Creating Your Own Luck
On this St. Patrick’s Day edition of our blog, I can’t help but think about the luck of the Irish. The luck intertwined with throwing. Is there luck in throwing far? I believe we can create our own luck.
When thinking about coaching and helping athletes achieve their goals I can’t help but think that some luck, or what we may think is luck, can be attributed to an athlete’s success.
After Luis won his national championship in the 35lb. weight throw in 2016, the inscription he wanted to have placed inside all of our rings was, “There is no such thing as a lucky throw”.
As I think about that thought, there is no such thing as a lucky throw, I can’t help but wonder how in a sense, coaches help athletes create their own luck.
I often times share concepts and strategies with my athletes focused towards controlling what is within our own control and how that idea helps shape the journey we travel throughout the course of a season.
Individual choices, which may seem small and irrelevant at the time, set a foundation for later successes or failures.
Depending on the decision, the outcome may be evident early on or it may take some time to rear its ugly head.
So, how can athletes create their own luck (or success)?
1. Have a Plan
I’ve discussed the randomness of practice in prior blog posts. I’ve even asked in prior Instagram posts about having a plan before practice or not. The overwhelming majority that responded suggested that they show up to practice without having a plan or an idea of what they were going to focus on that day. Failing to plan is planning to fail is an anecdote that comes to mind when I hear athletes and coaches alike suggesting that they just show up to practice without a plan in mind for that particular session.
If you have had a chance to listen to some of the interviews I’ve conducted over the course of the past 18 months, each athlete spent a great deal of time discussing their thoughts about planning out programming and thinking about the goal(s) for their upcoming competitions and training sessions.
Coaching is a delicate blend between science and art. Having a coaching eye certainly makes things easier, especially when relating information back to your athletes. There is however that other part of coaching that I think is often overlooked, the mental component to preparedness. One aspect of that mental preparedness is being able to draw out and execute a plan for your individual athletes. Not all athletes come to us with the same physical and mental skill sets. A proven strategy to assist with mental preparedness is to map out an individualized plan for your athletes to ensure they receive the best care and attention they require in order to achieve their unique and specific goals.
2. Realistic Expectations
In keeping with our theme for today, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the outcome our athletes wish to achieve. The proverbial pot for everyone is going to vary, but vary as it may greater athlete successes will come when that pot is held in realistic regard. A first-year thrower with little to no background in throwing events may not win a national championship during their first season of competition. That isn’t to say that it won’t or can’t happen, but the likelihood is relatively low.
Coach and athlete sitting down and planning out the year can also discuss realistic expectations for the season as well. Realistic for one athlete is not the same of another. A lot of factors play a role in the outcome of throwing events. Having an understanding of the factors we can control (mindset, training, nutrition, recovery, etc.) will all ultimately play a role in the outcome of our throwing performances. Now, the expectations we set forth early on in the season can obviously change from month to month, meet to meet, and even practice to practice. It’s up to both coach and athlete to keep open lines of communication about what the expectations are and how the plan accordingly based on performances in meet competitions and practice sessions.
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
As coaches, once our athlete’s names are called to enter the circle or step on the javelin runway there is very little if anything we can do or say that can positively impact what is going to follow. We may be able to share words of encouragement or suggest a cue for our athlete to focus on. However, the timing is crucial. Understanding your athlete, their tendencies, and their personality is critical in this moment. Shouting something out during their winds in the hammer or during their approach in the javelin may not prove fruitful during that attempt.
It is in this moment that I have realized many times over the years that what happens next is not all in my control, but in the control of the athlete. This is where having realistic expectations of our performance as an athlete comes into play.
Expecting to throw well when you as an athlete didn’t put the time in leading up to this meet will most likely result in a poor performance. Now, with that said, I have been to competitions where athletes have performed well after having a poor week of practice (Ithaca, 2016, comes to mind). For the greater majority, the little decisions I wrote about when having a plan is vital at this very juncture.
4. Willingness to Make Sacrifices
A willingness to make sacrifices goes hand in hand with holding yourself accountable. If you haven’t deciphered the pattern here, these concepts and ideas are all entangled in a web of success or failure. How you define success or failure is probably different than my definition, yet I think we can agree upon sacrifices to be made in order to give ourselves as athletes a better opportunity to be successful.
Again, decisions play a fundamental role in the outcomes we seek for ourselves as athletes. Did we go to bed at a decent hour? Did we recover properly? Are we getting the necessary nutrition we need to fuel our bodies? Am I drinking alcohol 5x a week? All of these different decisions will impact our performances.
Unfortunately, I’ve had still drunk athletes try to get on the bus for a Saturday meet. I politely told them to go back to their dorm or apartment for the day instead. After a second time, they were dismissed from the team.
Our sacrifices as athletes are going to vary based on our own unique circumstances. However, if an athlete isn’t willing to make some sacrifices along the way, they may need to readjust their expectations for a successful season. The sacrifices I listed above are meant to be an example for athletes. Some athletes require 7 hours of sleep. Others require 8-9. Some athlete’s recovery faster than others. All things taken into consideration are going to depend on the individual athlete.
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.