August 31st, 2021
Seven Successful Strategies As You Transition to College
Fall athletes have already moved back to campus. Everyone else will be moving in within the next couple of weeks. With the anticipation of returning back to campus or moving in for the first time, I can’t help but think back to a conversation I had with an incoming freshman thrower from a couple of weeks ago.
As our Zoom conversation was wrapping up, he asked me what he should focus on the most as he prepared to transition to collegiate throwing. Without hesitation I said, “Start working on your time management skills.”
Some, not all, student-athletes make their first transition to life away from home between the ages of 17 and 19. To a certain extent, they are left to their own devices (no pun intended) without the direct supervision of a parent/guardian. They move in and get settled as they wave to the ones that dropped them off. Now, maybe for the first time they are left alone with the possible expectations of going to class, earning “good” grades, developing a social life, making new friends, completing their homework, and for some competing on a varsity sports team. That might be a lot to handle for some athletes.
It was a lot for me to handle when I was dropped off in August, 2000. There were no instructions given to us. As a student-athlete I knew I had to maintain at least a 2.0gpa and could not participate in or indulge with drugs/alcohol for fear of either being kicked off the track and field team or expelled from school. I had a few teammates over the years that stayed on campus for a fall semester and didn’t return for that spring semester. The same for those that didn’t return in the fall of our sophomore, junior and senior years too. The one thing I remember Coach OG sharing with me in one of our first meetings on campus that August was to learn how to manage my time so I could get everything done and remain eligible to compete on the track and field team.
That was all great and good, except nobody told me or taught me how to exactly do that.
Here is a list of some strategies you can begin to incorporate to ensure you give yourself the best opportunity to be successful as you navigate your way through the 2021-22 academic year.
What strategies/suggestions would you add to this list? These specific items are concepts I wish someone would have shared with me 21 years ago. To say I was clueless would be an understatement. My one priority in college was to compete well enough to someday be inducted in our SUNY Fredonia Sports Hall of Fame. That priority almost cost me my education, but I did end up winning a first place medal the size of a quarter for my efforts.
To be continued tomorrow...
August 18th, 2021
As move-in day quickly approaches, athletes from all across the country will begin the 2021-22 season with a clean slate. Whether you are a true freshman or 6th year senior, everyone essentially begins the season with an abundance of opportunities that would assist them in achieving their goals and aspirations.
During the move-in and transition process for athletes, I’ve made it a habit to wait a few weeks before I try to schedule a time to meet with them before the start of the season. Over the years I have found that meeting with upperclassmen first is less overwhelming than trying to meet with a freshman that has been on campus for a few days and is trying to figure out what is happening!
As any of my athletes (current or former) will tell you, I don’t shy away from sending the occasional email or message in the group chat about the upcoming season. Initial messages are typically focused on sending me a copy of their class schedules, asking how their transition has been going, and if there is anything they need from the coaches or their teammates to help make their transition smoother.
Before I meet with athletes on an individual basis, I send the athletes an email with a couple of questions to be prepared to answer and to come prepared with any questions they have for me. Returning athletes usually don’t have any questions besides the typical clarifying questions about practice days, times, and weight room schedules. Sometimes I’ll be asked questions that are track related. Other times I’m asked questions that are not related to track, which are fine as well.
In my email, I ask all of my athletes these four questions:
August 16th, 2021
Do your daily habits align with your long-term aspirations
Last week I wrote a lot about the art of journaling; what to keep track of, how often to track, throwing sessions, lifting sessions, etc. My podcast episodes from last week also align with the topic of journaling, the research behind journaling and how journaling is the ultimate accountability partner. In essence we use our journals to track our habits, the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis that assist us in achieving our goals.
When tracking our day-to-day (throwing, training, nutrition, hours slept, how we feel in the morning, etc.) it is important to consider that our daily actions align with our long-term aspirations. We want to make sure we bank quality days that will help us build towards our long-term goal for ourselves. Not tracking is a sure fire way to ensure it will take us longer (or maybe not at all) to achieve our goals. But do your daily actions align with your long-term pursuits?
For the athletes that have a specific distance or championship endeavor in mind, those concepts are our goals-what we hope to accomplish. However, those are not daily behaviors or habits. It is our daily pursuits that will lead us down the path of accomplishing our goals.
If your goal is to throw 150’ in the discus or win a conference championship in the javelin, it is important to ensure that our daily habits are in alignment with the long-term pursuit of winning a championship or throwing an implement a certain distance.
For example, during my senior year at Fredonia my goal was to win the 35lb weight throw and hammer SUNYAC championships. Those were not behaviors, but rather my aspirations to achieve before I graduated from college. During the fall semester and into the indoor season my sole focus was to win. I wasn’t taking into consideration all the other factors that would play a role in that outcome, such as how well my competitors would throw. I lost sight of all the things I needed to master before I could throw farther than I had in my junior year. It wasn’t until after our indoor conference meet, where I finished 4th, that I realized I needed to realign my daily habits (although I didn’t call them habits back in 2004) to support my aspiration of winning the hammer competition.
August 13th, 2021
What to Keep in Your Journal
“The palest of ink is better than the fondest of memories.” Jud Logan
This week I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the importance of journaling. The art of keeping track of one’s training and throwing sessions. Others have written and spoken about the significance of journaling and what it has meant to their throwing careers.
One of my coaching mentors, Jud Logan, has stated in numerous podcast episodes, Instagram posts, and blogs about the significance of keeping a training journal and what they meant to him. On one such occasion I visited Ashland University a few years ago. At this time, Jud’s office was being renovated. Outside his office were boxes and boxes of stuff. On top of one of the boxes was a yellow notebook with the year 1987 sketched on the cover. Before I had the chance to pick up the notebook, Jud walked in, startled me, welcomed me, and suggested I pick it up and look through it.
While Jud was in his office preparing for his athlete’s practice session, I stood there for what seemed like hours. In fact it was probably a few seconds before I picked up one of the famous notebooks that I had heard so much about.
In my opinion, what I found inside was pure gold. For those that don’t know, Jud is maticulous for this stuff. Day by day and week by week he had notes for every throwing session. I mean everything. How each throw felt, distance, the time of day of the session, what he did before, how he felt, nutrition, etc. As I was going through this notebook I realized that these boxes contained all of his notebooks. I saw 1988, 1989, 1992, 1998, and 1999. Just stacks of notebooks with similar thoughts and ideas sketched into each one. When I see Jud, I still joke with him about releasing some of his notes from the 2004 season when he attempted to make his 5th team. For context, in May of 2004 I watched Jud throw an 18# hammer 70m to win the Akron Open.
With all that said, what should you keep track of in your journal? Well, that is going to depend on a couple of things. How detail oriented are you, how much thought you will put into your journal, and how much thought you think you will put into your journal. This is a sample of what I encourage my athletes to keep track of:
August 12th, 2021
A Vision and a Roadmap
“Those who work the hardest, who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal, are the happiest.”
Brutus Hamilton, Olympic Decathlete and Coach
I want to (insert goal/accomplishment) because (list your reason) and (a supporting reason).
Yesterday I shared a couple of posts on Instagram and Twitter about the act of journaling and a notebook as the ultimate accountability partner. It wasn’t until I visited Ashland University in January, 2005 that I came to really appreciate the importance and significance of journaling to keep track of training.
As a student-athlete at SUNY Fredonia I kept track of my lifting sessions, but never anything having to do with throwing. From time to time I take out those old training journals as a reflective exercise to see how I began my training journey, how it went, and how it ended. I had my fair share of throwing coaches in college, all with different philosophies about how to train, when to train, and why I was training the way I was. When I asked questions about a specific block of training, only Coach Barr gave me a response I was satisfied with that didn’t include, “Because this is the way I trained.”
Our training journals serve as roadmaps. We essentially start on Day #1 in the hopes of accomplishing goal A, B, and C over the course of a week, month, block, season, year or collegiate career. We may accomplish our goal until Day 50, 100, 500 or 1000. Keeping a detailed journal will help you stay accountable to accomplishing your goals. You will be able to look back and see where you started, where you’ve been, and how much closer you are to accomplishing your feat.
Not keeping a journal allows us to wander aimlessly, sailing without a destination. We might get somewhere, but it might not be where we wanted to go. It’s easier to lose focus, get frustrated, and burnt out without keeping track. You never know where you are going, but hoping to get somewhere eventually.
August 11th, 2021
A Clearer Image
“Success is no accident. It is a combination of hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, and sacrifice. Most of all, love what you are doing or learning to do.” Author Unknown
To continue our conversation from yesterday about having a vision statement for ourselves, it’s also just as important to enjoy or love what we are doing. Yesterday I shared an activity that I have my athletes participate in which allows them to verbalize what they want to accomplish and why it is important to them. I then have them share out with their teammates and we record their thoughts on a vision board in our practice area. Having their goals out to see everyday adds another layer of accountability, not only for themselves but from their teammates as well.
I want to (insert goal/accomplishment) because (list your reason) and (a supporting reason).
An additional thought about having a clearer image for what you want to accomplish has to do with actually enjoying what you want to do. Well, enjoying what you need to do in order to accomplish your goal. For example, an athlete may want to throw the hammer 200’. They may love to practice and throw, but they are not fans of the weight room. Their technique may be impeccable, but without an added layer of strength and conditioning, they are limiting themselves in what they can accomplish.
Achieving goals and setting your sights set on something worth accomplishing does indeed take time, energy, and sacrifices. It’s the process and loving the process, the day to day mundane activities that gets us where we want to go. It’s the daily grind. It’s a sense of accomplishing the day to day mundane tasks that get us where we want to go. A clear vision of what we want to accomplish helps us focus not only on the bigger picture, but the day to day activities to get us moving one step closer to our goals on a daily basis.
If you don’t love it (whatever you are hoping to achieve) you most likely won’t be as successful in accomplishing that goal. If you want to earn your doctorate degree, but don’t enjoy the daily grind of securing research articles for your literature review or actually writing about what you find, you probably won’t be as successful. It may take you longer than you expect, you may get bored or frustrated and quit because you aren’t making progress.
The same goes for athletic endeavors. Wanting to throw far is one thing, but engaging in the day to day activities 100% of the time for months and years is what separates those that accomplish their goals and those that don’t.
August 10, 2021
A Clear Image
“If you don’t have a clear image of your dream, then you’re going to quit. When it gets difficult or when too much starts going on, you’re going to tap out. You’re going to start to shirk your responsibilities. The world needs you to show up as the best version of yourself.”
Amber Selking, PhD.
This quote by Dr. Amber Selking resonates on a multitude of levels. Regardless of where you are in your life; in high school, college, post-collegiate, mom, dad, coach, etc., not having a clear image of where you want to go makes achieving your goals much more difficult. Not having a clear image of what you want to achieve or accomplish makes the road ahead a cloudy and possibly bumpy one. That’s not to say that having a clear image won’t make the path towards accomplishment that much easier, but you might be able to anticipate some roadblocks along the way. Not having a clear image sheds darkness and confusion on which path to take, when to turn, and how long to travel.
An activity I started sharing with my athletes a few years ago has illuminated the path in a way that we (coach and athlete) can create a clearer roadmap towards accomplishing our goals.
I want to (insert goal/accomplishment) because (list your reason) and (a supporting reason).
Constructing a two to three sentence vision statement has assisted many of my athletes in accomplishing their goals for a couple of reasons. First, I had them complete the activity and share their responses with their teammates. Second, we created a shared vision board where each athlete wrote their statement for their teammates to see. It helped create a stronger and more supportive environment because everyone knew what each athlete was hoping to accomplish AND why it was important to them.
On a personal note, I’ve been training the past couple of years to compete in sprint triathlon races (750m swim, 13.1 mile bike ride, 3.1 mile run) as a way to add more excitement and accountability to my training. The goal statement I wrote in the spring of 2019 when I first registered for a race was:
I want to complete a sprint triathlon race because I want to test what my body is capable of accomplishing in this different type of competitive environment and to set a better example of being healthy and more active for my young family.
August 8th, 2021
What’s Your Destination?
Embarking on the beginning of a new season is when coaches and athletes begin to map out yearly goals. Returning athletes may have thought about their previously dedicated destination and want to change course. The goal to accomplish is a critical component in setting sail on the destination. Without an agreed upon port to travel to, the path will likely lead to athlete frustration, burnout, and lack of clarity.
Understanding where you want to go helps both coach and athlete create a roadmap that will lead the athlete towards their goal. It will illuminate a brighter and wider path for both coach and athlete to travel on through the athlete’s career.
Setting sail on a journey with no destination will likely lead to athlete and coach disappointment. And understanding of where one wants to go provides a clarity and understanding that mindless travel will not.
So, what’s your destination?
Decide what you truly want to accomplish this season. What do you want to accomplish in your athletic career? What do you aspire and hope for?
Write it down and be as specific as possible.
Why is this outcome important to you?
August 7th, 2021
Where Are You Going?
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
This quote resonates with me on a multitude of levels. First off, if you don’t have direction or a “North Star” to follow you will surely end up somewhere. But is that somewhere where you want to go?
In athletics, and more specifically with track and field, we as coaches often ask our athletes where they want to go on their athletic journey and what they want to accomplish. Athlete responses may vary from, “I want to win a national championship”, “I want to qualify for our conference championship”, to “I just want to be on the team”.
When we know where our athletes want to go, we as coaches can assist in developing a roadmap for their final destination. It is our responsibility as coaches to illuminate a path for our athletes brighter than they may be able to illuminate for themselves. Understanding where our athletes want to go is one thing, but conceptualizing the path can be frustrating or difficult to understand at the moment.
Conversations with our athletes prove critical in times of uncertainty because they provide clarity in moving towards their destination. In my experience destinations tend to change based on three factors; a) how long it will take to get there, b) what needs to be done along the way, and c) how accountable the athlete can hold themselves to a and b.
As athletes begin to formalize their destinations, setting sail does indeed become more favorable because the path (winds) we provide should ensure safer and less hostile travels along the way.
August 6th, 2021
Competition and Practice
As we begin to make the transition back to campus for the start of the 2021-22 season, implementing these 3 tips will play an important role in the success you achieve (or don’t achieve) when the meet season begins.
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.