I often found that the couple of weeks after a season came to a close was a time to reflect on all that went well, what didn’t go as planned, and how much of what didn’t go as planned was in my direct control. I didn’t think much about these types of questions until the summer between my junior and senior year of college. I was coming off of a pretty good year athletically, but lots of changes were looming before the start of my senior year.
This particular summer of 2003 was spent in Fredonia. I was taking a couple of Math courses because I was more focused on throwing the weight far during the indoor season as opposed to going to my Math for Elementary Educators classes. In-between classes I worked a couple of part-time jobs that supported me enough to live in my apartment off campus. I would go to class in the morning, work, and then train. It wasn’t a bad lifestyle. I got more accomplished that summer in the classroom than I probably did the whole 2002-03 academic year.
In late July 2003 I met my next track and field head coach, Adarian Barr. I didn’t know much about him besides what was included in his bio. I knew he came from Wisconsin, competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Trials as a jumper, and had some experience as a throwing coach. I’ve written about our first meeting in the past, but it’s worth mentioning here again that Coach Barr and I didn’t really hit it off well. I was informed that our throwing coach would not be returning, and that he would be coaching me and the other throwers on the team. At this point in time the only other thrower on the team would be a freshman that I hadn’t met yet. I wasn’t that enthusiastic that my throwing coach would not be returning, but it wasn’t my place because I was an athlete and it wasn’t my decision.
I left Coach Barr’s office feeling a bit dejected and put off that he would basically be coaching everyone on our team except for the jumpers. My one takeaway from this first meeting was that he told me to, “Think about what you want to do this year.”
What I wanted to do this year? Well, of course I wanted to win a SUNYAC championship and qualify for DIII outdoor nationals.
Up until this point in my throwing career, I had been a somewhat competitive SUNYAC conference thrower. I didn’t score any points my freshman year. In fact, my worst seasonal performances of the 2000-01 season occurred at both our indoor and outdoor conference championships. In my sophomore year, I finished 2nd in the 35lb. weight throw and 5th in the shot-put at indoor SUNYACS. I also finished 5th in the weight throw at indoor states. I scored in the hammer at outdoor SUNYACS my sophomore year. In my junior year I finished 2nd yet again in the 35lb. weight throw. I also scored in the hammer again as a junior. Until now, I had yet to really make a real impact as a competitor on our men’s team. Those two second place finishes really haunted me that summer of 2003. I hated that feeling and knew that I didn’t want to finish in that runner up spot again. The person who won the weight and hammer in 2003 just graduated. The person who won the weight in 2002 was going into his senior season, much like I was. He finished 2nd in the hammer in 2003. I knew I had a chance to win both the weight and hammer. I also knew that I couldn’t control what other competitors would be doing or how they would compete, so I needed to put myself in the best position possible.
Starting that summer of 2003 I started training with a group of powerlifters in a small gym in Fredonia called Darwin’s. I really learned what training was supposed to feel and look like that summer. I went to class in the morning, worked, threw, and trained pretty much everyday from the end of the 2003 season through the start of the fall semester in 2003. I got much stronger, my conditioning went up, as well as my confidence. In my fall physical I weighed in at 235lbs. That is up about 15lbs. from the end of my junior year. I was in the best shape of my life.
I wrote Coach Barr’s question to me in my training journal. I still couldn’t come up with a reasonable answer. I wanted to win a conference championship and set myself up for a chance of going to outdoor nationals. As I previously mentioned, I knew I had a chance to win both the weight and hammer championships. Realistically I knew that going to indoor nationals would be a stretch, so the focus was on indoor SUNYACS.
Before everyone returned back to campus in the fall 2003, I met with Coach Barr in his office. It’s funny how some images and conversations feel like they happened yesterday, and for me this conversation with Coach Barr is one of them. The office was a bit of a mess as Coach Barr was still moving in. I shared with him my thoughts about the upcoming season, what my goals were, and how I thought we could get there. I explained that I would be student-teaching for the second half of the fall and spring semesters, along with having a part-time job on campus.
My goals for the 2003-2004 season were:
This was the first time in my career that I didn’t include a distance because after speaking with Coach Barr earlier in the summer the distance might not be good enough to win. Nobody ever explained that to me before. I guess I could have suggested I wanted to throw the hammer 55m, but that still might not have resulted in winning the conference championship.
I left off some very critical and important pieces to my goals for the 2003-04 season. First, I left off a willingness to try new things. Second, I didn’t take into consideration how much more recovery time I would need. Third, I realized too late into the season that I wasn’t taking care of my nutrition. And lastly, I should have considered trying to get more than 6 hours of sleep a night.
Our first official practice of the season wasn’t until the last week of October. It was also the same week I began my first student-teaching placement at Pine Valley Elementary School, 4th grade. When I walked out of Coach Barr’s office that late August afternoon it would be the last time I spoke to Coach Barr until our first practice.
I knew where I wanted to go. I didn’t know how to get there. It took me a long time to become accepting of Coach Barr’s training ideology and coaching philosophy. It took a couple of missed opportunities for me to fully buy-in to what Coach Barr really had in store for me.
If you are reading this post, thank you! I hope you also took the time to read the previous post about reflecting on the previous season. As I suggested in that prior post, I believe it is important to reflect upon the past to be able to focus on the present. You want to look back on what went well, what didn’t go well, what could have been done differently and did you live up to the standard you set for yourself at the beginning of the previous season.
As you prepare for the upcoming 2021-22 season we are beginning with a clean slate. Hopefully you take some time for yourself to unwind and both physically and mentally recover from the prior season. It isn’t imperative that you begin training for the 2021-22 season immediately after this season just came to a close. It’s ok to give yourself a mental and physical break from training.
I shared some of this information in a recent podcast about summer training, but I think it’s worth mentioning again. The time between the end of the spring semester and the start of the fall semester is extremely critical in setting up the upcoming season. As a coach, it was easy to tell between the athletes that trained over the summer and those that took a few months off. Like I previously mentioned, it is ok to take a week or two off to recharge your batteries and reflect upon the previous season. Your body won’t become de-trained if you take 14 days off. One thing I am certain of is this-you won’t achieve all your goals based on perfect summer programming, but you will make it 100% more difficult for yourself to achieve them during the academic year. You see, by giving up your summer training you are essentially giving up almost 3 months of training that you won’t be able to make up during the academic year. It could lead to an increased chance of injury, burnout, or both.
Here are some tips on how you can better prepare yourself for summer training before returning back to campus in August:
Some collegiate track and field athletes will be competing in their conference and or last chance qualifier meets before nationals. For a majority of athletes, their seasons have come to a close. Now is the time to reflect upon your season. Reflecting gives us an opportunity to pause and look back upon the previous season. A lot of athletes competed for the first time in over a year this past season. Others may have run into a slew of COVID-19 restrictions at their college/university. Now is a good time to sit back and reflect for a few reasons.
First , when reflecting back on your season, it’s important to consider if you met and achieved the goals you set out to accomplish this season. Nobody could have predicted the number of restrictions we would have faced and encountered this season. With all the trials and obstacles in your way, how well do you think your season went? Did you accomplish your goal(s) (yes, no, both)?
Second, when reflecting back on your goals and if you accomplished them or not, another idea to consider is did you live up to your standards? Did you hold yourself accountable to your goals, and did you spend purposeful time during the season on completing the mundane tasks that may have been required to achieve your goal(s)? When you look back and think about the intermediate goals (microscope goals) you set for yourself, did you do what it would take to accomplish them? A microscope goal may have been to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, go to the trainers room when I needed to, did I ensure I completed 3 or 4 weight room sessions a week, did I watch film of my throws, etc.
Finally, I ask you to consider two final thoughts. First, how did you expect your season to go? What were you expecting was going to happen? In September or October what would your ideal season look like? How did you expect it would end? Why did you expect it to go that way? Second, how do you feel your season went? Did your early season expectations manifest themselves? Did you envision yourself standing on the first place podium at the end of the season? Did you expect your bench press or squat numbers to increase by 10% or 15%?
Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have written a lot about your window of excellence. In essence, we only have a short amount of time to achieve greatness. In this sense, the greatness I’m talking about is on the track, runway, and circle.
When you take the time to answer the questions above, I want you to be honest with yourself. Did you achieve what you set out to do? If you did, that is amazing and I applaud you for it. When you think about all that you accomplished this year, what made that possible? Now, on the flip side, if you didn’t achieve your goals, why do you think you didn’t? What stood in your way from achieving your goals? If you can answer these questions honestly and truthfully, you will better prepare yourself for the 2021-22 season.
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.