I posted a picture the other day on Instagram about giving athletes the autonomy to be involved with some decisions that ultimately are going to affect them during the course of the season. We openly discuss practice times and days and weight room training sessions. As we transition to the outdoor season, I ask my athletes, at the least the ones that throw three or four events, what their thoughts are about the upcoming meet and practice load.
I have only had one athlete in my coaching career throw the shot-put, discus, hammer, and javelin all in the same meet. That was during the 2005-06 season at SUNY Fredonia. The opportunity really hasn’t presented itself since, but for my three event throwers, I ask them if there is something they want to focus on that week. If the answer is yes, we may either drop one of the events from the next meet or de-emphasize another one for a couple of days. I have never had a bad experience with this type of coaching tactic.
One of my former athletes, that was a member of that 2005-06 team, suggested that giving athletes too much is bad and can backfire. I couldn’t agree more. As coaches, we need to be able to figure out how much is too much. I spoke about this in a recent podcast I recorded. You can listen to that episode by clicking HERE.
Giving athletes some autonomy actually makes them feel more engaged and committed to the task at hand. They feel more ownership in the decision(s) being made because they are part of it. Researchers at the University of Rochester developed Self-Determination Theory (SDT) in the 1970’s. Their research has proven time and again that when individuals are given autonomy to complete tasks, their engagement and ownership goes up compared to those individuals that are not given autonomy or asked to be part of the process. You can learn more about their research by clicking HERE.
There is a fine line between too much and not enough. I have five freshman throwers this season. I haven’t given them the keys to the kingdom. I have allowed them to be part of the decision-making process. They are engagement and enthusiastic about the season, their goals, and their teammates. Check back in a month to see if we are still as enthusiastic as we are today.
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
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.