Since our meet wrapped up this past Friday, I have been thinking a lot about next steps for my athletes and the path that can be taken moving forward with the remainder of the outdoor season. As of now, we have a track meet every weekend until Mother’s Day. Knowing this allows me as a coach to continue to establish routines and rituals with my throwers. We are able to maintain a fairly structured practice schedule, with some flexibility included. Let me explain.
The next couple of competitions are scheduled for this upcoming Sunday, April 18th and Friday, April 23rd. Flexibility is important here because we are able to gain a practice session this week (Saturday) and lose one next week (Friday). There is a 0 net gain, but how practice structured the next 14 days is important.
After first meet performances, I typically review meet performances and the weeks leading up to the meet objectively. Keeping a detailed journal is important here for a couple of reasons. First, if we (athlete and I) were expecting a different performance, we can go back and see what we did in training leading up to the meet. Second, in the same light, we are able to review expectations and accountability. This is where the conversation about picking and choosing events moving forward might first happen.
I recorded and shared a podcast episode about this yesterday. Main eventing in three events during the outdoor season is quite rare. It isn’t too often that an athlete is going to have a real strong opportunity to win three throwing events at an outdoor conference championship. It happens, but not that frequently. With that said, now is the time to start the conversation moving forward.
What I like to discuss with my athletes is which event would they like to continue moving forward with as event 1, event 2, and event 3. Splitting time equally between all three events isn’t always fruitful and suggested. At least from my perspective, I wouldn’t encourage athletes to share time equally, especially if they are not as vested in one of the events they are asked to compete in.
In my podcast yesterday, I shared a story from my senior year (2004) about a conversation Coach Barr and I had after our indoor SUNYAC championships. I was seeded first in the weight throw going into the competition and ended up placing 4th. I was not pleased with my performance and knew that I needed to change something before the outdoor season started to give myself a chance to win the hammer. I told Coach Barr that I was no longer interested in competing in the shot-put, and that I wanted to put a greater emphasis on the hammer and discus. I knew I didn’t have a good chance to score in the shot-put. In 2003 I finished in the top 3 in the hammer, and just missed the finals of the discus. As a team we were not going to win the meet, and shared as such with Coach Barr as well. After I shared my plan with him, he agreed to de-emphasize the shot-put and focus more time on the discus. Looking back at my training journal from that outdoor season, my throwing time was about 60% hammer, 30% discus, and 10%. When it was decided I wasn’t going to throw the shot-put at the outdoor SUNYAC championships, I added the 10% to the hammer a couple of weeks before the championships.
At that time, I didn’t really know what I was doing or how Coach Barr would respond to this conversation. I knew I wasn’t a great shot-putter. I was all-in on the hammer, and thought that the discus would be a bonus at SUNYACS. Our conference was deep in 2004, and going into the competition I knew it would take at least 40m-42m just to make the finals. Coach Barr and I discussed this and made a plan moving forward two weeks out from SUNYACS.
Now getting back today, the conversation for this week and next will be what to focus on moving forward. I understand athletes have favorite events (maybe the one that they are performing best on, but not always), which I certainly take into consideration. I encourage my athletes to share their thoughts with me about this because it is their season and they are competing for the pure enjoyment of track and field. There are a couple of factors that will play a role here.
First, what are your expectations with competition moving forward with the remainder of the season? If there are goals the athletes still want to achieve and accomplish, this idea should be taken into consideration. If the athlete wants to compete in 3 or 4 events each meet, I’m all for it. I never want to discourage an athlete from competing in an event. If they decide they are no longer interested in competing in an event, we make the decision to no longer compete in that event. If the athlete has an opportunity to score at the conference meet in that event, I would also encourage the athlete to think about it (from a team perspective; this is an idea for another blog post down the road). If your team is in contention to win the conference championship and your athlete has a chance to score, then again I would encourage them to compete.
Really, what this all comes down to is having open and honest communication between coaches and their athletes. I encourage the conversation about events. I want me athletes to get the most out of their seasons, and if that means that maybe they only compete in two or three events, then that is ok.
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.