In this journey we’re setting out on, there is a specific path each of us will take with our athletes. As we begin to map out our process with our athletes, it’ll be important for us as the coach to include what is going to give our athletes the best opportunities to be successful. In this case, we act as a Sherpa.
In mountaineering terms, a Sherpa let’s the climber pick the mountain they want to climb. Then the Sherpa lays the ropes out in advance so the climber can move along the mountain faster and more efficiently. And possibly the most important part of the Sherpa-climber relationship is that the Sherpa tells the climbers what they don’t need to take in order to make their summit. Like coaches, Sherpa’s outline an action plan (or path) that gives the climber the best opportunity to be successful in achieving their goal.
As we review our 16-week outline to compete at our outdoor conference championships, as coaches we need to only include the tools necessary to get our athletes where they want to go. Where they want to go.
The critical component of planning, in my opinion, is working one-on-one with each athlete to set forth a path that gives them the best opportunity to be successful. Hence why communicating with our athletes is so critical before we set out the path.
Our role as coaches is get our athletes where they want to go. Laying out the rope (or path) beforehand gives them the best opportunity to achieve their goal. It also instills a sense of accountability. To get from A to Z, we need to make a few stops along the way. It isn’t often that we will go right to Z from A. We will probably make some stops along the way, move some rope around, and continue on our path. We may approach a path that is blocked (by no control of our own), backtrack a little bit, and then continue moving forward. How you do that is going to be determined by your coach-athlete relationships. Much of our athlete’s successes are going to hinge on a couple of critical factors: their own intrinsic motivation, why they want to achieve their goal(s), communication between coach and athlete, and a willingness to make some sacrifices along the way.
As we reflect back on our 16-week example, this is how we are broadly going to prepare for the upcoming outdoor conference championships. The following six weeks are going to be incredibly important in planning. Athlete accountability is going to be key because our athletes at Alfred State are still training from home during time. As I previously mentioned, each athlete has a general weight lifting program to follow. Similarly, they each have unique throwing programming to follow based on the equipment they have.
January 31-February 6
The month of February is going to be used as a general prep period to get back into “throwing” shape. These four weeks are going to be spent throwing indoors. Mostly because of how much snow we get in Western NY, but also because it gets dark at around 4:30pm. Our indoor training is going to be focused on each athlete’s main event (what they want to focus on for the outdoor season). In such a time crunched season, it will be difficult to excel in 3 or all 4 throwing events. We have limited practice times and dates, therefore communicating with our athletes is so important during this time. The critical ropes will begin to be placed along the mountain side during this time.
That leaves us with 8 weeks of outdoor throwing before our conference championships. In the past I used a formula similar to what I’m going to share here with my athletes about preparation for events during the outdoor season. With athletes that are interested in competing in three events (shot, discus, and hammer), the larger focus or main event will receive 60% of the throws/training time. The second event, depending on the possible success rate of the athlete’s performance will receive 15%-25%. The remaining time will be dedicated to event three.
In Luis’ senior season at Nazareth, his outdoor season was 75% hammer and 25% discus. He finished 3rd at DIII Nationals in the hammer and also held our school record in the discus for a majority of the outdoor season. We knew that he had a chance to win the hammer outdoors, and that throwing the discus would support the team by finishing in the top 6 at our conference meet. We put a majority of our eggs in the hammer basket, and it worked out well. In Jen’s senior season at Fredonia, after our SUNYAC conference championships, Jen wanted to drop discus training altogether. We knew she had an outside shot of qualifying for nationals in both the hammer and discus in 2005. She continued to throw the discus in competition, but didn’t hit the standard necessary to qualify in the discus. She entered nationals seeded 11th in the hammer.
Conference Championship Week--April 30th - May 1st
March 28-April 3
Communication is important because realistic expectations will come into play. Having a sense of where our athletes are both physically and mentally gives us as the coach (or Sherpa) the information necessary to create an environment conducive to goal-achievement and a rewarding season. I encourage coaches to have these conversations. Sometimes they might be difficult, but having our athletes express their goals is obvious in creating a culture of success.
You can succeed as long as the inner satisfaction and peace of mind that come from knowing you did the best you were capable of doing-Jim Tressel
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.