The other day after practice I was having a conversation with one of my throwers about our first meet. For context, the conversation happened about two weeks ago as we were preparing for our home meet. I’m writing this blog post on Tuesday, April 13th, 2021.
After practice he shared with me that he wanted to win an event and finish high on another. I’m not purposefully speaking broadly, but I’d like to keep the context of the events private for the sake of this post. I’ll get there, don’t worry.
In February, after we had finished up practice at 10pm, the same athlete pulled me aside to discuss our current school records and what it might take to break them. In the same conversation we discussed what it might take to qualify for outdoor nationals. Regardless of our school records, he would need to throw at least 55m (my guess) to qualify for outdoor nationals in the hammer throw. Probably closer to 47m-49m in the discus. Our school record in the hammer is just under 49m. Our school record in the discus is over 50m. So, depending on the event I told him, he would certainly break the record and might not need to in another.
I enjoy having conversations about these topics with my athletes for a multitude of reasons. First, it adds some context to their expectations about school records and qualifying for either indoor or outdoor nationals. Depending on the university or college you attend, you might be able to win a national championship without actually breaking your school record. In other instances, you would probably need to break your school record just to make it to nationals. And that doesn’t take into consideration the prospects of either earning an All-American award or actually winning the event.
You see, depending on the situation or perspective you take, essentially you are chasing your own greatness. You define it as you would like.
My greatness was winning one SUNYAC hammer championship. I didn’t have the perspective or context to be aware of setting a much higher goal for myself, like qualifying for nationals by training through our conference championship to give myself a better chance or opportunity. I wanted to win that one championship so badly that I didn’t take into consideration the larger narrative around me-which at the time was outdoor nationals.
In our conversations with athletes that we coach, I believe as coaches our top priority aside from keeping our athletes both physically and mentally healthy (as best we can) is to provide them an environment that allows them the BEST possible opportunity to achieve their goals. Plain and simple, in a way we work (or coach) for them. We as coaches take on a lot of information, decipher it, analyze it, and put together individualized plans for our athletes to achieve their goal(s). We do our best with the circumstances we are given or the cards we are dealt.
In my experiences, I haven’t had many national championship conversations with athletes. I can count on one hand the times I had serious conversations about nationals and the realistic prospects an athlete had of going. Jen and I discussed this in February 2005. Julia and I had a conversation about it before her sophomore season. Luis and I first discussed this after his sophomore year in 2014. Tyler and I also had a conversation about this at the start of the 2016-17 season. I say a realistic conversation because it wouldn’t be fair to have the conversation with an athlete out of context. And what I mean by out of context is having a conversation about the prospects of winning a national championship with a freshman thrower that has never thrown before. That, I think, would be an unrealistic conversation to have. A realistic conversation would be with a returning senior thrower whose mark is the best returning mark for that specific event group and that was also an All-American the prior season (see Luis). During the 2015-16 season, Luis finished 6th at indoor nationals with a throw of 19.29m. That throw was the top returning throw to the 2015-16 season. We had our first conversation about nationals in August, 2015.
Defining Your Greatness
I’ve written about this topic many times. Goal achievement and realistic expectations, in my opinion, go hand-in-hand. A realistic perspective of what you can or cannot immediately accomplish can be established by; having a clear understanding of your own current skill set, a realization that some sacrifices may need to be made in order to achieve something and a willingness to accept accountability for your decisions. If as an athlete you are able to give yourself a definitive answer to the three questions above, then you will give yourself a better opportunity to define your greatness.
A lack of understanding or an unwilling desire to answer those questions will probably leave you unmotivated, no direction, and disengagement from what you thought you originally wanted to achieve.
You see, only you can clearly define your own greatness. Comparison is the thief of joy.
What you are capable of achieving is different from everyone else. You may have clear and concise answers to the questions posed above. Answering them, believing in them, and holding yourself accountable to them is what will make a difference in what you may or may not accomplish.
As you continue to embark on your journey this spring semester and even beyond, think about these questions. Ponder them. Answering them on paper is a start. Living them is another story altogether. Making those difficult decisions will influence (positively or negatively) your outcomes.
If you need an accountability partner I’m here to help! If you are having difficulty answering those questions, let me know and we can discuss the questions and your answers together. We all experience roadblocks and encounter obstacles and challenges along our life journey (athletic, professional, etc.). How you respond will make the difference between what you think you should achieve and what you actually did achieve.
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.