The Reflective Thrower: Part I
As you have probably read or listened, the past couple of weeks I’ve shared a lot of strategies, suggestions, and tips for coaches and throwers when thinking about goals and the goal-setting process. A central tenet of this process is establishing open lines of communication in sharing expectations with athletes, and in turn athletes sharing their expectations for themselves and their teammates. Taking everything into consideration, a lot of this can be summed up with one word.
Over the summer I shared a lot of thoughts about the importance of journaling and how keeping notes on training and throwing would serve as the ultimate accountability partner. Taking the time to journal and write really causes someone to be reflective and think about what they want to accomplish.
To accomplish this one needs to think about where they came from, where they currently are, and where they want to go.
It might seem more difficult than it actually sounds, but broken down into small segments one can be honest with themselves about where they currently are and where they want to go. Much of this comes from where they were.
An example might look like this. Let’s say we have a senior thrower on our team. As a junior they ranked in the top 50 nationally in the discus and competed in their last chance qualifier meet in both the discus and hammer. Removing those that graduated, they return as a senior with a top 35 ranked discus throw and top 60 in the hammer. Their aspirations for their senior year are to become an All-American in both the discus and hammer.
They came off a relatively successful junior campaign in which they improved their best discus mark by 6m, while also improving their hammer mark by 8m. They made significant improvement from their sophomore year (COVID year) to their junior year (still under COVID restrictions, no indoor season). The 2021-22 season will seem to allow more opportunity to throw with fewer travel and competitive restrictions in the North East.
Our current (November, 2021) indicators suggest that this thrower is on a positive trajectory towards accomplishing their two goals for the season. Earlier in the fall this thrower hit discus marks over 50m in training, which lets us know that his aspiration of getting to nationals and earning an All-American award is fairly realistic. To qualify for nationals, one needs to finish the season ranked in the top 24 in their respective event. Hitting a mark to get there is obviously the first step, but what happens once at nationals is a completely different story. One of which is better told for another series of articles.
To be continued in a future blog post…
Still On The Clock
In my last post I shared some thoughts about early season training, the complexities of how our season is structured, and the processes we implement as the season rolls on. All of those topics are centered around one core item, Time.
In total, 26 weeks may seem like a long season. However, with the intermittent breaks along the way, some of the training time falls independently on each individual thrower. We have 26 training weeks for our season, but with our scheduled breaks along the way, there is some time that is spent away from our facility. It is what happens during that time that will either propel a thrower towards achieving their goals, maintain their technique without a fear of loss, or fall behind because the thrower didn’t train over their breaks.
You see, everyone has the same amount of time. No college is granted more training weeks than others. It is how the training weeks are utilized that ultimately makes a substantial difference in athlete successes.
How we spend our time is critical to ensure athlete success. How that success is manifested is dependent on a few factors. First, are athlete aspirations realistic to their current technical prowess or their future technical prowess? Second, are athlete goals process based or outcome based? Third, does the athlete have a specific technical focus they are working on in practice, or are they simply getting reps in for the sake of getting reps in?
This week begins our third week of practice for our throwers. I’m writing this before our training session today, in which I am introducing a time management/goal setting activity with everyone. This activity has a central focus of sharing the importance of time, to think about what we want to accomplish over the course of the season, and how our daily/weekly actions impact whether we move closer or farther away from our yearly aspirations.
Another central tenet of the activity is to think about team based expectations and how those expectations will be integrated into our daily practice sessions. You learn a lot from individuals after having worked with them for a couple of weeks. Our march towards our first meet begins to reveal certain personality traits of individuals, the eye of the tiger if you will.
On The Clock
Practice officially began a couple of weeks ago for our Alfred State throwers. In the time we have had, everyone has worked diligently in honing their throwing craft or learning how to throw the various implements. Efficient time management has been the conduit that has held things together.
We have 11 total throwers (4 women, 7 men). Some of which are returning (7) and some are new (4). Others have also never thrown before (2). It is a great mix of personalities that has kept practice fun and interesting.
One thing that always creeps into my mind at roughly the same time every year is the amount of time (or lack thereof) we have before our first meet of the season. Essentially, our throwers this year have 4 weeks of training before our first meet. We lose a week for Thanksgiving, and when we return we have a day or two to train before a Friday meet.
When taking the whole indoor/outdoor season as a whole, we have roughly 26 training weeks allotted to us. That takes into consideration the Thanksgiving break, winter recess, and spring break. It really doesn’t leave that much time to train.
On the surface a 26 week season seems long. Depending on your perspective you may think that you have plenty of time to achieve your goals. From a different perspective it isn’t quite enough time. As a former collegiate athlete, I had the former perspective. As a coach, I tend to lean more towards the latter and think that we don’t have enough time.
A strategy that has assisted me and my athletes over the past few seasons has been to have a plan for each successive week based on aspects of their technique they (the athlete) wants to improve. The emphasis leading up to the first meet is to ensure each athlete has the skills necessary to compete in a manner that shouldn’t lead to an injury. What I mean by that is that each thrower should have mastered basic technique in order to compete in such a way that is healthiest for them. I’ve been to plenty of high school meets over the years in which athletes are asked to throw (or maybe they want to) without proper form or technique that could lead to an injury. You may be able to muscle around a 25# weight as a male thrower, but eventually bad form/technique might lead to an increased chance of injury.
For now, we are on the clock. With roughly six practice sessions left until our first meet, our goals are to continue building upon the technical foundations we have already established while focusing on specific aspects of the throw that will provide the best opportunities for success.
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.