In my previous post, I left you with an action plan towards accomplishing your goal. Whatever your desired goals may be, simply stating that you want to accomplish them will not get you very far. Sharing them in public with people close to you may elicit some pressure from your peers, friends, or family. However, even though there may be an added burden from others, ultimately you will be left responsible for your successes or failures.
As we strive for greatness, there will be bumps in the road. The journey will not be easy. We may experience setbacks, disappointment, and heartache along the way. How will you handle these setbacks? What will you be willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goal?
For example, let’s say that your ultimate goal is to throw the discus 150’ in college. A respectable goal at any level. For starters, we’ll imagine that your current personal best discus throw is 120’. It isn’t unheard of to throw 30’ farther in college. If you break that down into manageable steps, you need to throw approximately 8’ farther a year, over the course of your four-year career.
Taking it one step farther, after our first three years in college, we have increased our personal best to 135’. Just a little off of our projections for four years. In that last year of collegiate competition, you have a decision to make.
Is my goal still to throw 150’? If it is, then you can continue reading. If after three years of chasing your dream you have had enough, then it would be ok if you stopped reading here.
A 15’ improvement in a year is a realistic goal if you are willing to make some sacrifices to achieve it. The first three years of collegiate competition may not have gone as well as you had expected. Maybe an injury set you back a couple of months. You lost focus. You didn’t seem as interested as you initially thought you were. Now you may be at a crossroads. I’m not sure about this statistic, but I'm guessing that 98% of college throwers never throw again after they graduate from college. I’m guessing maybe 2% of collegiate throwers in the USA throw after they graduate. So, if you plan on being in that 98%, and you really want to achieve your goal of 150’, you need to ask yourself some questions.
First, why do I want to achieve this goal? What is my motivation behind it? Will it give me a chance of qualifying for Nationals? Or will it give me a shot at winning my conference championship? Do I have a chance to score at my conference championship with a throw of 150’? When you know what you truly want and WHY you want it, you are driven with passion to take the necessary steps to make it happen. Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
Make sure the habits you have today are in alignment with the dreams and goals you have for tomorrow. ~ Urban Meyer
What are you willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish your goal? What are you willing to do in order to achieve your goal? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish your goal? Are you willing to give up time spent with your family, with your friends, or with your significant other? Are there any financial sacrifices you might need to make? How about a time commitment? Are you willing to spend more time training, watching videos, or to take more throws in order to accomplish your goal?
It is just as important to make sure your daily commitments are in alignment with your goals. Your commitments need to drive you towards your goal. Your daily habits turn into weekly habits which in turn develop into monthly habits which will lead you to accomplishing your ultimate goal.
Do you have a "Do What it Takes" attitude to accomplish your goals and dreams?
As always, thanks for reading. ~ Charles
2018 Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies Sports Performance Conference
Shults Center-Forum Auditorium
July 14th, 2018
Welcome and Introduction by Charles Infurna, Ed.D. —8:45am
Session 1: Stephen Gonzalez, Ph.D., CMPC—9am-9:45am
Presentation Topic: Developing Champion Mindsets- How Thoughts and Emotions Influence Our Performances
In this session, participants will learn how thoughts and emotions influence our performance. Participants will learn basic principles of self-talk and mindfulness, and how to develop the discipline and awareness to be better understand how we need to think and feel individuals in order to be at our best.
Session 2: Heather D’Errico, MS, CSCS, CSFC, LMT—10am-10:45am
Presentation Topic: Importance of Strength and Conditioning For High School Athletes
Heather will be discussing the importance of proper strength and conditioning for high school athletes that wish to compete at the college level. She will go over the benefits of strength and conditioning and what athletes can expect when they transition into collegiate strength and conditioning settings. There will be discussion on how to best prepare to perform at the highest level.
Session 3: Craig Cypher, Psy.D.—11am-11:45am
Presentation Topic: Trust the Process - Goal Setting Steps for Success
Coaches always tell athletes that they need to "focus". But what should they be focusing on? This presentation focuses on the concept of process goals and how they can be utilized to keep athletes focused and on track during training and competition. Athletes, coaches, and parents will learn the difference between process and outcome goals in the context of goal setting as well as concrete strategies to apply process goals to the challenges they face within their sport.
Lunch—1145am-1pm (on your own)
Session 4: Kyle Glickman, MS, CSCS, PICP—1pm-145pm
Presentation Topic: Understanding Stress and the HPA Axis...How do we use it in our favor?
Stress...How many of you have pulled all-nighters to get work done? How many of you get nervous before a big game? What about getting cotton mouth before a speech?... Stress is a natural response in our body and it’s important to understand how, why and when it works. This is can make or break you when it comes to not just health but also optimal performance! Once we learn the basic fundamentals of the stress response we can then learn how to not only recover better but use stress in our favor!
Session 5: Megan Tomei, BS, IASTM Level I & Level II—2pm-2:45pm
Presentation Topic: You Can Only Work As Hard As You Can Recover
Recovery is a key element to athletic success. There are a multitude of elements that can be used to achieve our athletic goals. I have personally known the feeling of being over trained as well as accommodating injuries. Through my mistakes I’ve learned a great deal about different modalities that I later became certified in.
Session 6: Stephen Gonzalez, Ph.D. & Craig Cypher, Psy.D.—3pm-3:45pm
Presentation Topic: Panel Discussion With Your Questions-Moderated by Charles Infurna
In this session, Dr. Infurna will moderate a panel discussion with Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Cypher. Audience participation will be greatly encouraged in this informative session where your questions will be answered. Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Cypher have extensive backgrounds in resiliency, goal-setting, mental skills training, and developing championship mindsets.
Keynote: Iris Zimmerman, 2000 Olympian—4pm-5pm
Iris Zimmermann holds the distinction of being the first U.S. fencer in history, man or woman, to win a world championship in any weapon or age category. She earned this achievement in 1995, winning the World Under-17 Championships at her first major international event in Paris at the age of 14. Four years later, in 1999, Iris would become the first US fencer to medal in the Senior World Championships, earning the bronze medal in women’s foil. She represented the US in Olympic competition, joining her sister, Felicia, a two-time Olympian in Sydney, Australia in the summer of 2000. Born and raised in Rush, NY, the Zimmermann sisters currently co-own the Rochester Fencing Club.
Way back in April of 2008, I finished a book written by Lou Holtz, titled Wins, Losses, and Lessons, which was published in 2006. For those of you who may not know who Lou Holtz is, he was the head football coach at Notre Dame from 1986-1996. He also had a brief stint with the South Carolina Gamecocks after leaving Notre Dame. He now is a College Football Analyst on ESPN.
In 1988, Notre Dame completed a perfect season and were crowned National Champions. Before becoming the head coach at Notre Dame, Coach Holtz was the head coach at Arkansas, the New York Jets of the NFL, and many other stops along the way. His coaching career began as a graduate assistant at the University of Iowa in the mid 1960’s.
In his book, Coach Holtz describes a time in which he sat down at his kitchen table and listed out all the goals/things they wanted to accomplish in his life with his family. He had just been relieved of his coaching duties at his current college and was unemployed with a young family. Coach Holtz wrote down 108 things that he and his family were going to accomplish. They were going to meet the Pope, skydive, go whitewater rafting, etc. Up to the time he published his book, he had accomplished 101 of things he wrote down that day.
One of the facets of the book that was and still is fascinating to me is that he had a vision of where he wanted to go. He didn’t share all of the things he wanted to do, but he went into detail about having a vision of where he wanted his life to go.
I’ve written about this before, but I’ll mention it again. After I finished his book in 2008, I wrote down things I wanted to accomplish in my life as well. There I sat, in my college style apartment, and wrote down things I wanted to accomplish and do in my life. Now, at the time, I thought I had a real chance at accomplishing most of them. Some of them, now I realize, was absolutely 0 chance of accomplishing them. One of things I wrote down was to throw the hammer at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials. Yeah, no chance at all. I also wrote down that I wanted to hit an elite powerlifting total in either the 242# or 275# weight class. Still haven’t come close, but I’m not counting those ones out yet.
Then came the ones that I wrote down because I thought they would be cool to accomplish and would also advance my professional career. I wrote down that I wanted to earn my administrative degree so I could one day have the option of becoming a school building principal or superintendent. I also wrote down that I wanted to coach a National Champion thrower. I wrote down that I wanted to write a book about throwing. And the one that I thought would most assist my family and I down the road, earn a doctorate degree. In 2009 I graduated from SUNY Fredonia with an advanced certificate in school district leadership. In 2016 I coached the DIII Indoor 35# Weight Throw National Champion at Nazareth College. In 2017 I graduated from St. John Fisher College with my Ed.D. in Executive Leadership.
I’m sharing these details with you, because like some of us that have goals, we may feel that although it would be nice to accomplish, they are set so far off into the distance that it is difficult to realize their potential of actually being accomplished. I wasn’t involved with coaching at the collegiate level at the time, yet I wrote down that I wanted to write a book about throwing. I always kept two journals with me. A black marble notebook and a blue marble notebook. My black journal contained lifting session information. My blue journal contained throwing session information. In my basement I have eight years of throwing and lifting journals—every throw and every lift from June 2004-June 2012. I still write down all my weight lifting training sessions in a journal.
I share with you my goal of writing a book for throwers, because like I previously mentioned, thought it would be something cool to do. Back when I wrote that down there weren’t many books available about throwing. There still really aren’t that many books available about throwing. If you visit your local bookstore or Barnes and Noble, you can find a variety of books focused on the four major sports, as well as books about cars, fishing, mountain climbing, hiking, biking, swimming, bowling, soccer, rugby, tennis, Crossfit, nutrition, weight lifting, and professional wrestling. What you won’t find is a book about throwing—shot-put, discus, hammer, javelin, and weight throw.
My purpose in sharing all of this information is that now I’m in the early stages of mapping out a manual/template/journal for throwers that will help them stay focused on their goals, give them the ability to chart and monitor their growth, and most importantly as a method of holding themselves accountable to their goals. I’m breaking down this template by habits in which I believe give throwers the best opportunity to be successful at accomplishing their goals. I share all of this with you because I’m going to need your help. I have an idea of what the traits are. I have penned 11 so far. I have joined some together that I think fit well together under one trait, and then I have others that could be joined together but are not. Over the course of the next several weeks I’m going to write about one trait. I’m going to share why I think it is an important trait to possess as a thrower and give some supporting examples as to why I believe so. Hopefully we are able to engage in dialogue about what you think are the essential traits a thrower needs to have in order to be successful in reaching and accomplishing their goals.
Similar to the way Coach Holtz and I accomplished our goals, we had a vision of where we wanted to go. We had a vision of what we wanted to accomplish. We had a vision.
Trait #1—The Best Have a Vision
A vision allows us to see into the future. Our vision of where we wish to be in one, five, or ten years gives us something to aspire to. Something to dream towards accomplishing. A goal we wish to achieve. Jon Gordon talks a lot about having a vision in his podcast interviews. You can listen to some of my favorite episodes by clicking the links below.
He talks about looking into a telescope and seeing a picture that is far off in the distance. The telescope helps us look into the future. It helps us see the picture in sight. It gives us something to aspire towards achieving.
Having a vision without a plan to accomplish the goal or realize the dream is simply wishful thinking. We get caught up in the daily grind that we forget to develop a plan for how we are going to achieve that goal. In my example, in order to one day become a superintendent or principal in a school, you need to hold an administrative degree (In New York State it is required). That was my vision. That was, at the time, a dream of mine. In order to accomplish that goal, I knew I needed to earn my tenure in teaching (which I did), and also have five different people write me a letter of recommendation supporting my application to enroll in the program. Those were the initial steps. Once accepted into the program, I knew I needed to take 12 courses over the course of two years, plus complete and pass my internship, to graduate. Before I was awarded my certificate, I was required to pass two New York State certification exams. That was my action plan. To take two or three courses a semester, even over the summer, in order to accomplish my goal. I made plenty of sacrifices. I sacrificed my time spent with family, friends, and Saturdays were spent in the classroom. I also sacrificed a lot financially. I wasn’t awarded a scholarship, nor did I receive grant funding to offset the price of classes. I knew that in order to accomplish that goal, I needed to sacrifice time and money.
Often times what we may fail to realize is that in order to accomplish a goal, we need to make some type of sacrifices. This, in my opinion, is where I see a lot of athletes getting stuck in the daily grind of moving towards their goal. Most recently, I had an athlete tell me that their goal was to win a 2018 DIII National Championship in throwing. We laid out a plan of what was necessary to accomplish that goal. This person was going to need to make some sacrifices in their life in order to give themselves the chance of accomplishing this goal.
Unfortunately, this thrower was not ready to make the necessary sacrifices. They were not ready to really dig down and put themselves in the best position to be successful. They were not ready to give up an active social life, spending a lot of time with their friends on the weekends, taking care of their bodies (physically and mentally), and committing themselves to their weight room training sessions. After a few months, the aura of wanting to win faded. They weren’t ready. They had a vision. They had their sights set on their vision, their goal, but they weren’t ready to make the necessary sacrifices in order to realize that goal.
I hope you continue to join me on this journey over the course of the next couple of months as I begin to conceptualize more of the traits I believe the best of the best throwers possess. I have shared my initial thoughts with recent and past Olympic throwers and their coaches. I have received constructive feedback and guidance. As I continue to write my thoughts, I will also share and discuss them here with you. My plan is to share a new trait with you every week, over the course of the next several weeks.
Hopefully my thoughts serve as encouragement. The traits I'm going to discuss over the course of the next several weeks apply to everyone in any facet of their life. If you don't have a vision for where you want to be next year or in five years, now is just a good a day as any to start thinking about it.
Here are some steps to help you move forward to realizing your dream.
1. Where do you see yourself one year from now? What do you want to accomplish?
2. Why do you want to be there? Why are you driven to accomplish this goal?
3. What types of sacrifices are you willing to make to accomplish this goal? Are there financial sacrifices that need to be made? How much time are you willing to devote in order to accomplish this goal? How much time are you willing to sacrifice spent with friends, family, and with your hobbies in order to accomplish this goal?
4. What skills do you need to acquire in order to accomplish this goal?
5. What support do you need in order to accomplish this goal?
6. What are your daily/weekly/monthly commitments going to look like in order to accomplish this goal?
7. Get started!
As always, thanks for reading. ~ Charles
Expectations and Accountability
Or should it be accountability and expectations? It probably isn’t as difficult as the old adage of which came first, the chicken or the egg. But maybe you can’t have one without the other.
Today I recorded a podcast for the Forza Athletics Life and Coaching Podcast. The theme of the podcast centered around our expectations and how we hold ourselves accountable to them. My specific focus was centered around sports, and in this case track & field.
As a throwing coach at the Division III level I hold my student-athletes accountable for their actions. Our track & field program, along with Nazareth College, has very high expectations for our student-athletes. We expect them to go to class, study, complete their assignments, and graduate in 4 to 6 years (depending on their major). If they do not meet some of those expectations, we as coaches are notified of it. We receive an auto-generated email created by a professor indicating that a specific student-athlete may have missed two or three of their classes this week, didn’t complete assignments, or received a low score on a test/mid-term/paper.
When I first started coaching at Nazareth over 5 years ago, I received more of these emails than I would have liked. I would spend time discussing my concerns with a thrower, ask them if they needed assistance in the classroom, and what the consequences would be if they didn’t receive adequate grades (they would not be academically eligible if their cumulative GPA fell under 2.0, thus meaning they couldn’t compete/practice until their grades were high enough). That conversation was usually good enough to get them back on track. Essentially, it was taking any guess work or grey area out of it. It is not something we as coaches can control. Our NCAA compliance coordinator would also be made aware of their grades, resulting in missed practice and competition until they had increased their GPA.
The next part of this blog post is where the expectations and accountability conversation gets tricky. I’ll provide you with an example from this past season. You can tell me if you think I handled this situation properly. You can also share your thoughts, and maybe discuss what you may have done differently as well.
Last July, one of my athletes posted on Twitter that his goal was to win the 35lb. Weight Throw at the 2018 DIII Indoor National Championships. Not a small feat in itself, nor was it such a stretch that it was impossible to accomplish. During Tyler’s sophomore season, he threw a personal best of 16.80m at the ECAC Indoor Track & Field Championships held in New York City. He finished 8th in the 35lb. Weight Throw. It was a 5m improvement from his freshman season. During the 2016-17 season, following up his sophomore campaign, Tyler threw 15.80m. Even though he didn’t set a personal best, I thought it was still realistic to possibly win Nationals, especially knowing that it would probably take 18m to get there. Once there, anything is possible. So, in theory, Tyler needed to throw another 1.20m this season to give himself a chance at accomplishing his goal.
We exchanged multiple text messages after he posted that tweet, especially about how the summer would prove to be extremely important if he really wanted to win Nationals. I specifically told him he couldn’t wait until September to start training. It was important to start training then. I sent Tyler a program that Luis completed one summer before returning to Nazareth. In the famous 8 week ‘Beef Packer’ program written by Derek Woodske in 2004, Luis put on about 20lbs., and came back to campus ready to throw far.
In our situation for this season, that was not the case. I knew the second I saw Tyler that he did not complete the program. I was almost certain he didn’t complete any program. That was my first red flag. I spoke to him about it. Expressed my concern in August, however he assured me he was ready for the season to begin.
I didn’t have much contact with Tyler until the middle of October, almost two months after our first meeting of the season. Again, from my observation I could tell something was wrong. Still didn’t seem like any progress was made in the weight room. We had a similar conversation again. And again I was assured that it was ok. This was red flag number 2.
Our season started off pretty well. No breakthrough throws, but Tyler made the finals in every meet through December and into January. However, it was at a meet at SUNY Brockport, after the shot-put competition was done, that Tyler and I had our first real discussion of the season. I expressed my concerns about his expectations and how his actions weren’t supporting his stated goal of winning Nationals. I also expressed my concern that he didn’t seem committed to that goal, and that it was beginning to slip away. I perceived his initial take to be earnest and a bit concerning. However, as the conversation progressed I felt as though it had indeed slipped away and that Tyler also realized it had slipped away.
I didn’t question his heart or desire to compete. It was more a question about how he was handling the process of wanting to become a National Champion. The goal is great. The process of realizing that goal was not going well. It was actually non-existent. There really wasn’t a process. The focus was only on the outcome. Not on the process of moving forward towards that goal.
To make matters worse, Tyler was teammates with Luis, the 2016 DIII National Champion in the 35lb. Weight Throw. He knew what Luis did to realize that goal. They practiced together. Lifted together. Did all the mundane things together in preparation for realizing that goal. Maybe Tyler didn’t want it as much as Luis did. Or that training for that one moment in time was not really worth it after all.
Winning a National Championship is not something decided at that meet (not always). I know, that doesn't make much sense. Please let me explain. Yes, of course the person who throws the farthest at Nationals is going to win. More often than not it isn't a surprise. To qualify an athlete obviously put in the work necessary to throw far enough to get there. Typically there isn't that much of a difference in distance for throwers at Nationals. The top 10-15 athletes may only be separated by 3 meters in the hammer, for example. The preparation that it takes in order to win at Nationals is started well in advance of that magical weekend. It begins in the summer. Or it even begins the year or two before. It isn't something that just happens a couple of weeks before. The work needs to be put in. You definitely earn the victory at Nationals. It isn't a fluke. And there is no such thing as a lucky throw.
The process begins after the previous season ends. One cannot take a summer off, not train, and not do anything that will move them towards achieving that goal. Unfortunately, we cannot decide in February that now I want to be National Champion in March. For about 99% of throwers it doesn’t work that way. Daily commitments, daily actions, and habits need to be formed and completed well in advance. For some, like Luis, it was a four-year journey. Tyler tried making it a one and done.
After our discussion at Brockport, we decided that Tyler should not compete in our next meet and think about how he wanted to approach the outdoor season. Rather than go into another indoor meet not prepared for competition, we took a weekend off. The reaction I got, well the reaction I was expecting but didn’t receive was red flag number three.
I’ll leave you all with that for now. Reflecting back on our season, there are a couple of things I should have handled differently. For one, Tyler and I would have had a more serious conversation back in July when he decided he wanted to be National Champion. I would have discussed the new habits and traits he would have needed to develop in order to realize his goal. Like they say, hindsight is 20/20.
How would you have handled the situation? What would you have done differently?
As always, thanks for reading! ~ Charles
A Farewell to the 2017-18 Season
As with the start of any new season, hope and success fill the thoughts of athletes and coaches alike. Hope for success. Hope to remain healthy. Hope to accomplish goals.
Success can be defined in a multitude of ways. Setting a new personal best. Winning a conference championship. Qualifying for nationals. Becoming an All-American. Winning a National Championship. As goals go, success perhaps should be defined early in the season. Early enough to put a plan in place to accomplish one’s goals. To reach their defined version of success.
My season began in late August. August 22ndto be exact. That is the day that our third little man was born. My wife a very healthy pregnancy. Similar to our first two. Nothing out of the ordinary. Santino was born in the early afternoon. All was well the first day and night. I woke up a couple of times just to make sure everything was ok. Unlike our first two boy’s initial nights in the hospital, this little man slept pretty much all the way through. Not like our first two.
It was during the tail-end of day two that our nurse thought something was wrong. Something with his breathing was off kilter. We were told to bring him to the neonatal room in the hospital. Definitely not what we were expecting. He spent the better part of the next two days there. We couldn’t take him home until his breathing returned to normal, normal for an infant. Our plan was to sleep in our van if we were discharged from our room.
I begged and pleaded with our nurse to let us stay just one more night. Just so we didn’t need to sleep in our van in the parking garage. She somehow worked her magic and gave us the opportunity to stay one more night. The following afternoon we were told we could take Santino home with us. It was a great first night at home!
After the two older boys went down for the night, I finished listening to a Jon Gordon podcast interview from Entreleadership. In his podcast he mentioned that every year he picked a word to focus on. Something to help guide him through the year. That night I selected my word for the upcoming season. My word was resiliency.
It seemed fitting that my word for the upcoming year was picked due to what had happened to my wife and I over the course of the previous few days. I consider us very fortunate. Our situation could have been much worse. I feel blessed to have left the hospital only a couple of days later than we should have. I think about that moment often. When things get difficult. When I’m searching for something to help me move forward.
Reflecting back now, selecting that word was, in a sense, foreshadowing things to come.
Our season started with only Tyler and I. We both had high expectations. Maybe too high. Our plan was to have a successful season. Unfortunately, Tyler and I had different expectations for what we wanted to accomplish. I say we because it takes both coach and athlete to realize dreams and accomplish goals. One cannot do it with the other. Well, maybe an athlete can achieve their goals without a coach. It may be more difficult. But it can be done. A coach, however, will not be able to realize their dreams without athletes. Definitely doesn’t work both ways.
It did not live up to either of our expectations. I don’t mind sharing. I don’t think Tyler will mind either. Tyler had a goal. He wanted to win the 2018 DIII Indoor National Championship in the 35lb. Weight Throw. He said as such in July. On Twitter. For the world to see.
A lofty goal indeed. One I thought he could accomplish. He was teammates with a National Champion. He was able to see what Luis went through to accomplish his goal. We didn’t do anything special in 2016. Our practices were rather boring and uneventful. We had a plan back in 2016. I had an idea in 2018. I don’t think Tyler did.
You see, simply stating that you are going to do something won’t actually get you to doing it. Yes, that is obvious. It takes a little more than that. Like Dan Chambliss said, “The most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.”
Tyler and I discussed what he needed to do in order to realize his dream. Diligently complete your weight room sessions. Watch your throwing videos. Watch other throwers’ videos. Ask questions. And most importantly, train with a laser-sharp focus. Some of all these elements were missing. Some of these elements were present though. Our indoor season come to a rather unassuming end at the Empire 8 Indoor Championships. Actually, it came to halt by 6cm. Tyler threw 14.94m. The qualifying throw needed to advance to the Atlantic Regionals was 15.00m in the 35lb. Weight Throw. Our season came to a close. Some might say it was a good season. You were close. We weren’t close at all.
As we transitioned to our outdoor season, Tyler took a couple of weeks off from throwing. A little bit of time to re-charge his batteries before traveling to Virginia to open our outdoor season. Without knowing it, or maybe he did, or maybe he has, Tyler took the necessary steps to put himself in position to have a successful outdoor season. He in fact become more resilient.
Joining us for our outdoor campaign was freshman thrower and swimming phenom Kaela. I say swimming phenom because she almost single handedly won the team Empire 8 Swimming and Diving Championships for Nazareth College. In total, Kaela scored 60 points. And by the way, she is a great discus thrower and shot-putter.
It took a few weeks for everyone to come together as a unit. The trip to Virginia assisted in the awkward transition from our indoor season, and with Kaela’s transition to a new team. It took a few weeks to shake out the throwing rust. Conversely, as the season progressed Kaela and Tyler gelled very well together.
I do not want to get into that many details about why the word resiliencyforeshadowed Kaela’s season. I’ll let her explain that herself one day. As our outdoor season was coming to a close, I realized we were running out of time. I think most coaches feel like that at some point during a season. I often think to myself that we only have four weeks left, where athletes may be wishing the time away. I do not wish it away anymore. I did when I coached at Fredonia. I was focused on the outcome. All the time. I wanted my throwers to throw far all the time. I wanted them to set personal best throws in every meet. It was highly unrealistic, but that was my mentally as a new coach. I knew I was judged based on their performances. It was a terrible mindset to have. Now I feel I’m at the total opposite side of the spectrum.
With our season coming to a close, I realized we had indeed run out of time. Not their fault. It was my fault. We had established goals at the beginning of the season. We didn’t revisit them as the outdoor season progressed. Kaela and I only really discussed goals for the season in March. We didn’t write anything down. It was a brief conversation about outcome goals. We didn’t discuss process goals at all. We had a number in mind. A very realistic number. A couple of realistic numbers in fact. We achieved one goal-we hit one number in the shot-put. Discus was another story.
Our outdoor season came to a close last weekend on the campus of St. John Fisher College. We were as prepared as we could be. Our day started off with a personal best throw by Tyler in the hammer, surpassing the 45m mark with a throw of 45.11m, good for 8thplace. This was by far the most competitive men’s hammer competition I have been a part of in the Empire 8 Conference. In 2013, my first season at Nazareth, it took just over 36m to make the finals. For some added perspective, at the 2013 New York State Outdoor Championships held at St. Lawrence, Luis finished 8thwith a throw of 41m. Kaela did not have a personal best throw in the hammer. I thought to myself that it was ok. Her two best events would be contested on the following day.
Unfortunately, we suffered a similar fate on Saturday. Kaela qualified for the finals of the discus, ranked 6thgoing into the finals. She was in scoring position. No Nazareth College female thrower has ever scored at an Empire 8 Championship. She had a very good opportunity to be the first. In round 4, she was passed by a thrower from St. John Fisher College. A thrower from Houghton extended her distance to maintain 5thplace. Kaela dropped to 7th. In round 5, a thrower from Utica leapfrogged everyone to go into 4thplace. This dropped Kaela to 8thplace.
With one throw to go, Kaela needed to throw just over 30.50m to secure herself 6thplace. That throw would only need to be 6’ less than her personal best. In my mind, this is the moment where throwers rise up to the occasion. Or they succumb to the pressure of needing to throw far when it really counts. Not needing a personal best, but to throw just far enough to put yourself in contention. Neither happened. As her last throw fell just before the 30m line, I was flooded with emotions.
My initial thought was that I had failed Kaela. It was my responsibility to prepare her for moments like this. I didn’t. It was my fault. I thought that she could summon something deep inside, similar to what she did during the swimming championships. It was not to be today. As with the discus, shot-put went just as well. A 10thplace finish, not qualifying for the finals. In both events, her throws in 2018 would have scored in pretty much every other meet over the course of the past 7-8 years. We’ll have to wait until next season.
Tyler suffered a similar fate in the discus. While Kaela finished 10thin the shot-put, Tyler finished outside of the top 10 in the men’s discus. No personal best. Not even a season best throw.
Well, reflecting on this season has been quite difficult. I can make up a thousand excuses in my mind as to why our season ended the way it did. What else could I have done? How else could I have prepared them? I’m torn. I think back to the conversation Dan Chambliss and I had at Hamilton College last month.
Dan I spoke at great length about coach and athlete accountability. We spoke about maintaining the balance between the two. He shared something with me that no other coach has in the past. He told me it was ok if my athletes didn’t live up to expectations. It was ok for them to not want it as much as I did. “Just focus on the athletes that want it as much as you do, Charles.” That is a difficult pill to swallow. I feel that a coach that takes that mentality is giving up on their athletes. But then again, is it? If your athletes don’t fulfill their commitments, is it ok to let them fail? I guess it would be ok to let them fail as long as their failing doesn’t have a negative impact on their teammates.
Looking forward to next season, I haven’t selected my word for the year. I have a pretty good idea. I won’t share it quite yet. I’ll let it simmer for now.
For all the remaining athletes competing in the hopes of qualifying for regionals and nationals, best wishes to everyone for continued progress towards achieving your goals.
As always, thanks for reading! ~ Charles
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.