It was a good day to have a good day. We had plenty of sunshine throughout the whole day’s worth of competition and our throwers left with some nice performances in the men’s and women’s hammer throw, respectively.
We ended on a high note with a personal best performance by Nicole in the hammer. She threw 10’ over her previous best, finishing the day in 10th place with a throw of 42.47m. She hit that mark in the first flight, round 3. The suspense of waiting until the second flight finished was difficult. Unfortunately another thrower in flight 2 hit a mark 12cm (4”) farther than Nicole. She was bumped out of the finals by the slimmest of margins. Nicole also continued to build a solid technical foundation in the discus. She had another meet over 30m, lining herself up for a great throwing weekend as we host the conference championships this weekend.
James and Nicole got our days started with the women’s shot put and men’s discus competitions. James didn’t quite hit the mark we were looking for. He still had 3 fair throws. We worked on some technical cues to get ready for our conference championships this upcoming weekend. We knew there was going to be a chance that he might hit a bigger mark, but that was the risk of the week. Nicole had another great shot day, finishing just under 10m. Nicole built upon her series and ended with a mark of 9.72m, putting herself in great position for our conference championships.
Dylan had another great discus performance. He finished with a throw of 48.40m and won the competition. He had two big fouls in round 5 and 6. We know those throws will be there in the next coming weeks. While looking at the nationals landscape, it’s better to hold one of those throws for Spire on May 26th.
James and Dylan both had personal best performances in the men’s hammer. James threw 35.77m and Dylan threw 52.84m. James improved his personal best by .4m, while Dylan improved by over 3’.
When preparing for meets of this nature a week before the conference, our focus was on 1-2 cues per event for each athlete. The marks were good in the hammer and discus. We tried some new things we have been working on in practice over the past couple of weeks. We knew this meet would be the appropriate time to incorporate some of those new physical and mental strategies before moving forward in practice this week.
Our athletes’ last day of classes are Friday, May 6th. They then begin finals the following Monday. We have managed to stay focused on the task at hand and we have been emphasizing strong technical models in practice. The weight room gains are beginning to show, as well as all the hard work everyone has been putting in this semester. Now it’s time to reward yourself by putting all the throwing puzzle pieces together and having a day at our conference championships. #nextoxup
It’s fitting that last week I shared thoughts shared from 3x Olympian AG Kruger III about the willingness to put in the work in order to get the results you desire. When you step back and reflect on his thoughts and the idea about working towards a goal, it really is simple. It’s not easy, but the concept is simple enough for us to understand. If you are willing to put in the work, you are giving yourself a better opportunity to reach your goals. I watched it come to fruition this weekend at Nazareth College.
Even though St. John Fisher College was hosting the meet this weekend, the throws portion of the competition was held at Nazareth College. St. John Fisher College is updating their throwing venue to prepare for the 2023 Division III Outdoor National Championships. It was a pretty good day weather wise. Much better than the conditions of last weekend.
Women’s discus got things going. Alfred State had good performances by Kelly and Kenzie. They opened things up in flight one, and had good days. Not great days by their standards, but they got things rolling for our team. Nicole had a solid day in the discus, making the finals and hitting a throw over 32m. Nicole had quite a busy day for us. She made the finals in the hammer and shot-put as well. Nicole finished with a throw over 37m in the hammer, which is consistent with what she threw a couple of weeks ago. She also flirted with 10m in the shot, hitting three throws over 9.50m, with five of six throws going over 9m.
Wilfredo and James got things going on the men’s side. Wilfredo hit a seasonal best in the discus, and James just missed the finals by less than a meter. Dylan won the meet with a throw of 51.17m. That set the facility record, and at the time moved him into 4th place in the DIII men’s discus rankings. As of this morning (April 25th, 2022) he dropped one stop to 5th place. Overall, Dylan had his most consistent series. He opened at 48.50m (15cm under his personal best), F, and 49.92m in round 3. His 3rd round throw was a personal best. He then hit 47.92m in round 5, 51.17m in round 5, and had a F in round 6. His highest meet average of the season and two throws over his old personal best.
In the men’s shot put Wilfredo and James had solid performances. Wilfredo had a seasonal best toss, and James stayed consistent. James and Dylan both narrowly missed the finals. Dylan by 1cm and James by about 30cm. It was Dylan’s lowest marked meet throw of the season. Shot put came right after the men's discus. This may have contributed to his performance in the shot.
Both Kenzie and Kelly had personal best performances in the shot put. Kelly built upon each throw and finished just under 7m. Kenzie finished just under 8m. Kelly just recently joined the throwing group about a month ago. Kenzie is a first sport swimmer, joining our team a few weeks ago as well. She threw in high school, but is coming off of a very long swim season. As Kenzie and Kelly continue to take a higher volume of throws in practice and build rhythm with their respective events, they will become more comfortable with the discus and shot put as our conference championships approach in a couple of weeks.
Men’s hammer saw James throw a personal best and just miss the finals by about 1m. In round 2 and round 3 he eclipsed his previous personal best throws. Dylan finished 2nd with a throw of 48.01m. He took the lead in round 4, but that throw was surpassed by someone that hit a personal best in round 5.
Overall it was a fantastic day for our Alfred State throwers. Lots of personal best marks, seasonal best marks, and throwing nuances to work on over the next couple of weeks in preparation for our outdoor conference championships. All the credit for the successes of our Alfred State throwers goes to Head Track and Field coach Tim Giagios. He has been with the throwers everyday, ensuring that they are prepared for both practice and meet competition. I’m not sure how he is able to juggle everything as a head coach, but I’m in awe of his ability to do so and respect the fact that he is able to ensure our throwing group is receiving the support they need while balancing the needs of all the other event groups on the team. At this point in the season I’m ‘along for the ride’ offering support from a distance when able. Tim, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to still stay involved with the throwers. Watching their growth and development from a distance has been a rewarding experience for me!
We are a few weeks into the outdoor season, and the conference, regional, and national leaderboards have found themselves in constant flux. As different regions across the country have started competing on a more regular basis, the state of the leaderboards has been in disaray. New leaders and new athletes populating the most important top 20 distances at the Division III level. The top 20 are the most important because those are the athletes that, if entered, will compete at the outdoor national championships this season.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve written a lot about building confidence and instilling a sense of self-efficacy in oneself. An activity that I shared with my Holistic Coaching athletes this week focused on constructing our own personal highlight reels in our minds. Recalling three performances/outcomes in which we really shined was the emphasis of our conversations this week. The idea of reviewing three occasions and creating a one minute Sportscenter type highlight reel of our performances. The undertone of the idea being centered on imagery, how powerful imagery can be as a learned skill, and how to incorporate imagery into our daily routines.
Sometimes, however, if we haven’t quite mastered the skill of imagery, a sense of self-doubt starts to creep in. We may have the best intentions of how we want to compete, but because of our lack of preparedness or anxiety to incorporate the skill, we revert back to our old selves and allow doubt to sabotage our competition. A strategy to divert doubt and transform our negative thoughts into more positive ones goes like this.
Most throwers are aware that there is a conversation going on in their heads in and out of the throwing circle or javelin runway. These conversations might go in a variety of directions; either extremely positive, extremely negative, and of course somewhere in between. What would you do if the other throwers that you are competing against that day started talking to you the way you talk to yourself? The value in this activity is in recognizing this internal dialogue as a mechanism to separate ourselves from the undermining voice of self-doubt. One of the characteristics of self-doubt is that it tends to strengthen as the challenge increases (attempting to hit a distance standard, competing at a small meet vs. competing at nationals, having to set a personal best or near personal best to qualify for finals) or as it represents an increasing risk (attempting a new technique during competition for the first time).
Training our mind takes a concerted daily effort. Much like training to throw the shot-put or discus, it is not automatic. We spend countless hours learning proper throwing technique, yet fail to practice mindset techniques that will help us overcome anxiety, fear, or the frustration of throwing. A research based strategy to help us refocus when we sense self-doubt creeping in is to create power phrases for yourself. Destructive power phrases associated with self-doubt might include “I won’t…,” “I can’t…,” or “I am not…”. Redirected positive power phrases begin with “I will…,” “I can…,” or “I am…” Following the examples below, you can create and develop your own positive power phrases to assist you in overcoming self-doubt when you feel it attempting to take up space in your mind at practice, before, and during competition.
When you think “I will…,” this is a statement about positive change or intention. Our focus is directed towards what you want and what you intend to make happen. When competing, what are one or two “I will…” statements that will help you stay focused on what you are going to do during the competition?
When you think “I can…,” this is a statement about your potential. It is a positive statement about your ability to accomplish your goals and dreams. When you think “I can…” you focus on your belief in your ability to do something. When competing, what are one or two “I can…” statements that will help you stay focused on your abilities to accomplish your goals?
When you think “I am…,” this is the most powerful power phrase because it is a statement about who you are. Your reality and future can take shape from the phrase “I am…” When you think “I am…” you focus on the traits that you already have inside you. When competing, what are one or two “I am…” statements about who you are as a person and individual.
“To be great is not how good you are, it is how well you train and prepare.”
AG Kruger III, 3x USA Olympian, Hammer Throw
The last time I visited Ashland University, I took a picture of a quote written into one of the support beams. The quote was written by AG Kruger III. He is a 3x USA Olympian in the Hammer Throw. He wrote this before he left Ashland as he made the transition from athlete to coach.
As AG mentioned on Instagram, how well we train and prepare is not just a mindset or methodology about track and field or throwing, but a reminder for the challenges and obstacles we face on a daily basis. Our willingness to prepare for life will be an indication of how great (at something) we might become.
A lot can be said about the willingness to prepare, how our training is structured, and the limits we are willing to endure along our own unique journey. It is in that willingness to sacrifice where the great separate themselves from the good and the good from the average. But, are you willing to train well and prepare for the struggles and obstacles that we may encounter along our path?
Recent research suggests that athletes that are willing to endure and persist through extreme adversity or have a willingness to do whatever it takes identified as being more mentally prepared for the rigors of training and competition (Wilson et. al., 2019). Similarly, Jaeschke and colleagues (2016) found individual sport athletes are more accustomed and willing to take a greater initiative to push boundaries of extreme measures to satisfy their athletically related aspirations. Much of what one is willing to endure is going to be reflected in their performances, whether athletic or in life in general.
In order to better prepare oneself for the rigors of training, research has reported that to persevere, gain perspective, and to engage in preparation, a sense of presentness was required to navigate times in which distractions may impede training on our journey (Wilson et. al., 2016). What distinguishes those that achieve greatness from those that don’t satisfy their aspirations is the notion of being present and fully engaged without distraction with the task at hand (training, throwing, weightroom), rather than to simply be going through the proverbial motions (Kaiseler et. al., 2009; Nicholls et. al., 2008).
In order to sustain a perspective centered on preparedness and a willingness to overcome, another central tenet in the literature has been reported about gratitude and being grateful for opportunities and experiences that generate meaning and purpose in one’s life (Gucciardi, Jackson, Hanton, & Reid, 2015). Athletes that value growth and development in their respective sports have higher perceived mental toughness compared to their peers not valuing the growth aspects of development within their respective sports (Dweck, 2015; Gucciardi et. al., 2015). Practicing gratefulness is a topic that has been widely discussed across many genres of literature from such authors as; Jon Gordon (Energy Bus), Kate Leavell (Stick Together), Carol Dweck (Growth Mindset), Greg Everett (Tough; Olympic Weightlifting), Lou Holtz (former ND Football coach), Amber Selking (Selking Performance Group), and Rick McGuire (former University of Missouri Track and Field Coach).
As a prompt for practicing gratefulness, a strategy you can incorporate is as follows.
Every morning upon waking up, write down 2-5 things you are grateful for. I write mine down in a gratitude journal that I have with me all the time. I usually write them down during breakfast. The purpose behind the prompt is to think about your life and recognize the things you are appreciative of. I usually write down 4 or 5 because I have two that are the same everyday. The idea is to think about aspects of your life, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, that you are truly appreciative of and why. An important aspect in the development and continuation of this habit is to write down why you are grateful for those things in your life. Why are you grateful for this part of your life? What meaning or value does it bring to you? If it wasn’t a part of your life how would it affect you?
Wandering Minds Want to Know
Over the course of the past couple of months I have had the great pleasure to work with a wonderful, enthusiastic, and driven group of throwers through my Holistic Coaching program at Forza Athletics. The feedback I have received from the athletes that are participating has been extremely helpful in ensuring that I am offering them the best mindset and mental preparation support possible. To assist these athletes along their journeys, we have had some frank and delicate conversations. One such topic that has come up with multiple throwers has been about engagement in competition.
As you might have guessed, I keep specific notes about each conversation I have with each thrower. Since the outdoor season has started, a topic that has been repeated in conversation has been focused on engagement, or rather lack of engagement in competition. This was not a topic that came up during the indoor season.
After four different athletes made reference to the topic, I engaged deeper, trying to discern what they meant by lack of engagement in competition. The surrounding details are to be kept confidential, but hearing their stories makes me think that others might benefit from the strategies I shared with them in conversation. It also leads me to believe that lack of engagement in competition is not something that only happens to elite level throwers, but to a majority of throwers with varying levels of ability.
Strategies to Combat Lack of Engagement During Competition
1. Recognize Our Thoughts
I’ll be one of the first to admit that attending track meets can at times be quite boring if you let it. There is so much happening around the track and in the field events that there is a lot to pay attention to.
When the initial thought(s) of boredom or lack of engagement begins to creep in, be able to recognize this is happening. Then ask yourself why you might be feeling this way? What is happening or not happening around you that has caused you to lose interest in what is happening? It is ok to have this thought, we are human.
2. Intentionality - You Give Power to What You Focus On
After you recognize this thought, bring yourself back to thoughts of purpose. Why are you here competing? What excites you most about competing? Take two or three deep breaths and become more mindful in the present moment. Take in the experience that is happening at that moment, not what has happened in the past or what you might be thinking about happening in the future, but what is happening in that moment.
Attentional control is all about being locked on to the right things at the right time. It is a purposeful process. When we think about performance and executing when it matters most, we have to bring our minds back to the current moment because this is where the performance is happening.
3. Your Why
When you bring your mind back to the competition, think about your purpose and why you are competing. Think about your aspirations and what you want to accomplish this season. You may have a technical cue you are working on, bring your emphasis back to that specific objective for the meet.
The Illusion of Choice
If you’ve been reading along the past few weeks, I hope you have noticed a theme focused on goal-setting, accountability, and choice. The transition to outdoor track leaves us with about 10-11 weeks left of the spring semester. Still plenty of time to address goals, decision-making, and time management strategies for our outdoor season. Hold this thought for a moment.
Last week I purchased Getting to Neutral by Trevor Moawad. A couple of years ago he released his best selling book It Takes What It Takes. In Trevor’s new book, he shares stories of how coaches have implemented his teachings around the topic of remaining neutral in moments of stress, anxiety, happiness, and joy. On page 30 of Getting to Neutral Trevor included a section about the illusion of choice. Essentially we have choices and decisions to make all throughout the day. In some instances, however, it seems as though we have the illusion of choice.
In any endeavor we find value in pursuing, there will be decisions to make along the way. Decisions that on the surface may seem inconsequential in the moment, but that may lead us down a path away from the goal we ultimately aspire to achieve. The illusion of choice.
I shared this concept with one of my throwers this week. Along with a couple of snippets from Trevor’s Instagram page where he discusses this illusion of choice with Division I football and basketball players. The response I received back from my athlete was, “Coach, I’ve never thought about it that way before.”
Autonomy is something I share quite a bit of with the throwers I coach. We have a specific schedule in place with regards to throwing and weight room times. The events we emphasize during each throwing session might vary based on the physical and mental condition the throwers come to practice in. I believe that flexibility is very important. It allows each thrower to be accountable for their session based on how they feel, whether they will be late because they are coming from a class, leaving early to go to class, etc.
Autonomy, in essence, is about choice. Allowing others to dictate the direction (in this case throwing) they want to head down. But sometimes there is the illusion of choice. Something I’ve never really discussed with all my athletes before, but with a few that had higher aspirations of throwing compared to their peers.
In the goal-setting process, when thinking about outcome and process goals, process goals offer a great deal of autonomy to our athletes. Winning those individual moments (process goal items) will give us a better opportunity towards ultimately achieving our outcome goal. There is a choice. But the illusion of choice.
Oftentimes in order to achieve our goals we really aren’t afforded many choices. You aren’t going to throw far (your definition of far) by not throwing. It’ll be much more difficult to finish an Ironman Triathlon race if we just show up one day without having trained to swim for 2.1 miles, ride our bikes for 116 miles, and run 26.2 miles all in the same day with time limits. We can say to ourselves that everything will be ok and work out alright, but will it?
Getting back to our throwing example, there are certain habits and routines that the very best of the best throwers prioritize in their day-to-day lives. They have a choice to either complete them or not, but not doing so would put them behind their competitors who are going above and beyond to be the best, too! So, when you say you want to be the best, the choice is yours. Or is it.
“You can succeed when no one believes in you. You have no chance to succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.” Lou Holtz
I shared a video about the topic of self belief a couple of weeks ago. And this quote by Lou Holtz resonates with me on a multitude of levels. In some ways I see some similarities with this quote and when athletes share that they have a chip on their shoulder.
This idea became more profound after my conversation with 2021 Olympic Trials silver medallist discus thrower Micaela Hazlewood. In sharing her story about throwing in high school and the recruiting process, she made reference to the fact that she has a chip on her shoulder. Micaela shared that it (the chip) stems from her time as a high school senior with a handful of collegiate coaches showing interest in her attending their university to throw.
Micaela also shared this on social media a few weeks ago. The idea that so many people doubted her, her abilities, and what she was capable of throwing. Essentially, she has bet on herself and the bet is paying off.
So, why wouldn’t you believe in yourself? As Coach Holtz stated, you have no chance to succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.
If you don’t believe you can accomplish something, why would others think you could?
Much of our belief system stems from prior experiences (good and bad). From those experiences we are able to ascertain potential successes or failures moving forward. From my experiences as a coach, athletes at times seem to lack the patience required to achieve a certain level of success. Or however they as the athlete perceive their success to be.
For those of you that have been listening to the Forza Athletics Life and Coaching Podcast for a while, you know that I ask a question like this of all my guests, “What advice would you have for someone that was interested in continuing to pursue their throwing dreams after graduating?” All of my guests have suggested to those listening that they indeed should continue throwing/training as long as they can and want to under the condition that it is still pleasurable and enjoyable to them.
Those that ask are probably asking for a couple of reasons. First, seeking the counsel and guidance of someone that has achieved what you want to achieve will give a great indication into what it will take to accomplish a similar goal. Second, those same individuals asking may be asking to get a sense or indication as to whether or not the other person thinks they should continue pursuing their throwing goal.
I remember when Luis graduated in 2016 and we were beginning to put a plan together for the 2020 Olympic Trials. I shared something on Twitter about making the transition to post-collegiate throwing and received a response from Jud Logan. In a few words he basically said that if you haven’t hit the ‘A’ standard it’s going to make things much more difficult. I appreciated his honesty then and am appreciative that he took the time to share his thoughts on it.
Similar to the athletes I coach or have coached in the past, I have always encouraged them to continue pursuing their interests/passions after college. For those that have wanted to continue throwing, I’ve helped them as best I can as a post-collegiate thrower. If anyone were to ask me today what I think they should do about post-collegiate training, my response would be a resounding YES. Yes, continue pursuing your goal. Continue training. Try to find other like-minded individuals and ask them what has worked, hasn’t worked, etc.
The journey has to start with the individual. They have to believe they are pursuing their goal for the right reason(s). To continue training for the sake of training without a passion for it might lead to burnout, disengagement, getting physically hurt, bored, frustrated, etc. You have to believe in yourself that you will be able to accomplish this goal. You need to have a ‘Why’ behind this pursuit. Find a support system, a group of others that are pursuing similar goals. Think about what you’ll need to do differently as a post-collegiate athlete; facilities, training, coaches, recovery tools, etc.
When you think about the goals/aspirations you laid out for yourself back in July/August/September, were those goals process focused or outcome focused?
Outcome goals are just that, outcome based with an emphasis placed on a specific performance. These are goals that are focused on the outcome, distance, place, or victory that create pressure, anxiety, and heaviness. An outcome goal might be to throw the weight 15m or to throw the shot-put 12m.
Process goals place an emphasis on daily habits, routines, and rituals. Process goals are about the process and not the end result. These thoughts are focused on the present moment and the things you need to do to be at your very best. Did I complete my training session today? Did I monitor my nutritional intake? How was my recovery? Did I get enough rest?
To give ourselves a better opportunity to achieve our outcome goals, they need to be intrinsically motivated. Essentially they are goals we want to achieve or accomplish because we are passionate about doing so without outside factors dictating our interest in doing so. If our outcome goals are extrinsically motivated, we might be compelled to want to achieve this goal because of outside factors (respect garnered from others, to win something, etc.). In essence, athletic scholarships can be viewed as extrinsic motivators for athletes. If you do this (throw far) then our college will give you that (money to attend our college). That is a totally different bridge to cross at another time. But I think you get the idea.
Now would be a good time to re-evaluate your goals from the indoor season.
Step 1. What were your goals for the indoor season? What did you want to accomplish in track and field?
Step 2. After you have written down your goals for the indoor season, create a list of which goals were outcome specific and which goals were process driven.
Step 3. When you compare your two lists, what did you specifically do to help yourself achieve your outcome goal(s)?
Step 4. If you did not achieve your goals or a goal, why don’t you think you did? What hindered your progress towards accomplishing that goal?
Step 5. Your list of tangible items that kept you from achieving your goal(s) from Step 4 is now a good starting point to begin developing a list of process goals to incorporate into your training for the 2022 outdoor season
Re-framing goals for the Outdoor Season
2022 Outdoor Track and Field Goals
I want to ___________________________________________ because ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This goal is important for me to achieve because (why is this goal deserving of my time and committment) ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
To achieve my outcome goal, I will:
Process goals (within our direct day to day control):
What are the habits and daily actions necessary to ensure your commitment to your goal(s)? What must be done everyday?
In order to achieve my goal(s), I must start doing (what are the habits you need to begin implementing in order to achieve your goal?)
Conference championship season is upon us! All the training, sets, reps, and throws since August have prepared us for this moment in time. The moment to throw well when it matters most, during the championship season.
I venture to guess that not all championships are won and lost at the meet. I venture to say that these championships are won and lost well before the championship meet arrives. I guess that these championships are won and lost when the fall semester begins, maybe sooner.
I say this because I’ve attended my fair share of conference, regional, and national championship meets to understand that anything can happen when the top throwers are vying for the coveted championship win. Some might say these meets are stressful and difficult to manage for some athletes. For others, many throwers achieve seasonal best marks and even personal best marks when it matters most. For those individuals, I say that they take advantage of the opportunities bestowed upon them in those situations.
I fell victim to those high stress situations on two different occasions in my own collegiate throwing career. In 2002 and 2004, I was the top seeded thrower at our indoor conference championships for the weight throw. I felt as though I was prepared for the situation at hand, but unfortunately I was not. In 2002 I finished second with a personal best throw in round 5. The eventual champion hit a personal best in round 6. I could not respond. In 2004, my senior year, I was also seeded first. I threw 15cm below my personal best. I finished 4th. The top 3 individuals all hit personal best throws in that competition. If I would have hit a personal best, I would have moved up to 2nd. I may have won depending on how the other throwers would have reacted to me setting a personal best in the finals.
Yet at our 2003 indoor conference championships I was seeded 3rd coming into the meet. I hit a personal best throw in round 3. I was the top thrower entering the finals. I hit another personal best in round 4. I could not catch up to the thrower that eventually won the competition. He hit a personal best in round 5. I could not respond in round 6. However, reflecting back on those experiences has led me to realize that my 2003 2nd place finish is more valuable to me than any other indoor conference championships I competed in during my collegiate career. I was not expected to throw far, took advantage of an opportunity in which the top 2 seeded individuals did not perform well, and believed I was going to sneak away with a victory. The 5th seeded individual had other plans, too.
These opportunities are presented to us in the throwing world at every competition. Every meet. Every throw is an opportunity for ourselves to meet a goal, realize a dream, and aspire to be great. As cliche as it sounds.
As a coach, I’ve sat on both sides of the conversation with my athletes. Those that took advantage of an opportunity and those that failed to do so. A couple of specific instances stand out, one situation at SUNY Fredonia and one at Nazareth College.
In the spring of 2006 I was coaching a group of throwers that had far exceeded the expectations I had of them at the beginning of the season. Led by two upperclassman transfer throwers, the men’s squad single handedly removed me from the top 10 list of the weight and hammer throw. What sticks out most is the way a freshman female thrower handled the outdoor conference championships that season. In what turned out to be a coming out party for arguably one of the most successful athletic careers at SUNY Fredonia, Julia Hopson won the hammer throw that day. She beat a senior thrower that had watched the hammer championship slip her grasp the prior two years. Julia took advantage of an opportunity presented to her, set a personal best when others were faltering, and came within a meter of breaking our then school record of 52m in the hammer. She set a personal best by over 3m on a day that the throwing Gods had decided was not going to be suited for outstanding performances. Julia surprised everyone and came away with the victory. Her first of 4 consecutive SUNYAC hammer championships.
About 7 years later I experienced it again. This time I was a first year coach at Nazareth College with two freshmen male throwers competing at our conference championships at St. Lawrence University. Both throwers competed well the weekend before at our outdoor E8 Championships. At this meet they were both seeded outside the top 10, competing in the first flight of 2 flights. One day 1 of the competition, freshman thrower Luis Rivera set a personal best in flight 1 of the men’s hammer competition, throwing just over 41m. He finished 2nd in his flight of 10. We knew that he needed to beat at least 9 of the throwers in flight 2 to make the finals. It didn’t seem realistic because everyone in flight 2 was seeded over 44m. Well, if you guessed that he would end up making the finals, you are right. He entered the finals seeded 9th of 9th throwers. He ended up hitting another small personal best in round 5, moved up to 8th place, and scored 1 point. A couple of throwers fouled out. Others didn’t throw as well as their seed mark. Things happened to fall into place for us.
When these opportunities for greatness approach you, do you find yourself prepared to propel yourself towards greatness?
2005-2006 SUNY Fredonia Throwers
“When significant changes are needed, we often assume a cataclysmic event is necessary to achieve them. Which typically fails through the actions of impatience. It takes glaciers a millennium to find the ocean, don’t assume you can push them back up the mountain in an afternoon.”
I was speaking to Luis this past weekend about the opportunity I had to work with some high school throwers at the school I visit a couple of days a week. In our conversation I shared that all but one of the five throwers took standing throws in competition. The lone turner taking a modified Highland Games approach to throwing. In two sessions with the kids, as I shared with Luis, they began taking multiple turn throws with the weight. I pride myself and my coaching ability on being able to teach someone how to throw the weight/hammer in one session while being able to finish the session with two winds and three turns with the implement. Now I’m not saying that the throws are perfect. Oftentimes far from it, but the athlete is able to stay in the circle after three turns and a finish. That’s a win in how I perceive myself to coach throwers.
In a meet on Saturday, the one of the throwers I worked with was able to set a personal best in the shot-put, placing 5th after being seeded 12th of 16. He was really excited and pumped up about having set a new personal best in the shot, especially since he told me it had been since before Christmas that he had done so. Now onto the weight throw.
As an aside, this high school track and field meet was run exceptionally well. Warm-ups went well, and the officials moved through the flight in about 25 minutes or so. In total, 16 male throwers each took 4 throws. Immediately after they were finished, they were ushered off to the weight. After another 15 minute warm-up, they were done in about 30 minutes. Warm-ups and competition done in about 1hr. 30 minutes.
I had a sense that the excitement of the shot-put personal best was going to take its toll on the weight because of body language and aside conversation with the other throwers within earshot of where I was sitting. Warm-ups went pretty well, with the focus of feeling comfortable taking a one wind and two turn throw in competition. His first “real” weight/hammer throws.
His first throw in competition was a sector foul due to releasing the weight a little early. He was still pumped up about his opportunity to throw farther, and went for it again in round 2. This time it was a foul down the opposite sector line. Now I could see a sense of apprehension and fear come over his face. On his 3rd throw he reverted back to his old throwing style, good enough for a 41’2”. His 4th throw was also a foul down the left sector.
After the meet we had a brief conversation about feeling comfortable in the circle, giving the technique a chance, and how to move forward during the next couple of weeks before Sectionals. I asked him what happened there in round 3, and he told me that he didn’t want to foul out so he reverted back to his old style of throwing. He also told me that he thought he would have figured it out after two sessions.
In the two sessions prior to this meet, he took a total of 20 throws with weight/hammer technique. Maybe a little bit of impatience. Certainly fear. A little desperation.
Our initial conversations early in the week were about his goals and how he wanted to wrap up this season. I suggested that he had probably maxed out his Highland Games technique, and that a 44’ throw would not secure him a spot in the top 16 of the region in 3 weeks. Rather than give it a shot in round 3, a safety throw was taken to ensure that he would at least finish 2nd in this meet and score points for his team. The thrower that won went over 57’. It was unlikely that he would throw a 4m PR to win, and 2nd was all but assured because he was the only other thrower over 40’.
From my perspective, he wanted to accelerate the learning process. He expected that everything would instantaneously click and that he would automatically throw much farther. Derek’s words ring true in this situation.
I see it often. When making minor technical changes, throwers might assume that the fix will cure what ails them in the circle. It is not always the case. Sometimes it is never the case.
The notion to reap immediate outcomes without putting in solid work still boggles my mind. Patience as a virtue (or skill to be mastered) seems to have fallen by the wayside and replaced with immediate or instant gratification of a job well done.
Now, mastering a two or three turn weight/hammer throw at the high-school level might not necessarily take four or five years (if you start throwing as an 8th grader). The comparison to others is what I feel sets an internal clock. The thrower that won the boys shot-put and weight throw doesn’t have a high school throwing coach. He doesn’t have a private coach. I know this because I asked him after I congratulated him. He told me he watches YouTube videos and that is how he learned how to throw.
When other throwers (with coaches, too) see and hear about this, instincts might tell us to begin pushing the glacier back up the mountain.
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.