Normally when I attend high school track & field meets I tend to keep to myself. If I am approached by an athlete or coach, of course I engage in conversation. I’ve actually been spending a lot more time speaking to families about the recruiting process, completing loan forms, and what competing at the collegiate level is like compared to the high school level. That is a topic for another blog post. For now, we’ll get back to joining that elusive club.
At a recent high school meet, a parent of a thrower approached me while some throwers were warming up for the next flight of weight throw competition. In our brief conversation, the parent inquired about the success some of our high school athletes have been having this season. Disclaimer, I nor Luis, take any credit for the success of the high school athletes we work with. The athletes we work with would reach the same success without us in the picture. If anything, we spend most of our time at practice discussing other things besides throwing.
I said thank you to the parent, and followed up with what I just said above, that we cannot take credit. The parent continued with, “Well, you must be doing something right because they both have records. There must be some secret, right?”
Totally floored. I said the athletes do all the work and we are merely providing mentoring and support. The parent looked at me, right in the eyes, and said, “What is the secret then?”
The build-up and hype to this blog post probably could have been better. The mystical secret to throwing far. Yet, in one way I’m flattered. Flattered in the fact that someone thinks I know what the secret is. If there was one magic bullet or pill, one might think more people would implement that secret in the daily regime.
For a brief moment I was back in Akron, OH, May 2004, standing next to Derek Woodske and Adrianne Blewitt, asking them if they had any secrets. Well, in thirteen years since that conversation occurred, I can comfortably say there isn’t one secret. If anything, there is a combination of ingredients that are included in the secret recipe.
One secret, if you consider it one, is to be deliberate about what you want to do, and you plan on doing. In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth spends a considerable amount of time discussing deliberate practice, what is entails, and how the cycle persists. As our practice ended this past Thursday, I spent about five minutes talking about it with two of our throwers. One of the reasons why they have been successful is due to the fact that they have a plan for practice, meets, and the season as a whole.
They receive constructive feedback, apply it, implement it, revise it, and move forward. The cycle continues for them. All too often we may practice for the sake of practicing, not really focused on any one particular element of the throw, and just go through the motions. We spend weeks working on one little part of the throw, master it, and then move onto something else. Giving three or four or five cues is a lot for anyone to handle. Work on one thing, master it, and then move onto something else. That is one ingredient to the recipe.
Looking back and reflecting on my coaching career, I now think back to May, 2004. By asking elite throwers what their secret was basically discredited all the hard work they had put into their careers. Adrianne was going to throw at the Olympic Trials in a few weeks. Derek had the best 35lb. Weight Throw distance in the world that year. They were nice and humored me with their response. Yet, thinking back now, and thinking about the great athletes I coach and guide now, they really just work hard and have a passion for throwing. They are focused, reflective, and want to learn. No secrets there. I’ve written about it before, the most vital elements to success, or the ingredients to success, cannot be coached. Instilling a work-ethic and dedication into someone is difficult (believe me, I’ve tried). As coaches, we cannot make athletes do anything. We cannot coach up their heart. They have to want to do it for themselves. They have to want to because it is something they are passionate about. They have to want it. That, my friends, is what I believe makes up the recipe of success.
What ingredients do you think are necessary in the soup of success?
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.