I remember way back in the summer of 2003 when I was sitting with a couple hundred of my peers in a large lecture hall on the campus of SUNY Fredonia. As prep before student-teaching, all of us senior were required to sit in on a two-hour presentation that would prepare us for our upcoming student-teaching placements. We were encouraged to not maintain a job during our placement because of the importance of the upcoming 8-week placements.
Some of my friends decided that they were going to quit playing sports and their jobs. Others quit playing sports but kept their jobs. I stayed on the track team and also kept my job in the college fitness center.
From my perspective, this was the type of structure I needed in my life. I knew I would be student-teaching from 8am-3pm, at work from 4-6, then off to practice until 8. I’m not ashamed to say that I probably missed more classes than I attended during the first couple of years at Fredonia. My grades certainly reflected it. I was not very good at managing my time. I was very focused on training and throwing. That is about it.
It wasn’t until the summer between my sophomore year and junior year that I realized I needed to get in gear or I wasn’t going to have the minimum gpa required to student-teach. I didn’t know it at the time, but we didn’t actually have a minimum cumulative gpa needed to student-teach, but that we needed to have a gpa greater than 3.0 in our education focused courses in order to student-teach.
The thought of letting my parents down and not being able to student-teach was enough for me to get my coursework in order, attend my classes, and ensure I was going to graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Education.
What I realized is that in order to get my life in order, I need to better manage my time on campus. I needed to prioritize my assignments in a way that would give me the best opportunity to complete everything on-time, while also give myself enough time to attend practice, go to the trainers, and to get my weight room training sessions in.
During my senior year, the time management piece became much clearer. To be honest, my senior year went much smoother than it probably should have. The consequences to not do well were far too severe and steep to not be focused and diligent on the task(s) at hand. Sure, everything didn’t go well all the time. I graded papers during my shift in the weight room on a fairly regular basis. Training at 8 or 9 in the evening was getting old. And believe it or not I actually missed a few dinners along the way. However, the light at the end of the tunnel was dimly lit in August of 2003. It would get brighter as the academic year went on.
Fast forward to 2010. I was sitting in a conference room at Erie 2 BOCES. I was attending a train the trainer course for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was a three-day course that I attended with about 15 other people. Once trained, I was able to provide the training to others in Western, NY. I started implementing one of the habits with my collegiate athletes immediately-Habit 3 Put First Things First.
There are a lot of great videos on YouTube that have been posted over the years that demonstrate the importance of putting first things first, especially by prioritizing your time in a way that you can be successful in achieving your goal or outcome. Taking this idea and implementing it with college athletes, it is important to prioritize your time and manage it in a way that gives you the best opportunity to achieve your goal(s) regardless of what they are.
Since I started coaching at Nazareth College a few years ago, the coaching staff gives a presentation focused on putting first things first. We ask our athletes to bring a couple of their course syllabus. We lay out a calendar for them, and ask them to fill in their calendars with their assignments for the semester. Our students at Nazareth have access to tutoring services, writing workshops, drop in study hall hours, and homework assistance. However, in order to access most of these services, they need to call in advance, or schedule appointments on-line. They do encourage students to schedule appointments at least one week before a specific assignment is due. This requires that students on campus have an idea of what is due when, and to have some foresight into assignments due in the future.
The suggestions I give my athletes about managing their time on campus go like this:
You won’t find anything ground-breaking here. I unfortunately learned the hard way when I was an undergraduate student. I try to encourage my current athletes to have a plan in place and schedule their study and homework time. It sounds like common-sense, but common-sense seems to be a lot less common nowadays.
When I went back to school to complete my doctorate in August of 2014, I didn’t really know what to expect. My wife and I did know that we were expecting our second child sometime in May. And we knew it was going to be a big financial investment. At the end of the tunnel we knew that the opportunity to complete the doctorate program at St. John Fisher College was going to provide us with more opportunities in the future.
I knew it would take a lot of time. And a lot of work. It is an accelerated program, therefore we met a couple of times a month over the course of a semester. In total, we would take two courses and an internship each semester except for the first one. We were told that the program would be difficult. We knew that each person would have to contribute to their team’s projects and presentations. We were also told that we would need to overcome adversity throughout the program, and that those of us that overcame that adversity would graduate on-time. I was one of the fortunate individuals that graduated on-time. Yes, there was a lot to overcome, but you manage to persevere through the difficult times because you already know what the outcome is going to be-having earned your doctorate.
The same can be said for making the transition to college from high school. I think incoming freshmen understand that college will be somewhat difficult. Maybe not for everyone, but I think at some point during the first semester of college, students face some type of adversity or difficult challenge(s) that they need to overcome.
As a collegiate coach, I have guided and mentored many throwers over the course of the past 10 years. For most of them, they made a smooth transition to collegiate throwing and the college lifestyle. They didn’t have any problems with attending class on a regular basis, completing their homework, and studying for midterms and exams. Others, however, did not make as great transitions as they could have.
Those that had a difficult time making the transition run into what I believe to be these specific barriers:
Basically, it boils down to overcoming adversity. Everyone deals with challenges on a daily basis. How we handle these challenges will ultimately determine our successes and failures with whatever we may encounter.
Over the course of the next few weeks I’m going to piece together a two-part series for high school athletes, providing them with tips and suggestions as they prepare to make the transition to college. The first article will be focused on time management and establishing a routine. The second article will be about focus and what it means to be focused (in the classroom, weight room, and practice).
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
Last week a coach sent me a question, asking for some tips and suggestions about coaching his high-school daughter, and if I had any tips on how to better enhance their coach-athlete relationship without bringing harm to their father-daughter relationship. Below you will find my response to him, and my thoughts on how parents that act as coaches can make the experience for both them and their kids more rewarding.
Hi Gene (not dad's real name),
I hope this message finds you well! I appreciate you taking the time to complete a contact form. That is an interesting situation you find yourself in. I have three young boys (5, 3, and 1). I haven't found myself in a similar situation as you are in, but I think I have some suggestions/tips you can immediately implement that can get things going in a more positive direction.
First, do you as a coach have an idea of what you want to work on with your daughter at each practice session? If you do, do you include her in the planning process? I ask because I have found it very helpful to include my throwers in the planning process of a particular practice session and weeks worth of practices. For example, if your daughter is having difficulty with her release in the shot-put or discus, you can sit down with her and lay out a plan that will help fix that problem. Or, if she has difficulty with her hammer/weight entry, you can sit down with her and discuss how you plan to fix that problem that she is currently having. You can work together on putting a plan in place that can alleviate her of the difficulty she may be experiencing in that particular part of her throw.
Second, which goes along with #1, provide your daughter with some autonomy in the planning process. Ask her what she would like to work on, and communicate with her how you will be assisting her with that particular aspect of the throw. I have found it very helpful to not only ask my throwers what they think, but to also reinforce focusing on whatever they want to fix/work on for a series of consecutive practice sessions. Rather than focus on four, five, or six things that may have gone wrong, only focus on the one particular aspect of the throw you two discussed. We just had our first meet of the collegiate season on Thursday. The only feedback I provided my athletes was about the specific aspect of the throw (shot-put and weight) we had been focusing on for the past two weeks. Yes, they made other mistakes during their throws, but we only focused on what we had been working on in practice. We will get to the other stuff after they return from their winter break.
Third, provide positive feedback first after she has completed a throw. It took me a long time to figure this out, but rather than begin the conversation after each throw with what went wrong, provide one or two or three positive parts of the throw followed by what can be worked on next time. I was a high-school teacher for many years-I implemented this strategy in my classroom everyday. It didn't work all the time, but it gave my students something to be proud of followed by some things that needed to be worked on.
Fourth, and this one may be the most difficult to implement, but ask your daughter a couple of questions; 1) how she likes being coached, 2) what she doesn't like, 3) what her expectations for a daily practice session are, 4) what she hopes to get better at by the end of the week, and 5) what she hopes to master by the end of a particular season (indoor and/or outdoor). This not only gives her the chance to communicate what she wants to accomplish, it gives you the chance to make her part of the process because she is telling you what she wants. The difficult part is then coaching what she wants to get better at (I hope that makes sense). I encourage my throwers at the collegiate level to come up with what they want to be better at by the end of a particular season, and not a specific distance they want to throw.
Lou Holtz said in a podcast interview that he never tried to criticize the athlete, but only the performance. By having your daughter communicate with you and tell you what her focus and expectation is, you can then be more mindful of that, plus you will be able to remind her of what she wanted to focus on in the first place.
I hope some of these strategies and tips are helpful to you as you coach your daughter moving forward with this season and upcoming ones.
Please write back or give me a call to let me know how things go.
Best wishes on the remainder of your season.
What are your thoughts about the suggestions/tips I provided Gene? Would you have added anything else, or not mention something that I did?
Have you ever been in a situation like this? If so, how did you handle the coach-athlete relationship without harming the coach-child relationship?
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
My one word to focus on for this 2018-19 season is ‘culture’. I have not dedicated much time the previous couple of years on building a positive culture for our collegiate throwers. I’m not afraid to admit that. I’m actually quite embarrassed about it. Not focusing on it caused problems to fester, and our lack of communication only added fuel to the fire.
Immediately after last season came to a screeching halt, I began to put together a plan that would help grow and nurture a positive atmosphere in which my athletes would feel engaged, empowered, and given autonomy in how to lay out their yearly plans. I reached out to a few of my coaching friends, solicited their advice, and began preparing.
I knew we would have at least four new throwers, with one thrower joining us in the spring. Mid-way through the summer we added a fifth freshman thrower. It is my first season as a coach in which I have only freshmen throwers. It’s a re-start for me, and a perfect time to try something new.
As the semester began, I was wrapping up a book/workbook for coaches and athletes to incorporate during the course of their season. The purpose of the book is to give coaches and athletes an opportunity to share their thoughts, goals, and vision(s) for the upcoming season. I have implemented the activities and action plans with my athletes in the past, but never in a formal format like I have developed.
I shared my enthusiasm for sharing my knowledge with my incoming throwers, sending them a letter indicating as much in July. Once everyone was on campus, I began meeting with each thrower individually (getting to know them, how their classes are going, their transition to college, etc.). I had done this in the past, however I had specific questions I wanted to ask to really figure out what my new throwers wanted to get out of throwing at the collegiate level. I asked them to think about their vision for the season, what they wanted to be able to do at the end of the year, and how I could help them.
Our conversations were nothing short of amazing! I knew the conversations seemed a bit awkward at times, but that was ok. I didn’t want my new throwers to just go through the motions once our season began. I wanted them to really think about what they wanted to get out of the season. I’ve had these conversations with athletes in the past, but this year I asked my throwers to write down their thoughts because I was going to ask them to reflect back on them during the season.
We just finished our third week together. I think our culture is moving forward in a positive direction. We are staying positive thanks to the great bracelets from positive brands.
I have encouraged my throwers to stay positive through the course of the season. We have a long season. Everyday isn’t going to be a great day. We are going to have some bad days. That is ok. I expect a thrower or two to have a bad day every once in a while. It is all part of the journey we are on. It is my job to create a path that gives my athletes the best opportunity to be successful. We are moving along on that path right now. At least through three weeks, we are moving in the right direction.
We have shared our visions for the season. We shared why they are important to us. And we have shared what we want to accomplish together. Here’s to an amazing and fulfilling 2018-19 season!
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
Our season has got off to a fast start! As of this writing, we have had two throwing sessions and two weight room sessions. Two of our fab five are still in the middle of their volleyball and soccer seasons respectfully. Another thrower had a family emergency this week. That leaves us with two throwers that have practice with me.
As with life, we have to roll with the punches. It is difficult to prepare for situations that come up out of nowhere. One really cannot predict that something is going to take us away from sport for any length of time. However, a few days lost at the beginning of the season are hardly enough to cause panic or frustration in an athlete. She may tell you otherwise, but a couple of days to be with loved ones in a different state will not be cause the demise of a season.
That is why my expectations for each season are very similar to one another. Our team expectations are:
The only person that truly knows if they have given their best effort is the athlete. If they are able to leave practice, look themselves in the mirror, and be happy with their effort for the day, I consider that a win. As an aside, I attended SUNY Fredonia’s Alumni Weekend this past weekend. The current SUNY Fredonia Head Coach and I were teammates for two years (2001-2002). We were talking about effort and accountability a lot with many of the alums that were in attendance. From the sounds of the conversation we had, how one defines effort and expectations has definitely changed from the late 1970’s.
The 1976-77 track & field team was honorarily inducted into our sports hall of fame as being recognized as the first track team to win a SUNYAC championship. It was the start of a string of 20 consecutive outdoor SUNYAC track championships. In discussion, she shared some stories of how their coaches coached, and what they expected of everyone. Now, to give you some perspective, each track team through the late 70’s into the late 90’s had at least 2 All-Americans each season. In some cases, they would outscore each other team combined at the SUNYAC indoor and outdoor championships. Think about that for a second. One team would outscore the remaining seven or eight teams combined. The 1988 team scored a phenomenal 300 points at the indoor SUNYAC meet, scoring places 1-6. They swept the shot-put and weight throw, scoring over 60 points for the team in just those two events. That is a ridiculous number!
Maybe we are blurring the lines a bit between culture and expectations, but one thrower told me that it was expected that everyone would score at a championship meet. Tough to do when you sweep places 1-6 and have seven or eight throwers. In 2018, SUNY Brockport men’s shot-putters placed 2-8. That is even more ridiculous to think about today. They placed 7 of 8 men. Talk about giving your best effort when it counts!
I have only had a couple of experiences in which teammates were not as supportive of each other as I would have liked. I told them as such after they almost got into a fight at a meet. Their competitive nature got the best of them, and they had to be separated during one of the outdoor meets. I’m all for competition. However, I pulled them both aside during the meet and as nicely as possible expressed my disdain and concern for their actions. Even though they were in the middle of a fierce discus competition, I told them that in under no certain conditions that they should communicate and act towards each other the way they did that day, especially in front of other coaches and athletes. It was embarrassing.
Encouragement is key. I have made it a point to have individual conversations with each thrower I’ve coached over the years at some point before the start of a competition. No long lectures or anything of the sort, but I make it a point to stress their strengths, great things they accomplished during the week, and to enjoy themselves during the meet. I have some new activities I’m going to try out this season. With such a larger group of throwers than we have had in the past, I’m going to involve each athlete more than I have in the past.
I listened to a podcast the other day in which Jon Gordon interviewed Tim Ferris. In the interview, Jon asked Tim what advice he had for writers that were just getting started with their craft. Tim said that he encouraged people to write their first books for themselves and maybe a friend or two. Just start writing, even if you are writing for yourself. I wish I would have listened to that episode when it first came out. I probably would have finished my book sooner than I did.
What I have found in coaching and teaching alike is that your attitude and the effort you put into a task are directly correlated to that task being finished or being successful. You cannot fake those two traits. Either you are moving forward with a task and have a positive attitude or you don’t. You either put forth great effort or you don’t. There really isn’t anything in between. A great talk Lou Holtz gave a couple of years ago goes into much more detail than what I described. I’m a firm believer in his message. Either you are growing or dying. Accountability, attitude and effort may be the most important ingredients in throwing successes. Either you hold yourself accountable or you don’t. You have a positive attitude or you don’t. You put forth effort or you don’t.
The last one is pretty simple to understand on the surface. Do what is right and avoid things that may get you in trouble. Another great message from Lou Holtz that I first began to incorporate at SUNY Fredonia back in 2004. Many of the athletes I’ve coached have gone on to become classroom teachers and administrators in some capacity in a school district. One of the big ideas I always preached was to not do something that would cost you the opportunity to continue pursuing your career goals. Our campus newspaper would post a section similar to a police blotter in some of the larger newspapers. I stressed the importance of not doing anything that would cause you to have your name printed in that section. That goes for all majors and career paths. I am more familiar with education, and sat in on interviews that things like that cost people a job offer in a school district. Just don’t put yourself in a situation you think may lead you there.
Those are the four big tenants I discuss with my throwers at the beginning, middle, and end of the season. As a team, we have 9 tenants that we go over as a whole team. They are all important. I choose to focus on these four because they are directly correlated (in my opinion, I have not conducted the research) to building a positive and nurturing culture where athletes are able to thrive and grow as individuals. If they throw far along the way, awesome. In the long run, throwing far comes a distant second. My main goal is to make sure my athletes are safe and leave Nazareth College better prepared to tackle the obstacles they will encounter after they graduate. Doing what is right, giving a great effort, being accountable, supporting people, and having a positive attitude will do that.
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
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
In a little under two weeks, the official start to the 2018-19 track & field season begins. Before the start of each season, I meet with each thrower individually. In those conversations, we discuss goals for the season, academics, and expectations.
I feel the most important part of this conversation is the discussion over academics. Regardless of what year the thrower is, we always discuss how classes are going and what their anticipated schedule looks like for the spring semester. This helps me in two ways. First, I am able to gain good insight into how well each thrower is doing academically. By this time in late October, most professors have given mid-term exams. I’m able to quickly gauge how well each person thinks they are doing compared to how well they actually are doing. Second, it helps me start planning out our spring semester schedule. We always encourage our athletes to leave 3pm-6pm open in their academic calendars. From time to time students take labs that take up the allotted practice time. Talking about it ahead of time helps us all better get a sense of how our schedule will look like after everyone comes back in January.
We also review expectations of being a member of the Nazareth College XC/Track & Field program. This is discussed in great detail during our initial team meeting. I’ll spare you the details of what I discuss with our throwers, but the conversation mirrors those from our initial all athlete team meeting.
Finally, we discuss individual goals and commitments. I’ve referenced a letter that I wrote to each thrower over the summer in a previous blog post. In that letter, I ask everyone to consider the following questions (thank you Lou Holtz for the inspiration), beginning with:
What is your vision for the upcoming 2018-19 season? What do you see yourself accomplishing this year?
I find the first question most important for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t believe many athletes in high school are ever asked this question. That may sound crazy, but I believe it to be true. I was never asked this question in high school. Were you?
Second, as a coach you are able to pick up on some cues from your athletes. I initially sent them this question back in July. We discussed it again with the whole team in September. If you as a coach receive a not well thought out response, you know your athlete probably hasn’t thought about it or they don’t know how to answer the question. You are asking them to think about something far out into the future, which in this case is a combined indoor and outdoor track & field season. Some may not be able to think as far out as a month, week, or day. I understand. I was in a similar state of mind back when I was an undergraduate student. And some days I have no idea what is going to happen in the next five minutes (from a dad of a 5-year old, 3-year old, and 1-year old).
If your athlete has never been given the opportunity to share their long-term thoughts, this is a great time to start and engage the conversation. Depending on the academic program they are enrolled in, they have a pretty good idea of what they have to do and when in order to earn enough credits to graduate on-time (that is my ultimate number 1 goal-ensure my athletes graduate from college on-time).
I think they should also have an idea of what they need to do in order to achieve their goal(s). Most incoming freshmen throwers are not going to win a national championship right out of the gate. But let’s say for example that is the goal for four years down the road. Now, coach and athlete can have an honest conversation about the reality of that vision being realized. This is also the time in which trust, respect, and lines of communication are becoming stronger. Having this conversation with a freshman thrower may be easier to be had then with a junior or season. Let me explain.
For the sake of this example, let’s say we have a female freshman thrower. Her personal best in the shot-put is 40’ and 130’ in the discus. With all of the latest technology available to us, we are quickly able to look up previous national champion winners at all the collegiate levels. For this example, we’ll stick with DIII. A rough estimate is that if a female thrower hits 50’ in the shot-put and about 160’ in the discus, they give themselves a really good chance of winning a national championship. Coach and athlete are now able to break down this monumental vision into smaller goals/steps. The goals may look like this:
Year 1: 42.5’ shot-put and 140’ in the discus
Year 2: 45’ shot-put and 145’ in the discus
Year 3: 47.5’ shot-put and 150’ in the discus
Year 4: 50’ shot-put and 155’ in the discus
Those may not seem like very manageable distances to achieve. This is where the follow-up questions come into play. What the thrower is willing to do and sacrifice to achieve those distances will either lead the thrower to realizing their vision or not. But wait, we can only control how we perform at meets. We cannot control what other throwers may throw at nationals. Now we have a starting point in regards to manageable marks over the course of a 4-year collegiate career. The trajectory will be different for everyone. Below you will see Luis Rivera’s trajectory into winning the 2016 DIII Indoor National Championship in the 35# Weight Throw.
Year 1: 42’
Year 2: 54’
Year 3: 63’
Year 4: 67’
Luis made up a lot of distance ground from year one to year two. He made huge technical advances between year 3 and year 4. The path to a national championship is different for everyone. His example is one of many.
Getting started on the path towards realizing your vision is critical. Involving your athletes in the process is crucial. I believe it is.
I’m not suggesting you as a coach turn over the reins to your throwing program and let your athletes drive you towards your destination. What I am suggesting is that your athletes are able to provide some input. As coaches, it is our job to create a path for our athletes that gives them the best opportunity to be successful. We are only able to do that if we have some of their input.
I’ve written about it before, and I’ll state it again. Over the past couple of years, I have tried to get away from goal-setting, but rather focus upon commitments. Everyone has goals. At the beginning of the season, I’m guessing most throwers write down something about throwing farther, bettering their personal best from the season before, and possibly winning a conference championship.
Those goals are all well and good, however what is the athlete committing to in order to achieve those goals? Are they going to train harder—how do you measure that?
When you commit to something, it makes that something more personal to you. When you commit to something and tell others, well now you have an accountability group. Letting your athletes commit to tasks, just as; getting 8 hours of sleep a night, eating 5 fruits/vegetables a day, or getting five weight training sessions a week requires a cognizant commitment towards achievement. You might not have to think a lot about the five training sessions during the week, but you might have to think about your nutrition. You may also need to think about getting 8 hours of sleep per night.
Some things to consider during this process. First, you have to get to know your athletes. I wouldn’t encourage a coach to immediately initiate this conversation without having some type of an idea of where the conversation might go. I usually wait until a couple of weeks before the season starts to have this conversation. Second, I send my throwers a prep before we meet. Similar to what I send them over the summer, but more specific to them as individuals.
I’ve rambled on long enough for this post. I’ll follow up next week with what we specifically discuss, as well as some prompts.
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
The 2018-19 track & field season officially begins on Monday, October 22nd. By that point, our student-athletes will have been on campus for about 7 weeks. What happens from when they step foot on campus to the 22ndcan greatly impact how their season will go. For others, the start of the season begins the day after the previous one ends. That would mean that for incoming freshmen, the season might begin at the beginning of June. The same can be said for collegiate athletes.
What happens from the end to beginning, as I previously mentioned, can make all the difference in the world from having a successful and not so successful season. I’m not just speaking about the physical aspects of throwing. I’m also speaking to the mental aspects as well. Depending on who you talk to, the literature you read, and who you follow on social media, one might put more stock in the physical rather than the mental or vise-versa.
I began speaking to my incoming freshmen throwers after they graduated from high school. In July, I sent them an email with an attached letter sharing my excitement about the upcoming season as well as my thoughts about what they can expect from our program. I asked them to think about themselves and what they want to get out of their first season throwing at Nazareth College.
Everyone responded back to me at some point during the summer. I felt it was important to plant the seeds of what they want to get out of the upcoming season. I have thoughts about each individual thrower, their goals, and how their individual goals will impact our throwing squad as a whole. Team chemistry and culture are extremely important. That’s not to say that everyone will become best friends throughout the course of the season. How they interact with each other could be predictive of their overall success. Let me go into more detail with that thought.
We probably have all heard the expression that one bad apple can spoil the bunch. The same can be said with athletes on any sport team. Over the course of the past few years here at Nazareth we have had to tell some of our best athletes that this wasn’t the team for them, and that their negativity was a detriment to the overall health of the team.
With no returning throwers until April, we have a group of very exceptional and talented athletes joining us this year. Numbers wise, the most freshmen we have had on the throwing squad at the same time. My focus for this season is to build an environment in which our throwers are able to thrive, maximize their efforts, and achieve their academic and athletic goals. To make my own goals clearer and brought to the forefront, my one word for the season is culture. One of my favorite authors, Jon Gordon, speaks about picking one word a year to focus on. Last year I picked the word resiliency. This year I have selected the word culture. I have let that part of my coaching slip the past couple of seasons. Coming off of our successful 2015-16 campaign, I did not emphasize culture enough the past couple of seasons. With a new group of throwers this year, my primary focus is to help develop and foster a culture that each individual will be able to thrive in while also supporting and encouraging their teammates’ voyages as well.
This is the first time in my coaching career that I have only freshmen. I’m excited and motivated by their enthusiasm to start the season. Our culture is beginning to take shape. Let’s get the 2018-19 season off to an extraordinary start.
It seems the collegiate recruiting process is a popular topic to write about these days. I have received a lot of positive feedback from families and throwers about my latest blog post about the subject, as well as podcast. I appreciate those of you that have taken the time to read, listen, and respond to my thoughts on the subject.
You can read my past articles about recruiting here and here. You can also listen to my recent podcast about the recruiting process by clicking this link. Or, you can listen to my first podcast about the recruiting process.
Since my last post, I have engaged in some interesting conversations about my initial thoughts on the subject. Those follow-up conversations have led to additional thoughts I’m going to share with you below. At Nazareth College, we are in the middle of setting up our recruiting databases, contacting potential student-athletes, and scheduling campus visits and tours for the classes of 2019 and 2020. I do not believe there are many differences in recruiting between Division I, II, and III. In all fairness, at the DIII we are not able to provide athletic scholarships, but besides that I think the divisions are more similar than often initially thought.
Ultimately, in my opinion, I believe athletes make the decision on which college they want to attend based on their intended major/academic program and how comfortable they feel on campus (even if they decided one day that they didn’t want to compete in that particular sport). Included with their comfort level is how comfortable they feel with their event coach(s), head coach, and current athletes on the team.
Practice for the summer with one of my club athletes wrapped up yesterday afternoon. The thrower’s dad and I were talking about upcoming recruiting visits his son had, where, and the types of programs offered. To give you some additional background on this thrower, he threw at the New York State Indoor Track & Field Championships this year. He also threw at Indoor and Outdoor New Balance Nationals. He is a 60’ 25# weight thrower, has a personal best of 180’ in the hammer, and throws the discus 150’. Each DI program he has talked to has told him and his family that he is able to walk-on, and that a scholarship would not be offered to him with the current distances he is throwing. The topics dad I discussed follow below and are not in any particular order of importance. I have encouraged the family to ask these types of questions when they meet with coaches and/or recruiting coordinators in the future.
I’m not sure if these are the politically correct questions to ask a coaching staff, however I will be asking similar questions if my wife and I are fortunate enough to have one of our boys have the athletic prowess to be recruited at the DI level. On a few occasions our coaching staff was asked if an athlete would receive more financial aid and academic money if they achieved All-American status. Does this occur at the DI or DII level?
I've been asked some interesting questions over the course of the past 10 years. One of my favorites is, "Coach, will you be able to give me more money if I play two sports here?" My response was, "We are not able to give you athletic or academic scholarships for playing multiple sports." Her response back was, "<Insert school in the same conference> said they are going to give me $5000 more if I play a fall sport and compete in indoor and outdoor track." I didn't know what to say.
What is the most interesting question you have received from a recruit? How did you handle it?
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
The start of the 2018-19 season is upon us. In a couple of weeks our collegiate athletes will be returning to campus for the start of a new academic and athletic school year. I am fortunate to have five freshmen throwers that will be continuing on with their throwing careers at Nazareth College. With a returning sophomore, we will have a total of six throwers.
A couple of weeks ago I sent them an email with an attached letter. As they are probably aware of by now, I tend to get long winded in my emails. My goal throughout the summer was to send them at least one email a week. Rather than send them another email, I wrote them a letter. In my letter, I introduced myself and the program that they are becoming a part of. I am beginning my sixth season at Nazareth. This is the most excited I’ve been since I started! Now, you are probably thinking that I have said that about every team. Each team is different. Different personalities. Different experiences. Different expectations.
I expressed my sincerest thoughts about them making the decision to join our team and how happy I am that they will throwing in a Nazareth jersey this season. In my letter, I also asked them to think about a couple of things. I asked them to think about the future. I asked them where they wanted to be at the conclusion of the throwing careers at Nazareth. We will be working backwards from their far-out visions for themselves and where they see themselves in the future. I asked them the following questions, adapted from one of my favorite coaches, Lou Holtz:
After I sent them the email, I heard back from all six throwers in less than an hour. Early on I learned a couple of things about my throwers. First, they promptly read their email. Second, they each individually sent me a text message telling me they received my email. Lastly, they asked questions about the letter. One of them sent me this text message.
I believe it is important that coaches stay in frequent communication with their athletes over the summer. Especially with incoming freshmen, I make it a point to reach out to them after their high school season is over to see if they have any specific questions about our program. I am usually able to answer questions during their recruiting visits, however somethings do tend to come up during the summer. I typically send them a text message a week just to check in and see how things are going. I find it is easier to answer any questions they may have about programming and throwing at the collegiate level while taking classes during the summer when they don’t have to worry about taking finals and graduating.
How often to do you stay in contact with your athletes over the summer? Do you engage them in conversation not related to throwing? Do your athletes respond to your methods of communication? What do you discuss?
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.