This past Sunday we held club practice at Nazareth College. We had a little break during practice, some downtime if you will, where I asked about track schedules and upcoming meets. One of the young throwers that was in attendance said, “We are competing against (insert rival name here) this week, and I just want to beat them.” I then asked, “Will that help you achieve your throwing goals?” I got a very quizzical look back. The athlete asked me what I meant by that. It got the attention of the other thrower there, who before my comment was scrolling through Instagram.
The thrower I was speaking with then asked me, “What’s the difference between the two?” I’m not going to quote the rest of the conversation, however I do believe there is a difference between wanting to beat someone and achieving your goal. What follows is my perspective on the difference between achieving your throwing goal and simply trying to beat someone.
My philosophy on the example between winning and beating someone is this, specific to throwing. Non-conference championship meets are better served with trying to hit or chase the big mark, or to work on a new technique, or to try something you might not want to try in a championship meet. Basically, coach and athlete have a conversation about it, agree to try something new, and maybe give away a meet in order to experiment with something new. What I mean by giving away a meet is to sacrifice a potential good performance to experiment with a new technique that may not produce an extraordinary result (trying a four turn throw in a meet for the first time, or trying the rotational shot when you are primarily a glide thrower).
I think most coaches would agree that the goal of the championship meet is to win. You can set a personal best at a conference championship meet, but still not throw far enough to win. That certainly happens from time to time. From my previous conference championship experiences, the winner does not always hit a personal best. Therefore, if there are a couple of throwers within 50cm of each other in the Weight Throw, it may not take a gargantuan effort to win, because more often than not your competition won’t set a personal best either.
When Luis and I went to Indoor Nationals in 2016, the goal of the meet was to win. Rather than discuss the idea of trying to hit a mark or distance, the goal was the win and leave as the National Champion in the 35lb. Weight Throw. We could have said the goal was to throw 20m, or to set a personal best. Yet, what if he did throw 20m, but someone else threw 20.01m? You hit your goal, but you didn’t win. Would you be satisfied with that?
I’m not sure if I did a good job explaining this example. There are other coaches that probably could better explain this than the way I attempted to. Has anyone else ever been in this situation? How did you handle it? Would you handle the conversation differently depending on the age of the thrower (high school compared to collegiate thrower)?
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.