It’s calm. It’s quiet. It’s very relaxing. It is Saturday, December 29th. Our two oldest boys are at my parent’s house. The little man is taking his afternoon nap. My wife is out grocery shopping. Times like this do not happen very often.
My wife and I joke that when it is quiet like this, we would prefer to have all three boys up and running around. Their laughter lighting up our lives as each day passes.
It is on days like today that I am able to sit down and reflect. In this case, reflect on the year that has passed on what to look forward to in the next. What follows are my highlights of 2018, lowlights of 2018, and things to accomplish in 2019.
Highlights of 2018
Lowlights of 2018
Things to Accomplish in 2019
What do you hope to achieve in 2019?
I remember way back in the summer of 2003 when I was sitting with a couple hundred of my peers in a large lecture hall on the campus of SUNY Fredonia. As prep before student-teaching, all of us senior were required to sit in on a two-hour presentation that would prepare us for our upcoming student-teaching placements. We were encouraged to not maintain a job during our placement because of the importance of the upcoming 8-week placements.
Some of my friends decided that they were going to quit playing sports and their jobs. Others quit playing sports but kept their jobs. I stayed on the track team and also kept my job in the college fitness center.
From my perspective, this was the type of structure I needed in my life. I knew I would be student-teaching from 8am-3pm, at work from 4-6, then off to practice until 8. I’m not ashamed to say that I probably missed more classes than I attended during the first couple of years at Fredonia. My grades certainly reflected it. I was not very good at managing my time. I was very focused on training and throwing. That is about it.
It wasn’t until the summer between my sophomore year and junior year that I realized I needed to get in gear or I wasn’t going to have the minimum gpa required to student-teach. I didn’t know it at the time, but we didn’t actually have a minimum cumulative gpa needed to student-teach, but that we needed to have a gpa greater than 3.0 in our education focused courses in order to student-teach.
The thought of letting my parents down and not being able to student-teach was enough for me to get my coursework in order, attend my classes, and ensure I was going to graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Education.
What I realized is that in order to get my life in order, I need to better manage my time on campus. I needed to prioritize my assignments in a way that would give me the best opportunity to complete everything on-time, while also give myself enough time to attend practice, go to the trainers, and to get my weight room training sessions in.
During my senior year, the time management piece became much clearer. To be honest, my senior year went much smoother than it probably should have. The consequences to not do well were far too severe and steep to not be focused and diligent on the task(s) at hand. Sure, everything didn’t go well all the time. I graded papers during my shift in the weight room on a fairly regular basis. Training at 8 or 9 in the evening was getting old. And believe it or not I actually missed a few dinners along the way. However, the light at the end of the tunnel was dimly lit in August of 2003. It would get brighter as the academic year went on.
Fast forward to 2010. I was sitting in a conference room at Erie 2 BOCES. I was attending a train the trainer course for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was a three-day course that I attended with about 15 other people. Once trained, I was able to provide the training to others in Western, NY. I started implementing one of the habits with my collegiate athletes immediately-Habit 3 Put First Things First.
There are a lot of great videos on YouTube that have been posted over the years that demonstrate the importance of putting first things first, especially by prioritizing your time in a way that you can be successful in achieving your goal or outcome. Taking this idea and implementing it with college athletes, it is important to prioritize your time and manage it in a way that gives you the best opportunity to achieve your goal(s) regardless of what they are.
Since I started coaching at Nazareth College a few years ago, the coaching staff gives a presentation focused on putting first things first. We ask our athletes to bring a couple of their course syllabus. We lay out a calendar for them, and ask them to fill in their calendars with their assignments for the semester. Our students at Nazareth have access to tutoring services, writing workshops, drop in study hall hours, and homework assistance. However, in order to access most of these services, they need to call in advance, or schedule appointments on-line. They do encourage students to schedule appointments at least one week before a specific assignment is due. This requires that students on campus have an idea of what is due when, and to have some foresight into assignments due in the future.
The suggestions I give my athletes about managing their time on campus go like this:
You won’t find anything ground-breaking here. I unfortunately learned the hard way when I was an undergraduate student. I try to encourage my current athletes to have a plan in place and schedule their study and homework time. It sounds like common-sense, but common-sense seems to be a lot less common nowadays.
When I went back to school to complete my doctorate in August of 2014, I didn’t really know what to expect. My wife and I did know that we were expecting our second child sometime in May. And we knew it was going to be a big financial investment. At the end of the tunnel we knew that the opportunity to complete the doctorate program at St. John Fisher College was going to provide us with more opportunities in the future.
I knew it would take a lot of time. And a lot of work. It is an accelerated program, therefore we met a couple of times a month over the course of a semester. In total, we would take two courses and an internship each semester except for the first one. We were told that the program would be difficult. We knew that each person would have to contribute to their team’s projects and presentations. We were also told that we would need to overcome adversity throughout the program, and that those of us that overcame that adversity would graduate on-time. I was one of the fortunate individuals that graduated on-time. Yes, there was a lot to overcome, but you manage to persevere through the difficult times because you already know what the outcome is going to be-having earned your doctorate.
The same can be said for making the transition to college from high school. I think incoming freshmen understand that college will be somewhat difficult. Maybe not for everyone, but I think at some point during the first semester of college, students face some type of adversity or difficult challenge(s) that they need to overcome.
As a collegiate coach, I have guided and mentored many throwers over the course of the past 10 years. For most of them, they made a smooth transition to collegiate throwing and the college lifestyle. They didn’t have any problems with attending class on a regular basis, completing their homework, and studying for midterms and exams. Others, however, did not make as great transitions as they could have.
Those that had a difficult time making the transition run into what I believe to be these specific barriers:
Basically, it boils down to overcoming adversity. Everyone deals with challenges on a daily basis. How we handle these challenges will ultimately determine our successes and failures with whatever we may encounter.
Over the course of the next few weeks I’m going to piece together a two-part series for high school athletes, providing them with tips and suggestions as they prepare to make the transition to college. The first article will be focused on time management and establishing a routine. The second article will be about focus and what it means to be focused (in the classroom, weight room, and practice).
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
Last week a coach sent me a question, asking for some tips and suggestions about coaching his high-school daughter, and if I had any tips on how to better enhance their coach-athlete relationship without bringing harm to their father-daughter relationship. Below you will find my response to him, and my thoughts on how parents that act as coaches can make the experience for both them and their kids more rewarding.
Hi Gene (not dad's real name),
I hope this message finds you well! I appreciate you taking the time to complete a contact form. That is an interesting situation you find yourself in. I have three young boys (5, 3, and 1). I haven't found myself in a similar situation as you are in, but I think I have some suggestions/tips you can immediately implement that can get things going in a more positive direction.
First, do you as a coach have an idea of what you want to work on with your daughter at each practice session? If you do, do you include her in the planning process? I ask because I have found it very helpful to include my throwers in the planning process of a particular practice session and weeks worth of practices. For example, if your daughter is having difficulty with her release in the shot-put or discus, you can sit down with her and lay out a plan that will help fix that problem. Or, if she has difficulty with her hammer/weight entry, you can sit down with her and discuss how you plan to fix that problem that she is currently having. You can work together on putting a plan in place that can alleviate her of the difficulty she may be experiencing in that particular part of her throw.
Second, which goes along with #1, provide your daughter with some autonomy in the planning process. Ask her what she would like to work on, and communicate with her how you will be assisting her with that particular aspect of the throw. I have found it very helpful to not only ask my throwers what they think, but to also reinforce focusing on whatever they want to fix/work on for a series of consecutive practice sessions. Rather than focus on four, five, or six things that may have gone wrong, only focus on the one particular aspect of the throw you two discussed. We just had our first meet of the collegiate season on Thursday. The only feedback I provided my athletes was about the specific aspect of the throw (shot-put and weight) we had been focusing on for the past two weeks. Yes, they made other mistakes during their throws, but we only focused on what we had been working on in practice. We will get to the other stuff after they return from their winter break.
Third, provide positive feedback first after she has completed a throw. It took me a long time to figure this out, but rather than begin the conversation after each throw with what went wrong, provide one or two or three positive parts of the throw followed by what can be worked on next time. I was a high-school teacher for many years-I implemented this strategy in my classroom everyday. It didn't work all the time, but it gave my students something to be proud of followed by some things that needed to be worked on.
Fourth, and this one may be the most difficult to implement, but ask your daughter a couple of questions; 1) how she likes being coached, 2) what she doesn't like, 3) what her expectations for a daily practice session are, 4) what she hopes to get better at by the end of the week, and 5) what she hopes to master by the end of a particular season (indoor and/or outdoor). This not only gives her the chance to communicate what she wants to accomplish, it gives you the chance to make her part of the process because she is telling you what she wants. The difficult part is then coaching what she wants to get better at (I hope that makes sense). I encourage my throwers at the collegiate level to come up with what they want to be better at by the end of a particular season, and not a specific distance they want to throw.
Lou Holtz said in a podcast interview that he never tried to criticize the athlete, but only the performance. By having your daughter communicate with you and tell you what her focus and expectation is, you can then be more mindful of that, plus you will be able to remind her of what she wanted to focus on in the first place.
I hope some of these strategies and tips are helpful to you as you coach your daughter moving forward with this season and upcoming ones.
Please write back or give me a call to let me know how things go.
Best wishes on the remainder of your season.
What are your thoughts about the suggestions/tips I provided Gene? Would you have added anything else, or not mention something that I did?
Have you ever been in a situation like this? If so, how did you handle the coach-athlete relationship without harming the coach-child relationship?
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.