The other day I had the great privilege and honor to have lunch with one someone I have a great deal of respect and admiration for, Dr. Dan Chambliss. I’ve met with Dr. Chambliss on two previous occasions. In our previous meetings I felt a bit star struck and ill prepared for our conversations. I was more than ready today.
A couple of weeks ago I Tweeted a quote by Dan taken from his book about developing Olympic swimming champions. To my surprise, he suggested we get together for lunch. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass by. I drove two hours from Rochester to Hamilton to discuss mundane things.
I still haven’t figured out why his book on Olympic swimmers fascinates me so much. I never swam competitively. I took swimming lessons until 8th grade, never competed in a race, and yet I find the notion of mundanity to interesting and mysterious at the same time.
The mystery lies in the mundane. The most dazzling human achievements, as Dr. Chambliss states, are in fact the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary. And yet, these daily and ordinary tasks are the building blocks for future success. Similar to the construction of a house analogy, you need to have a strong base in order to support the weight of the house, we need to complete ordinary tasks on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis in order to establish a firm, supportive, and resilient base to achieve athletic success.
Much like the swimmers in Mission Viejo, California in 1984, their “secret” lay in their completion of daily tasks that others may have found boring, not important, or simply not willing to do. It takes a dedicated, motivated, and gritty person to get up every morning and swim six miles before going to school, and then coming back later that afternoon and doing it again. Mastering technique. Mastering turns. Mastering every little aspect of swimming. Being deliberate before deliberate was really researched by Dr. Ericsson and Dr. Duckworth. Everyday. 365 days a year. For multiple years. Maybe dedicated isn’t the right word. The roots seep deeper than sheer dedication.
As I mentioned, I was prepared today. Still a little star struck. I mean, it isn’t every day that you get the chance to eat lunch with one of the most respected and often cited Sociologist of the last 30 years.
Our conversation today, much like our previous two meetings, began with me asking Dr. Chambliss questions that he has probably been asked hundreds of times before, especially about his Olympic swimming. Today, however, I asked him a question that he probably hasn’t been asked as often. I asked him if his theory of mundanity could be replicated in 2018. I could tell by the look on his face that this probably wasn’t something he has often been asked.
Could the mundanity of excellence theory be tested with Olympic throwers?
We spent a great deal of time talking about coaching; philosophies, how to work with individual athletes, expectations, and goals.
My biggest takeaway from today is this-it is ok to coach athletes, in my case throwers, who do not have the drive to be Olympic champions! Let me explain.
I shared a situation I previously had with an athlete. This particular athlete shared his very lofty goals with me. However, the athlete did not complete the tasks necessary to achieve their goals. In fact, the athlete didn’t do much of anything that would have led to achieving those goals. They failed to live up to their end of the stated goals. I told Dr. Chambliss that I spoke to the athlete about it, in which I shared that they did not complete any of the minimal tasks necessary to achieve their goals. Dr. Chambliss told me I handled to situation poorly.
He shared a similar story with me. One in which he wanted the athlete to perform up to a certain standard and expectation. One in which he, as someone told him, wanted more than the athlete. Instant light bulb moment for me. I have had other coaches share similar stories with me, but it didn’t click until today. He told me that it was ok for the athlete to not do what they needed in order to achieve their goal. That, in the bigger picture, wasn’t really a big deal. He said, rather than try to focus on the one athlete, create a culture that is built to support the bigger goals of the athletes that are doing everything in their power to achieve them. It is ok to not reach your goals, he told me, but that it is also ok to focus my attention on the athletes who are working towards their goals. He explained that because he wanted the see the athlete succeed more than they did, it in fact negatively affected their relationship. The athlete, in this case a 12-year old female swimmer, who had all the talent in the world, didn’t like to work hard. Thus, in her case, her genetic talent alone was going to carry her only so far. Unfortunately, she ended up quitting a couple years later. He wanted for her to be successful more than she wanted the success for herself.
An a-ha moment for me. When athletes and I discuss their goals and commitments to throwing and track & field at the beginning of the season, we discuss them together. It is a partnership. We need to meet each other half way in order for the success to happen. In the past, much like some other coaches out there, I’m guessing that they may take it personally when an athlete doesn’t achieve their goal. I have. I do. I have always felt that it was my ultimate responsibility when an athlete didn’t accomplish something. Regardless of what was going on in their life, I thought I could will them to achieving what they wanted to achieve. Most recently, that hasn’t been the case. Now I know why. It is ok to set a goal and not achieve it. Maybe their judgement was clouded. Maybe the athlete thought they wanted to achieve that specific goal, until they realized that maybe they weren’t willing to do what it took to actually achieve it. Maybe I shouldn’t take it personally anymore.
We also talked about life and research. We talked about the life/research balance. We discussed future research. We discussed mundanity. I asked Dr. Chambliss if I could start researching mundanity. Mundanity specific to throwing. I couldn’t think of a very clever way to do so besides just asking. He said yes!
I think part of my fascination comes from the fact that I know Olympic throwers, have their contact information, and have competed against them at one time or another. You can’t do that with the four major sports. I’ll probably never catch a pass from Tom Brady, or ever face Justin Verlander while standing in the batter’s box. I can say that I competed in many hammer competitions with multiple time Olympians (AG Kruger and Kibwe Johnson). Their success isn’t a mystery. There isn’t really a secret. They were able to sustain their success. That is what I’m most interested in learning more about. How are these elite athletes able to sustain their success?
Can the mundanity of excellence theory be tested with Olympic throwers? We’ll soon find out!
For the third time in the past couple of months I finished the book titled Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Dr. Ericsson is the world’s foremost leading researcher on the topic of expertise. He has dedicated his career on learning more about mastering such fields as number memorization, classical pianists, and classical violinists. More specifically, he often asks how long it takes to reach a specific specialization or level of expertise on the particular field. He is based out of Florida State University.
After finishing his book this most recent time, it got me thinking about expertise in throwing. More specifically, do throwers that qualify for the Olympic Games, on average, spend more time training and throwing than their peers who do not qualify for the Olympic Games (specific to throwers in the United States only)? I’ve been thinking about it for a few days, and I think it is an interesting question.
Similar to the question I posted above, a very prominent and successful throwing coach recently wrote an article for Track Coach, the journal released by USATF. In his article, Coach Babbitt discussed the notion that the United States has not had recent success in producing Olympic medalist caliber Javelin throwers. We have many American male javelin throwers consistently throwing over 70m (230’), however we have had very limited success in the World Championships and Olympic Games. One of his suggestions to possibly alleviate the United States of their male javelin throwing drought is to keep successful coach-dyads together in the hopes of building upon their collegiate success. Allow them to attend camps and clinics together. Provide them the opportunity to learn and grow together, as a team, rather than only provide resources to the thrower without aiding their coach. Allow them the time to train together, quality training time that is deliberate in nature.
That recap may be a little off tangent, but it does beg the question: Do American Olympic Qualifiers spend more time training (hours) on average, than their peers who do not qualify for the Olympic Games?
The United States has a rich history of successful male and female shot-putters. Two throwers, Michelle Carter and Ryan Crouser, have recently won World Championships and Olympic Gold Medals in the shot-put. They both come from throwing families. I remember reading about Michelle when she was in high-school, regarded as the future of the women’s shot-put. Similar to Ryan, coming from a family of throwers, he had a great collegiate career before turning professional. I’m willing to take a guess that they, on average, spent more time training than their peers. They had hundreds and thousands of hours of specific throwing training before entering college, and they both achieved great success as collegiate throwers. They are unique, probably not the norm. Michelle’s dad has an Olympic Silver medal in the men’s shot put, and still holds the men’s high school record, having thrown over 80’.
For our other American Olympians, have they accumulated the same amount of deliberate practice that Michelle and Ryan have accounted for?
I asked an American Olympian this very question-how much time did you spend training before qualifying for your first Olympic games. The response I received was about 2000 hours. The thrower I asked had graduated from college, and the 2000 hours represented two years leading up to his first Olympic games (not taking into consideration his previous collegiate training hours). Breaking it down even more, that is about 1000 hours a year, or roughly 20 hours per week of training (throwing and weightlifting). I’ll get back to this example later.
Let’s bring it back to the 2016 Olympic Trials competition. My question is, leading up to the Olympic Trials (let’s say the four previous years), did Michelle, Raven, and Felisha have, on average, more practice hours than their peers that did not finish in the top 3? Getting back to Anders’ study of time spent playing the violin, his study of German violinist found that the students considered to be at the top of their class (having the best potential to earn a chair on a prestigious orchestra) had on average, spent more time practicing their craft than their peers that were considered to not have as great a chance to earn a prestigious spot on an orchestra in Germany. Some students reported having spent up to 8000 hours practicing the violin before they turned 20.
Results from the 2016 Olympic Trials-Women's Shot-Put (www.usatf.org)
Results from the Men's 2016 Olympic Trials-Shot-Put (www.usatf.org)
Now, with our American female shot-putters, I wonder if the same would be said for our three Olympic qualifiers? Obviously training for the shot-put is much more physically taxing on the body, and I wouldn’t think that in the four years leading up to this Olympic Trials that any of our top three women practiced/trained, on average, over 2000 hours. However, I wonder if their average was more than the other competitors?
Similarly, can the same be said for the American male shot-putters? If you look at the finals list, you will see two previous World Champions and Olympic Gold Medalist in the shot-put (Adam Nelson and Reese Hoffa). I’m pretty sure they have accumulated the most training time combined than everyone else on the list’s time put together. Adam and Reese have been on the American throwing scene since 2000, and pretty much made every American male shot-put team that competed in the World Championships and Olympic Games since 2000.
When I talk about accumulated training time, I’m referring to time spent really focusing on a specific aspect of throwing and training. The real mundane activities that need to be done in order to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. A second thrower I asked told me that he spent 14 hours a week focused on throwing and weightlifting. He qualified for the Olympic Games. I’m not saying that anyone who spends XXX amount of time training will automatically become an Olympic thrower. That isn’t the point of the article. It has to be deliberate. It has to be focused upon, not just for the sake of doing it. Your focus has to be deliberate. You need to receive feedback, make changes, adapt, and receive feedback again. Angela Duckworth discussed this in her book Grit. For American throwers however, is there a threshold that gives someone a better opportunity at qualifying for an Olympic Games? In the case of the shot-put, it makes sense that American throwers have accumulated a lot of training time, since the shot-put is contested at pretty much every high school in the country beginning in middle school. The same can be said for the discus, yet we have not had as much recent success in American discus throwing as we have had in American shot-putting. Equal time, therefore, in this case, does not equate to success at the international level.
If not time, then what?
Ever since my wife and I started dating, she has insisted that I’m a “mark” for famous people. She very often says, “Chuck, they are just people like everyone else. Get over it!” She is right, but I cannot get over it. Before we got married I attended a wrestling show in Buffalo, NY in which I had the chance to meet my favorite wrestler of all-time, Hulk Hogan. How could I not get excited about that?!? Or the time I also met Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle. Again, how can you not get excited about the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet someone who won a gold medal in the Olympic Games.
Every time I travel to Ashland and speak with Jud I feel the same way. Nervous and excited. Nervous because Jud is a 4x Olympian. Excited because I can drive down to Ashland and speak with him, or even give him a call. It is just something about the environment that gets my adrenaline pumping as if I was competing again. The sensation occurred more often than I’d like to share, but I guess it is who I am.
I felt overwhelmed on more than one occasion when competing against AG Kruger and Kibwe Johnson, both Olympic Hammer throwers. Especially when you immediately follow AG Kruger after he threw 76m, and then the officials have to pull the tape in 50’ for your throw. Or the time I followed Kibwe after a massive throw at Kent State in the 35lb. Weight Throw. I tried following. It didn’t always go well, but I can’t think of many other sports in which you can compete with an Olympian.
I felt those same feelings today. Not at a track meet however, but at an Olympic Weightlifting competition.
Today I attended the 2018 USA Masters Olympic Weightlifting Championships, held in Buffalo, NY. I definitely marked out in every conversation I had with lifters and coaches from all over the country. One lifter in particular has been a great inspiration to me this year. She is partly responsible for me signing up for my first sprint triathlon. Her name is Veronica Muniz.
You never know how first impressions are going to go. The thought of meeting an ‘Instagram’ friend is a little nerve wrecking I must say. What will they be like, will they know who I am, or will they think you are weird for introducing yourself? Veronica far exceeded my expectations. It’s probably because we have a lot in common. Both educators, bilingual, parents, goal-oriented, and willing to step out of comfort zones. Veronica beat me to it though. She began weightlifting only a few years ago. And here she was, traveling all the way from Southern Texas to compete in Master’s Nationals. I’ll let Veronica share her story of how she finally made it to Buffalo. It only adds to her success and accomplishment of medaling today.
When I first read of Veronica’s story on Instagram, it caught my attention in more than one way. She is only a couple of years older than me, so when I read that she had just started weightlifting a few years ago I thought, “Wow, that is pretty cool to start Olympic weightlifting a little later than most would start!” She posts videos frequently, making it easy to follow her progress. She slowly was making progress. Then I saw that she entered Masters Nationals. That is when I really thought that I should try something too. Something out of my comfort zone that I’ve wanted to try for a long time. Veronica inspired me to register for my sprint triathlon.
Veronica’s focus and drive today was both humbling and inspiring. Inspiring because she registered for and competed in a National Championship event. Humbling because I know how much harder I need to work to reach the level of success she has reached. I am in no physical condition to compete in my age group Triathlon National Championships. I’m 50lbs. over the Clydesdale division (for men that weigh over 230lbs.). I know I would get smoked in that championship. I’m nowhere close to qualifying for it either. After watching Veronica compete today, I have found a new sense of hope and determination about my training, making sure I get all my training sessions in, rest, recover, and embrace the suck! Thank you, Veronica!
Veronica, thank you for the picture!
Veronica was not the only person that I found inspiration in today. I watched pretty much all the sessions this morning and afternoon. Lifter after lifter stepped onto the platform to give their all; to compete for a few minutes, to be judged, to be watched, to be inspiring. Lots of National Records with set in various weight classes and age groups. I felt my heart race a little bit more with each record attempt! It was great to be witness to the excellent competition today.
With all that said, I have to take step back for a moment, and really reflect on the time that everyone who has competed and will be competing in Masters Nationals. Hours and hours spent in the gym, away from families, making sacrifices to not miss training sessions, all to compete for a few minutes on a platform. I think that is why I’m so interested in Olympic Weightlifting. I find such stark similarities between Olympic Weightlifting and throwing. In throwing, much lifting weightlifting, athletes spend hundreds of hours training and preparing for a competition that lasts a couple of minutes. If we make the finals in throwing, we receive six throws. In weightlifting you get six attempts. Make a Snatch and a Clean & Jerk and you receive a total. Miss a Snatch and the meet is all but done. If you don’t throw far enough to make the top 8 or 9, you don’t make the finals in throwing. Lots of hard work, sweat, blood, and tears for about 10 seconds of ring time. Believe me, I have been there on multiple occasions. But if you don’t compete against the best and really test yourself, you’ll never know how you’ll compete.
Much like today, that is what throwing is like. In no other sport will I be able to compete in the same flight as Olympic throwers. Similar in weightlifting, today I got the chance to watch Daniel Camargo compete. Former US Olympic Training Center resident and elite International weightlifter, Daniel is the owner of Camargos Oly Concepts, an Olympic Weightlifting gym located just outside of Orlando, FL. Coming off of shoulder surgery, Daniel went 6/6 today and won his weight class. Mind you, after coaching some of his athletes in the session immediately before his. I did that on more than one occasion when I was younger, inexperienced, and didn’t know better. Reflecting back now, my athletes suffered so I could have competed. Today, it seemed otherwise for Daniel’s athletes. I’m not sure what he is like not in competition, but his athletes have thus far performed extremely well at Masters Nationals. He definitely figured out a way to coach his athletes to the best of his ability, all while preparing to compete himself, in the hopes of securing a spot on the Masters Worlds team, which he indeed qualified for.
To all the lifters and coaches that took the time out of their day to speak with me, thank you! Thank you for competing and for being inspiring. I learned a lot about Olympic Weightlifting today. I learned about support systems, family dynamics, and self-determination. Nobody makes us compete. We have something inside us. Something different. Something that others don’t have. Something others may not understand. They may never understand. What it takes to train hundreds of hours for in order to compete for a couple of minutes. What it means to sacrifice time spent with family and friends to get better at a sport that most people don’t understand. Most importantly, you inspired me and humbled me. Thank you.
About 25 years ago my maternal grandparents purchased a winter/retirement condo in Boynton Beach, FL. I’m not sure if it was something totally out of the blue or if it was pre-meditated. I was in middle school and my mom traveled with them to Florida. She only stayed for a couple of days, and then came home. I thought that was weird, especially since she left my grandparents there. She went down to help them buy the condo. And just like that, my grandparents had a home to live in for a few months a year to get out of the snow in Western, NY.
It was during that first winter living in Florida that my grandfather, in his late 60's, learned how to play golf. He had never played a day of golf in his life. A perk of the retirement community was having access to an 18-hole Par 3 golf course. He bought some used clubs and started playing with a group of gentlemen also living in the community. Without hesitation, he learned how to play a new sport. I’m not sure how the initial conversation went with him and my grandmother, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t discourage him from starting. You can see the golf course from their condo which makes it very easy to walk to, simply by pulling your clubs along with you. Nothing that demanding for an in-shape person in his late 60’s.
The longer I think about what to write in this article, the more I think about how the conversation went between my grandmother and grandfather. They were always extremely supportive of my brother and I, attended pretty much every sporting event we had in high school and into college, and never said anything negative about our performances. I must admit, my grandfather did get more excited at my brother’s baseball games than he did at my track meets. But, getting back to that conversation…..
It could have gone a couple of ways (imagine these conversations being had in Sicilian dialect):
1. Frank, why are you going to play golf? Why are you going to start something new? You’ve never played golf before. You are too old to play. Don’t waste your time.
2. Frank, you are going to go play golf? Do you know how? Who is going to teach you? You need to go buy clubs? Is it expensive?
3. Frank, that sounds like a great way to enjoy your time here in Florida. It is great that you want to learn something new. What do you need to get started?
The conversations may seem a bit exaggerated, however I think you can tell the difference between the three. For anyone reading this that has ever met my grandparents, they are the most loving and nurturing people I have ever met. My grandmother spent a great deal of time raising me when my mom went back to work when I was born. I speak fluent Sicilian because of her. Conversation 2 would probably have been the least likely to have happened. They didn’t’ worry about details like that. You can buy a used set of golf clubs in the retirement community for $10. That leaves us with Conversation 1 and 3.
Conversation 1 is one that one might imagine occurs more often than Conversation 3. Maybe not so much with younger children, but with adults. My grandmother has a very strong personality. My grandfather didn’t as so much as my grandmother, but I cannot envision Conversation 1 happening. My grandparents were very supportive with everything anyone in my family did. I never heard one negative comment said to my parents from them about a decision they made. They were always very supportive. I can’t see my grandmother having that talk with my grandfather. The optimist in me is going with Conversation 3. Maybe with a little bit of Conversation 2 intertwined in there.
For anyone that has ever been to Boynton Beach, it isn’t quite as flashy as South Beach or West Palm Beach. Scattered throughout the city are dozens of little retirement communities, the intercostal, and miles of beautiful beaches. If you aren’t a go to the beach for 8 hours a day type of person, or you don’t like relaxing by the pool all day, things could get boring for someone. Enter learning how to play golf at 68 years old. My grandfather made friends that he would enjoy his afternoons with, get some exercise, and enjoy his time. If you take golf out of the equation, things might get a little mundane. I’m not sure what his expectations were when he learned, but after playing for a few months he was able to beat my brother and I pretty handedly. He didn’t hit it far off the tee, but when the longest hole on the course is 125 yards, you don’t need to. He would drive, chip, and putt. My brother and I sprayed balls all over the course. I cannot tell you how many balls we lost on hole 4.
My grandfather joined a new community of people he had never been associated with before. He wasn’t a member of any clubs or organizations living in Rochester. He took care of his family, had immaculate landscaping, and copious amounts of fruit trees in the backyard. They welcomed him in with open arms. It was quite a sight to see my grandfather playing golf with a few other guys in their 80’s and 90’s. They taught the young new guy how to play.
The story of my grandfather resonates with me even more today. He wanted to try something new, didn’t have any reservations about it, found a community that welcomed him, and just did it. I’m not sure he put that much time into making the decision. I’m also not sure he calculated the potential risks involved, or the time it would take. In essence, he did what was going to make him happy. Maybe it was easier for him because; a) he was living in Florida for a few months a year, b) he wasn’t afraid to try something new, c) nobody told him no, or d) he was retired and wanted to invest the time in a hobby.
Every time I think about what I may be experiencing or going through, I think about him. What might my grandfather have done in this situation or that one. How would he have handled it. I’m not talking about day-to-day decisions, but life changing decisions.
Deciding one day to spend more time on a hobby, or learning a new hobby, in most cases isn’t that life altering. Maybe it gives us a chance to meet new people, share ideas with others we may not usually interact with, or just gives us an escape from reality for a few hours a week. What possesses someone to start a new hobby? Just pick something up out of the blue. To take a risk (calculated or not)? How does one come to terms with their decision? How does someone make a decision to chase something new? How does someone chase their dream? What does that look like?
For some, now is the time to start thinking about and making those life-altering decisions. The time when high-school seniors make the decision to attend a specific college or university. Now, we are in the midst of recruiting season. In the middle of recruiting season, I think about those questions a lot. What perspective does one come with when deciding what college or university to devote the next four or five years to. How do I make a decision between college A and college B? What should I be weighing most, how do I make a decision that is going to stay with me (depending on the outcome) for the rest of my life? How do I make the decision to chase my dream-what direction should I go?
My grandparents’ dream was to come to the United States to give my mom and uncle a better opportunity at living a happier, more rewarding life. A life better than my grandparents had in Sicily. That is a life altering decision. Not speaking the language, understanding cultural and societal norms, and walking into the unknown of whether the decision is the right or correct one.
I share the story about my grandparents, my grandfather in particular, for a couple of reasons. One, it is a story of chasing the American dream. One of which a parent attempts to give their children an opportunity at a better, more fulfilling life. They were chasing something. Something better than what they already had. They were, indeed, chasing their dream.
On multiple occasions this winter I have heard prospective student-athletes talk about chasing their dream or deciding to go to a certain school because it has always been their dream. A high-school senior told me that yesterday afternoon. They told me that it has always been their dream to attend Nazareth College. With AC/DC blaring in the background while standing in the weight room with this potential student-athlete, I asked “Well, what is holding you back?”
Awkward silence, even though Hells Bells was blasting in the background. What seemed like an eternity was probably more like three or four seconds. I was wondering what she was thinking. Without thinking about it, I challenged her dream. I put her on the spot. She was accepted. All she had to do was put down a deposit to take the first step. Maybe the thought of actually following through is scarier than that initial first step. Could thoughts of failure have been running through her mind. She could have been thinking, “Wow, I did get in. Now what do I do?” Well, you have to make a decision.
Then I think to myself, well maybe coming here really isn’t your dream, but becoming a (insert career here) is.
When push comes to shove, what holds you back?
She said she was still thinking about it, and that her decision was between Nazareth College and two other colleges. One school out-of-state, and another is a 2-year community college. As I drove home yesterday, I was thinking about her dream. Her dream could become a reality. Attending your life long college number 1 choice. However, she was still unsure. I wonder, in that moment, she probably wasn’t expecting the question I asked her. I’m still not sure if she will be attending Nazareth College in the fall. Reflecting back on it now, what might be holding her back?
But it makes me wonder…..
When you tell someone what your dream is, and you have the opportunity to move forward and make that dream a reality, why don’t you pursue it? What holds you back? Is it fearing the unknown? Is it the decision itself?
Was it actually a dream to begin with…..
The purpose of the 2018 Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies Sports Performance Conference is to provide high school and collegiate athletes, along with their families, and coaches an opportunity to gain valuable insights about ways to enhance their sports performance.
Our lineup of presenters are experts in the field of mental skills training, sports psychology, nutrition, goal-setting, stress reduction, rest, recovery, and strength & conditioning. Attendees will leave with tools they can immediately execute in their training sessions that will assist them in ways to more efficiently take better care of their minds and bodies.
Please review our tentative timeline of speaker presentations and their topics:
2018 Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies Sports Performance Conference
Shults Center-Forum Auditorium
July 14th, 2018
Welcome and Introduction by Charles Infurna, Ed.D. —8:45am
Session 1: Stephen Gonzalez, Ph.D., CMPC—9am-9:45am
Presentation Topic: Developing Champion Mindsets- How Thoughts and Emotions Influence Our Performances
In this session, participants will learn how thoughts and emotions influence our performance. Participants will learn basic principles of self-talk and mindfulness, and how to develop the discipline and awareness to be better understand how we need to think and feel individuals in order to be at our best.
Session 2: Heather D’Errico, MS, CSCS, CSFC, LMT—10am-10:45am
Presentation Topic: Importance of Strength and Conditioning For High School Athletes
Heather will be discussing the importance of proper strength and conditioning for high school athletes that wish to compete at the college level. She will go over the benefits of strength and conditioning and what athletes can expect when they transition into collegiate strength and conditioning settings. There will be discussion on how to best prepare to perform at the highest level.
Session 3: Craig Cypher, Psy.D.—11am-11:45am
Presentation Topic: Trust the Process - Goal Setting Steps for Success
Coaches always tell athletes that they need to "focus". But what should they be focusing on? This presentation focuses on the concept of process goals and how they can be utilized to keep athletes focused and on track during training and competition. Athletes, coaches, and parents will learn the difference between process and outcome goals in the context of goal setting as well as concrete strategies to apply process goals to the challenges they face within their sport.
Session 4: Kyle Glickman, MS, CSCS, PICP—1pm-145pm
Presentation Topic: Understanding Stress and the HPA Axis...How do we use it in our favor?
Stress...How many of you have pulled all-nighters to get work done? How many of you get nervous before a big game? What about getting cotton mouth before a speech?... Stress is a natural response in our body and it’s important to understand how, why and when it works. This is can make or break you when it comes to not just health but also optimal performance! Once we learn the basic fundamentals of the stress response we can then learn how to not only recover better but use stress in our favor!
Session 5: Megan Tomei, BS, IASTM Level I & Level II —2pm-2:45pm
Presentation Topic: You Can Only Work As Hard As You Can Recover
Recovery is a key element to athletic success. There are a multitude of elements that can be used to achieve our athletic goals. I have personally known the feeling of being over trained as well as accommodating injuries. Through my mistakes I’ve learned a great deal about different modalities that I later became certified in.
Session 6: Stephen Gonzalez, Ph.D. & Craig Cypher, Psy.D.—3pm-3:45pm
Presentation Topic: Panel Discussion With Your Questions-Moderated by Charles Infurna
In this session, Dr. Infurna will moderate a panel discussion with Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Cypher. Audience participation will be greatly encouraged in this informative session where your questions will be answered. Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Cypher have extensive backgrounds in resiliency, goal-setting, mental skills training, and developing championship mindsets.
Keynote: Iris Zimmerman, 2000 Olympian—4pm-5pm
Iris Zimmermann holds the distinction of being the first U.S. fencer in history, man or woman, to win a world championship in any weapon or age category. She earned this achievement in 1995, winning the World Under-17 Championships at her first major international event in Paris at the age of 14. Four years later, in 1999, Iris would become the first US fencer to medal in the Senior World Championships, earning the bronze medal in women’s foil. She represented the US in Olympic competition, joining her sister, Felicia, a two-time Olympian in Sydney, Australia in the summer of 2000. Born and raised in Rush, NY, the Zimmermann sisters currently co-own the Rochester Fencing Club.
Please contact Charles Infurna with any questions you may have at email@example.com or by phone (585) 406 - 1399. We hope to see you there!
Quick show of hands, how many of you have your own unique routines and rituals? I’m willing to guess most people raised their hands. Whether we have daily routines about the time we get up every morning, workout, go for a walk, or go to bed, we may have never thought about them.
Last week during our weight throw session, we had a short break in which I was asked about ways to relax during competition. One of my athletes said that she gets nervous in meets when people watch her throw. I thought that was a bit odd because as throwers we are called to enter a circle in which we are not able to step out of until our implement lands in a sector. Then we are able to exit the back half of the circle. At a typical meet, there may be two or three people watching your feet to ensure you follow the specified rules.
I asked her what she thought about before she entered the circle. She said that she thought about a specific number/distance she wanted to throw. We started the next round of throws, and I noticed that she entered the circle differently each time. I stopped her before we started the third round of throws. I told she that she entered differently each time, and that she didn’t take the time to cue herself.
When I work with my collegiate athletes, we spend time during the season discussing ways in which to better relax and feel more comfortable in the circle. One of the elements we discuss are the routines we can put in place to assist our minds when getting ready to throw. I suggest to my athletes that they have two or three cue words they throw; one as they enter the circle, another when they set their bodies, and one before they initiate their throw. Each athlete is different. Each athlete will have different cues based on what will make them feel more comfortable in the circle.
Getting back to my high school athlete, I stopped practice for a couple of minutes to discuss the purpose of routines, cue words, and how they are to be implemented. Much like we practice the art of throwing, we must also practice the art of routine building. I encouraged both athletes to begin to focus on their routine during their normal high school practices. I strongly suggested that they should begin to develop their own routines and how to best come up with cue words that would make them feel most confident as they enter the circle to compete.
Next week at practice I will spend more time working with my high school athletes about routines and rituals. It is difficult to cram a lot of throwing and teachable moments into two hours of practice time. With my college athletes, I am able to take the time to focus on other elements besides just throwing. I have more control over their environments. They know what to expect from me, as I know what to expect from them.
What are some of your throwing routines? What makes you feel most comfortable in the circle? How did you develop those throwing rituals?
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
Normally when I attend high school track & field meets I tend to keep to myself. If I am approached by an athlete or coach, of course I engage in conversation. I’ve actually been spending a lot more time speaking to families about the recruiting process, completing loan forms, and what competing at the collegiate level is like compared to the high school level. That is a topic for another blog post. For now, we’ll get back to joining that elusive club.
At a recent high school meet, a parent of a thrower approached me while some throwers were warming up for the next flight of weight throw competition. In our brief conversation, the parent inquired about the success some of our high school athletes have been having this season. Disclaimer, I nor Luis, take any credit for the success of the high school athletes we work with. The athletes we work with would reach the same success without us in the picture. If anything, we spend most of our time at practice discussing other things besides throwing.
I said thank you to the parent, and followed up with what I just said above, that we cannot take credit. The parent continued with, “Well, you must be doing something right because they both have records. There must be some secret, right?”
Totally floored. I said the athletes do all the work and we are merely providing mentoring and support. The parent looked at me, right in the eyes, and said, “What is the secret then?”
The build-up and hype to this blog post probably could have been better. The mystical secret to throwing far. Yet, in one way I’m flattered. Flattered in the fact that someone thinks I know what the secret is. If there was one magic bullet or pill, one might think more people would implement that secret in the daily regime.
For a brief moment I was back in Akron, OH, May 2004, standing next to Derek Woodske and Adrianne Blewitt, asking them if they had any secrets. Well, in thirteen years since that conversation occurred, I can comfortably say there isn’t one secret. If anything, there is a combination of ingredients that are included in the secret recipe.
One secret, if you consider it one, is to be deliberate about what you want to do, and you plan on doing. In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth spends a considerable amount of time discussing deliberate practice, what is entails, and how the cycle persists. As our practice ended this past Thursday, I spent about five minutes talking about it with two of our throwers. One of the reasons why they have been successful is due to the fact that they have a plan for practice, meets, and the season as a whole.
They receive constructive feedback, apply it, implement it, revise it, and move forward. The cycle continues for them. All too often we may practice for the sake of practicing, not really focused on any one particular element of the throw, and just go through the motions. We spend weeks working on one little part of the throw, master it, and then move onto something else. Giving three or four or five cues is a lot for anyone to handle. Work on one thing, master it, and then move onto something else. That is one ingredient to the recipe.
Looking back and reflecting on my coaching career, I now think back to May, 2004. By asking elite throwers what their secret was basically discredited all the hard work they had put into their careers. Adrianne was going to throw at the Olympic Trials in a few weeks. Derek had the best 35lb. Weight Throw distance in the world that year. They were nice and humored me with their response. Yet, thinking back now, and thinking about the great athletes I coach and guide now, they really just work hard and have a passion for throwing. They are focused, reflective, and want to learn. No secrets there. I’ve written about it before, the most vital elements to success, or the ingredients to success, cannot be coached. Instilling a work-ethic and dedication into someone is difficult (believe me, I’ve tried). As coaches, we cannot make athletes do anything. We cannot coach up their heart. They have to want to do it for themselves. They have to want to because it is something they are passionate about. They have to want it. That, my friends, is what I believe makes up the recipe of success.
What ingredients do you think are necessary in the soup of success?
This past Sunday we held club practice at Nazareth College. We had a little break during practice, some downtime if you will, where I asked about track schedules and upcoming meets. One of the young throwers that was in attendance said, “We are competing against (insert rival name here) this week, and I just want to beat them.” I then asked, “Will that help you achieve your throwing goals?” I got a very quizzical look back. The athlete asked me what I meant by that. It got the attention of the other thrower there, who before my comment was scrolling through Instagram.
The thrower I was speaking with then asked me, “What’s the difference between the two?” I’m not going to quote the rest of the conversation, however I do believe there is a difference between wanting to beat someone and achieving your goal. What follows is my perspective on the difference between achieving your throwing goal and simply trying to beat someone.
My philosophy on the example between winning and beating someone is this, specific to throwing. Non-conference championship meets are better served with trying to hit or chase the big mark, or to work on a new technique, or to try something you might not want to try in a championship meet. Basically, coach and athlete have a conversation about it, agree to try something new, and maybe give away a meet in order to experiment with something new. What I mean by giving away a meet is to sacrifice a potential good performance to experiment with a new technique that may not produce an extraordinary result (trying a four turn throw in a meet for the first time, or trying the rotational shot when you are primarily a glide thrower).
I think most coaches would agree that the goal of the championship meet is to win. You can set a personal best at a conference championship meet, but still not throw far enough to win. That certainly happens from time to time. From my previous conference championship experiences, the winner does not always hit a personal best. Therefore, if there are a couple of throwers within 50cm of each other in the Weight Throw, it may not take a gargantuan effort to win, because more often than not your competition won’t set a personal best either.
When Luis and I went to Indoor Nationals in 2016, the goal of the meet was to win. Rather than discuss the idea of trying to hit a mark or distance, the goal was the win and leave as the National Champion in the 35lb. Weight Throw. We could have said the goal was to throw 20m, or to set a personal best. Yet, what if he did throw 20m, but someone else threw 20.01m? You hit your goal, but you didn’t win. Would you be satisfied with that?
I’m not sure if I did a good job explaining this example. There are other coaches that probably could better explain this than the way I attempted to. Has anyone else ever been in this situation? How did you handle it? Would you handle the conversation differently depending on the age of the thrower (high school compared to collegiate thrower)?
Never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned the inaugural Forza Athletics season to be as successful, exciting, and thriving. What started out as a USATF club to support post-collegiate throwers turned into a club that has started gaining momentum. What follows is a summary of the 2016-17 season. A summary of Forza Athletics athletes and performances.
My initial thoughts about starting the Forza Athletics Track & Field Club were to; 1) provide post-collegiate throwers the support they needed to continue pursuing their throwing dreams, 2) teach high school throwers how to throw the hammer, and 3) have the space to make this all happen. My first step was essentially the easiest one, register the club with USATF and make everything official. I received permission from Nazareth College to be the club’s host facility-allowing high-school and post-collegiate throwers a facility to throw in. I was able to secure practice times either before or after our collegiate practice.
I have been flooded with many different emotions this year. Senses of excitement were followed by times of nervousness, second-guessing, and apprehension. Nervousness about the notion that throwers wouldn’t be interested in joining the club. Second-guesses about how to go about coaching high-school athletes who had never thrown the hammer before, and apprehension about what others might think of me starting a throwing club. Essentially I really wanted to generate throwing momentum in the community, teach kids how to throw the hammer, and have them compete in meets over the summer (by specifically throwing the hammer). Whatever expectations I had last January were met, and far exceeded.
Coach Infurna and Luis Rivera after a meet at OSU in early January, 2017
Savannah Cook, Coach Infurna, and Matt Hand after a meet at Houghton College
In January our team consisted of Luis Rivera and Savannah Cook. Two post-collegiate throwers chasing their dreams. Luis was coming off an extremely successful Division III career at Nazareth College. Winning the 2016 DIII Indoor 35lb. Weight Throw National Championship, Luis finished his career with a 3rd place finish in the Men’s Hammer Throw at the DIII Outdoor National Championships. In total, Luis ended his career as a 4x All-American, National Champion, and ranking 6th all-time in the Weight Throw at the Division III level (20.45m). Savannah had just wrapped up a successful DIII career as well. Throwing for SUNY Brockport, Savannah was a multiple time SUNYAC conference Shot-Put champion, while ranking in the top 25 in the 20lb. Weight Throw and Hammer Throw respectfully.
Our first indoor season was a very productive and successful one! Savannah won meets at RIT and at Houghton College. Luis also won meets at RIT, Utica, and Houghton College, setting the facility and meet record at Houghton and Utica. In early January Luis competed at The Ohio State University. Still working on building rhythm and technique, Luis competed at the famous Findlay Elite meet. Throwing against a star-studded field, Luis broke the then Puerto Rican National Record at Findlay. That throw also qualified him for the 2017 USATF Indoor Track & Field National Championships. Competing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Luis finished 6th with a monstrous throw of 22.01m, re-breaking his own Puerto Rican National Record in the 35# Weight Throw.
Luis Rivera setting the Puerto Rican National Record in the 35# Weight Throw at the USATF Indoor National Championships-22.01m
The Forza Athletics family also included two extremely talented and successful Highland Games competitors. Matt Hand (Professional Highland Games competitor) and Meagan McKee (Professional Highland Games competitor) wore the Forza crest during their respective seasons as well. Not only competing in Highland Games competitions, Meagan competed in several hammer competitions on the West Coast (lucky) while also competing in national level Highland Games competitions, setting numerous personal bests along the way. You can learn more about Meagan’s Highland Games accomplishments here www.nasgaweb.com/dbase/resultsathlete3.asp?athletename=Mckee%2CMeagan&athleteyear=2017&type=nasga&x=20&y=7
Making the transition from Amateur to Professional athlete is no small task. Matt Hand was able to make as smooth and fluid transition to the ranks of Professional Highland Games athlete without struggle. Matt become a guest blogger on the Forza Athletics website, giving everyone a peak into the life of a professional athlete. Matt’s humor and work ethnic was shown on a weekly basis, putting out great content and material for anyone interested in learning more about the Highland Games, competition, and the work-throwing-life balance. You can learn more about Matt’s Highland Games accomplishments here http://www.nasgaweb.com/dbase/resultsathlete3.asp?athletename=Hand%2CMatt&athleteyear=2017&type=nasga&x=29&y=12.
Building upon the momentum from the Indoor Season, our Outdoor Season got off to a fantastic start. Savannah opened up the season with a solid 2nd place finish at the Geneseo Early Open Meet at the end of March. The following weekend Savannah and Luis competed at the Nazareth College ROC City Classic Meet, both coming away with victories. At this meet, Luis joined the 60m club, throwing a personal best throw in his first meet of the season. That meet was followed up with a victory at the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagle Meet, with Savannah having another solid top 3 finish.
Luis continued to build upon his early season success by competing at the Ashland Alumni Open in late April, again setting a personal best in the Hammer throw. Luis finished the Outdoor season with a personal best throw of 63.88m. While Luis’ and Savannah’s seasons were wrapping up, a high school thrower was just beginning her first venture with the hammer.
Above, Meagan McKee throwing the Hammer in sunny California
Savannah opening her season at SUNY Geneseo
What this high school thrower was able to accomplish in her first indoor track & field varsity season was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Webster Thomas High School freshman thrower Monique Hardy made quite an impact during her first varsity indoor track & field season. Never competing in the 20# weight throw before the start of the 2016-17 season, Monique went from 28’ to 48’ in a just a couple of months! Monique won the Section V Class A 20# Weight Throw championship. Wrapping up her first indoor season, Monique finished 3rd at New Balance Indoor Nationals, setting a personal best with her throw of 48’.
At the beginning of May, Monique attended a Forza Athletics hammer clinic, and took very well to throwing the hammer. Practicing a couple of times a week through June and July, Monique set the New York State Freshman Hammer Record at the Junior Olympic qualifying meet held at SUNY Brockport at the beginning of July. Monique won the 15-16 age group that meet with a throw of 46.18m, also the best female hammer throw of the day. A couple of weeks later Monique competed at the USATF Junior Olympic Championships in Kansas. At this meet, Monique finished 2nd in the 15-16 age group, with a new New York State Freshman class record with a throw of 47.67m.
Monique Hardy and Coach Infurna at SUNY Brockport after Monique broke the NYS Freshman Hammer Record
I’ll finish with what I began with. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected any of this to happen. My main intention was to provide coaching to athletes that were interested, as well as a facility for them to train in. All the credit goes to Luis, Savannah, Matt, Meagan, and Monique. Our recipe for success; work-ethic, dedication, grit, and want to are a start. Much like life, nothing is given in the track & field world. All success is earned. Throwers that include the ingredients mentioned above have a better chance to reach their goals. It takes time. Quality time. Quality time that everyone invested this past 2016-17 season. I’m proud to be their coach. Without their interest in competing and wanting to throw, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today. Thank you. Thank you for your time, effort, support, dedication, and a willingness to wear the Forza Crest. I am forever indebted to you.
My best ~ Charles
I think I may have joined a special club this past weekend. I attended a local high school meet, and had some great conversations with throwers and adults alike. A couple of the conversations I had have led me to believe that I may have made it into the club. Not just any club, but the “secret” club. I’m not really sure if it is a club at all, however, after 11 years of coaching, I was asked the “secret” question that gives someone entry into the club. This isn’t just any question, but it is the “secret” question. Have you guessed what club or question I’m talking about. I’ll give you a couple of days to think about it, and then get back to you with what transpired at the meet, how the conversations went, and what the “secret” club is all about.
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.