This is one of my most favorite topics to discuss as a coach. While I was coaching at Nazareth College, I prided myself on having my athletes have personal best performances at our conference championship meets. Since the 2015-16 season, almost every athlete that competed in our conference championships threw a personal best in at least one event (shot/weight indoor and shot, discus, and hammer outdoor). Ironically enough, the one athlete that sticks out the most that didn’t accomplish this feat is Luis. During his season year, he was the one athlete that actually didn’t hit a personal best at our indoor or outdoor championships. He hit his personal best throws at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor National Championships in the weight throw (1st-20.41m) and hammer throw (3rd-59.29m).
I mention Luis in that light because when I discussed meet preparation with my athletes on an individual basis, everyone had their own plans for optimal performance. Each athlete had their own definition of what optimal performance meant to them. With an athlete like Luis, we knew in December that he was going to throw at Indoor Nationals that year, so we planned our season accordingly to peak in the 2nd week of March. For most of our other throwers, I knew that either the indoor or outdoor Empire 8 Championships was going to be their peak meet. There were a few throwers on the team that extended their season to compete in the State and ECAC Championships. As of a couple years ago, we no longer compete in a State Championship meet. That is nice because it leaves one less meet to have to try to peak for or compete in over the course of the season.
You see, during the 2015-16 season, we had the State, ECAC, and National Championship meets on three consecutive weekends. That was asking a lot of our athletes to try and hit big marks over the course of a three-week period, especially if they were chasing marks to try and qualify for Nationals.
There is a lot of strategy involved when laying out your seasonal meet schedule. Each athlete is different, and they require individual attention and support when discussing their goals and where they want to be by the end of the season. This is what I did with each athlete, beginning with the first group I coached at SUNY Fredonia back in the 2004-05 season.
In a nutshell, that is the outline I implemented with my athletes from the very beginning. Not all of the conversations I had with my athletes were pleasant, but we were honest and communicated with each other. I’ll be honest, I’m willing to bet that some athletes dreaded these conversations. I’m sure of it. I also think that because of these conversations my athletes were able to reach their defined levels of success because they were able to communicate why accomplishing those goals were important to them!
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.