My One Word: Focus
A few years ago I was reading an article on Jon Gordon’s (one of my favorite authors) website about how each year he selects a word for himself to emphasize for the upcoming year. Of course I thought that was a fantastic idea and quickly decided to begin a similar tradition of selecting my own word for the year.
My word for 2022 is Focus.
I’ve written about the skill and concept of focus for quite some time. If you have followed along over the course of the past few months, I’ve written extensively on the topic. I won’t go into that much detail about the five specific aspects of teaching someone the skill of focus. This year, however, I feel it is a good time to select Focus as my word. I’ve selected it for a multitude of reasons.
First, with so much on my plate this year (professionally and personally) I feel it is most important to concentrate on what is most important to me this year. On a more personal note, I had three goals I wanted to accomplish in 2021; 1) complete a Half-Ironman race, 2) finish two other shorter Triathlon races, and 3) compete at a body weight under 260lbs. Needless to say I didn’t come close to achieving my body weight goal. I got close at 267lbs., but definitely not close enough. The Half-Ironman race I was registered for was canceled due to COVID-19 (out of my control), as were the shorter races I had on my calendar.
Second, and most important on a professional level, is to concentrate and emphasize more time with Forza Athletics. Similar to my personal goals, I also have professional goals that I try to accomplish each year. I’ve had some relative success writing and publishing peer-reviewed research papers. Since I graduated from St. John Fisher College in May 2017, I have had a peer-reviewed research paper accepted for publication. I had two accepted in 2020 that were published in 2021. I had one accepted in 2021 that will be published in 2022. This is one I’m really proud of and I hope it will assist coaches in further developing and understanding how important it is to have a sound coaching philosophy and is based on your values and what is most important to you.
With Forza Athletics, I’m going to Focus more time and energy on helping support high-school, collegiate, and post-collegiate throwers. I’m going to do this by providing more relevant content that will assist throwers in achieving their own unique and specific goals. Everyone is different, has different ideas, and a different path on how to get there. I want to illuminate that path for those throwers. I want to help them realize their dreams. Identifying a goal is great, sharing that goal with others holds us accountable, and having someone illuminate the path towards achievement is powerful.
Since launching my Holistic Coaching program, I’ve had athletes from all over the world reach out to schedule a consultation to discuss their goals. I want to continue to assist those that are looking for something a little different, that doesn’t quite fit a “box”. When all things are equal during a competition, it is the athlete that is more mentally prepared that has the edge on their competitors. I want to provide that edge to new, aspiring, and seasoned throwers.
Those are the aspects of my life that I’m going to emphasize in 2022.
What is your one word for 2022?
Leave a comment and let’s see how we can realize your goals and dreams together.
Meeting Your Expectations
At the beginning of the fall semester, I gave each of my throwers a jar full of marbles and two notecards. The jar contained 24 marbles. Each marble represents a week of the season. The last marble to be pulled out of the jar a week before our outdoor conference championships.
Essentially each week we either move ourselves closer or farther away from our goals. That is where the note cards come into play. On one note card I asked each thrower to share their goals for the upcoming season - what they wanted to accomplish and why it was important to them.
I’m writing this article on Tuesday, December 21, 2021.
Our fall semester went relatively quickly. Our throwers competed in two meets, and overall competed very well. We did throw through some growing pains, but unfortunately I think that can be expected from time to time. And not from new throwers, but from experienced throwers as well.
Meeting Your Expectations
When one experiences set-backs like this, in my humble opinion it comes down to expectations.
What were you expecting was going to happen? Did your work and effort leading up to the meet warrant those expectations?
Those were two questions I asked a couple of my throwers after our first indoor meet.
What were you expecting was going to happen? This question often comes with an unequivocal look of disbelief. I can’t believe coach just asked me that question. Of course I expected to throw far. When I get that response, I follow up with this.
Did your work and effort leading up to the meet warrant those expectations? Now I’m making them think a little bit. As a coach you need to know your audience and in this case your athlete. I feel comfortable asking these types of questions because we spend time discussing these topics during the season (before practice, during practice, after practice).
I am a HUGE proponent of being a reflective thrower. In this instance, journaling and keeping a detailed journal adds support (to either the coach or thrower) when a discussion about work and effort comes into play. When I’m presented with a blank journal with a blank look that accompanies it, I have come to realize that 99% of throwers will look back on the semester and really think about it. That other 1% doesn’t, and when presented with ideas about training they really don’t have much to discuss or care to discuss.
When reflecting back on the fall semester, it is ok if you didn’t meet your own expectations. I understand. Life happens is the response I’ve grown to hear most often the past few years I’ve coached. Make life happen for you.
With about 19 weeks left of the season, there is plenty of time to make life happen for you. How will you reorganize your priorities so you aren’t sitting at the conference meet in May and thinking about what I should have done differently? You can put a lot of pieces in place NOW to ensure your spring semester lives up to your expectations.
Fall 2021 Semester Thoughts
And just like that, the fall semester has come to a close. Our athletes have returned home for a much deserved and needed break. As coaches we plan and plan and plan for a semester and in the blink of an eye it is over.
In all honesty I wasn’t sure what to expect this fall semester with so many new throwers joining the team. In total we had 11 throwers this semester. Five freshmen and six returning throwers.
I didn’t know what to expect because you never know how a group of individuals are going to come together as a TEAM. It became quite evident early on that they were going to get along just fine.
Now that isn’t to say that there weren’t some hiccups along the way, but for the majority of the semester we were able to put together a solid string of training sessions that produced nice throws at Houghton College and Utica College at the end of the semester.
As I’ve written previously, when the weather turned we were only able to practice indoors on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. A much more reasonable set up compared to training from 8:30pm - 10:30pm last spring semester.
In my opinion, the most difficult part of the competitive season begins - winter break. It isn’t difficult in the sense of being away from the throwers, but how the throwers spend their time when they are away. Essentially, all the great work that has been completed this fall semester can quickly become unraveled if the throwers don’t keep up with their training regimens.
I understand that it may be difficult to throw over break. In my four years at SUNY Fredonia, I never brought home a weight or shot to train with over the winter break. Now that I think about it, I’m not quite sure I was able to bring one home. What I was able to continue building upon was my strength levels. My younger brother and I got winter break gym memberships at a local powerlifting type gym and made a lot of growth over the five weeks we were home together. At that time, we didn’t do much of anything besides go train at the gym and play video games while we were home for break. He was a freshman and I was a senior, the perfect training partner.
Holistic Coaching: Propelling Towards Greatness Overview
Scheduling a free mentoring meeting
Scheduling a mentoring session is the first step on your journey towards propelling yourself towards greatness. This 30 minute session will provide you with an overview of a true time tested goal-setting journey that will propel you towards achieving your goals. In this session, Dr. Infurna will share mental conditioning strategies that can be incorporated into your daily training sessions such as; the skill of focus, time management, confidence building, positive self-talk, goal-setting, and increased self-efficacy. Dr. Infurna will illuminate a path that will allow you to see where you want to go by discussing realistic and actionable steps down your path towards greatness.
Create a customized roadmap that will direct you towards your goals
With Dr. Infurna, you will illuminate a path that will allow you to see where you want to go by discussing realistic and actionable steps to be taken down your path towards greatness. Dr. Infurna will take you down a reflective journey of understanding where you were previously in your throwing journey, bring a sense of awareness of your current throwing situation, and inspire a vision of where you can take your throwing successes.
We’ll travel on your journey together
Through continued mentoring sessions, Dr. Infurna will continue to illuminate your path towards greatness. Each mentoring session will consist of a discussion focused on your path; accountability, what has gone well, what could be improved upon, and strategies to support you on your journey.
I’m really excited to announce that I will be offering a free 30 minute Holistic Coaching and Mentoring Consultation session for throwers this year. I’ve been thinking about putting together an opportunity like this for quite some time. My approach to coaching and how I work with my athletes is more outside-the-box than what we might consider more traditional coaching methods. I emphasize more time spent focused on the mental aspects of throwing, which has led the throwers I’ve coached to achieve unprecedented success.
Throwers that I’ve mentored have accomplished these outcomes:
Holistic Throwing Consultation
You want to throw farther, right? Are you focusing on the mental aspects of throwing as well? Are you aware that by training the mental aspects of throwing you are preparing yourself to unlock your true greatness.
If you want to throw farther by analyzing your mental training as well as your physical training then this opportunity is for you.
This free 30 minute consultation with Dr. Infurna is for the thrower that wants to harness their physical and mental aspects to throwing. In this free consultation, Dr. Infurna will:
You will be contacted by Dr. Infurna within 48 hours of selecting this holistic approach to coaching consultation. You and Dr. Infurna will then schedule a time to speak via phone, Zoom, or Skype. Dr. Infurna will also email you his mindset and goal-setting strategies that will be discussed during your call.
Over my 10+ years of coaching high-school, collegiate, and post-collegiate has provided meaningful insights into the types of physical and psychological traits required to accomplish one’s goals. It is in this process that I have refined my approach to coaching which provides throwers both the physical and mental cues required towards achieving one’s goals.
This specific free 30 minute coaching/mentoring consultation meeting with me, Dr. Charles Infurna, includes the following:
I will share strategies and tips that I have incorporated with my throwers over the past decade that has led them down a path of accomplishing their goals.
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…
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.
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.
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:
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.