight of any event in my six years as coach. Gabbie was seeded 4th coming into the meet. A solid performance with a throw anywhere over 11.25m would have placed 6th. Gabbie had multiple meets in which she had a performance better than 11.25m. I was enthusiastic that she would have at least made the finals and given herself an opportunity to score a point for our team. However, the best laid plans sometimes go off track.
Warm-ups looked really good. Gabbie had a couple of throws at right around the 12m line. Once the competition began, however, things took a turn. There were a couple of throwers directly ahead of Gabbie that fouled their first throws. Nothing significant, they walked out the front of the circle because they didn’t like their distances. I wasn’t sure what went through her mind until after the competition, but her first throw was a very passive 10.49m, about 5’ less than she warmed up with. I walked over to her after her throw and asked what she thought of the throw. But before I tell you what we discussed, we’ll continue with the competition.
Her second throw also went 10.49m, about 3’ out of the 8th and final position to make the finals. Again, it was a passive throw. The same about throw number 3. Overall, Gabbie finished 10th.
After the flight was over, Gabbie and I discussed the competition and what we each thought happened. I’m not going to share what Gabbie and I shared with each other in detail, but we did discuss the notion of rising up to the competition and feeling confident in yourself as an athlete about the abilities you possess and how to bring them out when it counts in a championship meet. We spoke for about 30 minutes on the bench within the throwing area. After our conversation, Gabbie spent some time speaking with her family. I spent that time speaking with my other three kids that were going to throw the weight tomorrow with Gabbie. This is what I shared with them:
We spent the better part of the rest of the competition discussing these five topics above. They probably would have been better served on Thursday, the day before the competition, but we had a really good week of practice so I didn’t think it was necessary to have a conversation like this the day before.
Reflecting back on my collegiate experience, I never had a conversation like this with my coach. Well, I have four throwing coaches back then, and not once did we have a conversation that included the above mentioned items. It was pretty much go on and throw (not that inspirational).
I mentioned item five because our current throwers are not at the point in their careers that they can have an off day and still qualify for finals at certain meets. In the case of our conference championship this weekend, two throwers needed big time performances just to make the finals of the weight.
Saturday morning started out really well. Our kids had a good breakfast, woke up in relatively good spirits, and seemed more engaged in what was going on than they did the day before. We arrived at the facility about an hour before the men’s competition began. All four throwers were much more relaxed than they were the night before. I wish I could take credit for that, but unfortunately only one of the four really enjoys throwing the shot, while the other three prefer the weight, which is why they were probably more amped up than the night before.
Gabbie got things rolling in flight one of the women’s weight. She warmed up really well, and hit a big third round throw of 12.88m. That throw won the flight and was a 77cm personal best throw. She came in clutch with round 3, but most importantly she was aggressive through all three rounds and was visibly more amped up than she was the night before. She got things going for us in a big way.
In flight two we had Ally, Bailey, and Grace. There were 9 throwers in this flight, so we knew that they had to at least throw as far as Gabbie’s first flight throw to give themselves a good chance to make the finals. Bailey and Grace came out throws blazing in round 3 with a personal best of 13.74m for Bailey and 13.66m for Grace. Bailey’s throw broke our school record and was a personal best by close to 90cm. Grace was 7cm from her personal best. Ally hit a second round best of 12.67m, good for 10th place right behind Gabbie in 9th.
With 8 throwers advancing to the finals, Grace qualified in 7th and Bailey qualified in 6th place. As of this placing, we knew we had a good chance of at least earning one point in the weight. Grace came out very aggressive through all three of her final round throws, but didn’t hit a mark better than 13.66m. Bailey hit another personal best of 13.85m in round 6, securing herself a 6th place finish and setting a personal best by 97cm on this day. Bailey came in with a throw of 12.88m, and threw very far when it mattered.
This marked the first time we had multiple throwers make the finals in a women’s event. In the past we had a thrower make the finals of the women’s discus in 2016 at the Empire 8 Outdoor championships.
Saying I’m a proud coach is an understatement! I’m more proud of the adversity they all had to overcome throughout this indoor season. Gabbie is continuing on and will be competing at our regional meet this Friday at 3pm at Ithaca College. Gabbie and Ally joined us in the middle of November due to other sport seasons (soccer and volleyball respectfully). Grace hadn’t ever thrown a weight before this season. And Bailey increased her personal best from high school by over 5’ in the weight throw. Everyone achieved lifetime bests in the shot-put and weight throw this season. Bailey became our first female thrower to score a point at the Empire 8 Indoor Track & Field Championships.
I’m really looking forward to the start to the outdoor season.
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
Last week our collegiate team competed at Ithaca College. It was one of the bigger meets we were going to attend all season. Coming back for the spring semester, it was the third meet we had competed in. Thus far, we have competed at meets in Houghton, Utica, Ithaca, and most recently at SUNY Brockport.
This article will focus on happenings from Chipotle after our Ithaca meet.
In all honesty, our Ithaca throws weren’t what I thought they were going to be. Four of our five athletes competed at the meet, and for the most part all of our throwers had a really good week of practice. Unfortunately, sometimes the best programmed plans don’t go the way one would expect them to. It was the first meet of the year that none of our throwers made the finals in either the shot-put or weight throw.
After the meet, we stopped for dinner. I took a group of athletes to Chipotle. While we were waiting in line, I overheard two of my throwers ahead of me have this conversation.
Thrower 1—I’m not sure why I didn’t throw farther today.
Thrower 2—Yeah, I worked hard this week. I was expecting bigger throws.
Thrower 1—I thought I worked hard too. I’m not sure.
I’m paraphrasing a bit, because there were more colorful words than I can write in this post.
My initial thoughts were thoughts of concern. First, I’m glad that two of my throwers had a conversation about this. This line probably wasn’t the first time the conversation between these two throwers occurred. I have a suspicion that this conversation began back at the fieldhouse in Ithaca. Second, even though I only caught this quick snippet, there is a lot going on here.
Up until that point, it was the best week of practice we had since we returned for the spring semester. Their coursework was pretty light. Their training sessions in the weight room looked really good. Their technique looked pretty good as well. So, what happened?
Before I share my thoughts, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts? For any coaches out there that may have experienced something like this, what was your initial reaction and why do you think your athlete performances did not meet either your or their expectations?
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.