Continuing with our conversation from last week, the researcher in me wanted to further explore the notion of coaches as experts. Rather than guess what athletes might say about the topic, I asked them. I took to Twitter to ask athletes what they thought was most important when considering to work with a weightlifting and/or throwing coach. Below you will see the four options with the percent of votes per option.
I’ve been thinking about these results for the past couple of days. Only half of the voters selected the second option of the most important trait in selecting a weightlifting and/or throwing coach was past athlete successes. I was a little taken aback by these results. My guess would have been that more than just half of the votes would have gone to this option. A couple of thoughts with this result:
When I wrote the option of past athlete successes, my thought process was that of accomplishments in either weightlifting and throwing. For example, past athlete successes as a trait when hiring an Olympic weightlifting coach, to me means someone who has coached individuals that have previously (within the past three years) qualified for the American Open, USA Championships, and Olympic Trials. I realize that there are more national championships for Olympic weightlifting, however at my age I would only be eligible to qualify for the three I listed above. For a 10 or 11 year-old youth athlete, many more opportunities exist for competing at the national level, therefore the athlete and their family may not be as concerned with hiring an Olympic weightlifting coach that has coached XX number of athletes that have previously qualified for the Olympic Trials or USA Open Championships. Depending on where they live, there may not be a coach that fits that criteria for hundreds of miles. Virtually, however is an option that I will discuss in a later blog post.
Continuing with my example, at my age (35) I would be most interested in hiring an Olympic weightlifting coach that has worked with other lifters my age-in which those other lifters competed in the American Open, Masters Nationals, and even possibly the USA Championships. At my age, the Olympic Trials would totally be out of the question. For a youth athlete, however, a coach who may have already coached youth athletes to the youth nationals may qualify and meet the definition of “success”. Ultimately I think it would depend on what the athlete’s goals are, what the family goals are, and what their reality and expectations are in achieving those goals.
Similarly, I don’t think a coach needs lots of years of experience or prior athletic success in order to be a successful coach themselves. Some coaches I know have very limited years of experience, yet they have coached multiple athletes to All-American status in the throws at the Division II and Division III level. I myself had very limited success as an athlete at the Division III level (1 conference championship in the Hammer throw). One of my first athletes I coached at Fredonia had somewhat limited success at the collegiate level, and now is one of the most prominent throwing coaches at the Division II level. He is dedicated to the craft of coaching, is open to learning from others, is a student of throwing, and has invested time in traveling around North America to learn from Olympic and Pan-American Medalist Hammer throwers.
Even more surprising than the votes garnered by option two were the results of option 4, “other”. I thought about adding a fourth option about relationship development/comfort/personality, but I didn’t want to try and get everything else into that option. With a quarter of the votes going to this option, I may consider conducting another Twitter poll that is made up of those traits/qualities listed above. A researcher in the field of athlete self-efficacy and resiliency that is currently working on her dissertation posted a great comment on my Instagram page the other day about questions she would ask if being recruited at the collegiate level. You can see her questions below.
I wish I would have asked those questions when I was 18 years old when trying to decide which college to attend. I selected SUNY Fredonia for a couple of reasons—one of which was that SUNY Fredonia had won over 30 conference championships between 1976 and 2000 in combined indoor and outdoor competitions. I didn’t ask those questions when I was trying to select between my college options. I wish I would have.
Besides the questions Sara listed above, what questions would you want to ask on a recruiting trip? For the coaches out there, how would you answer the questions listed above? Will your answers vary depending on what level you are coaching (Division I, or Division II, or Division III)? Should your answers vary?
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
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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.