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.
“You should be able to throw 90% of your personal best on even your worst day.”
Lance Deal – 2015 National Throws Coaches Association Conference
Last night I watched what could be considered the biggest upset of the 2017 College Football season. A seemingly unbeatable Clemson Tigers visited the Syracuse Orange, in what should have been a relatively easy game for Clemson. However, in the opening moments of the game, Clemson’s starting quarterback was injured, and had to leave the game. That moment changed the complexion of the game for both Clemson and Syracuse. Not because Clemson’s starting quarterback was injured, but because of the heightened near moment expectations for their backup quarterback. From having relatively little to no expectation entering the game, he was now thrust into a situation that he may not have been expecting to be placed in. Especially so early in the game. Did Clemson’s performance drop 10% by losing their starting quarterback? Shouldn’t a 90% Clemson Tiger team still be able to beat a 100% Syracuse Orange team?
I open with my synopsis of what occurred last night in Syracuse because as I was watching the game, a quote by Lance Deal popped in my head. Back in December of 2015, I attended the National Throws Coaches Association Conference. At the conference, American Record Holder and Olympic Silver Medalist Hammer Thrower Lance Deal gave a talk about throwing. At the tail end of his talk, he said that, “You should be able to throw 90% of your personal best on even your worst day.” He said this with great enthusiasm and vigor.
College Football and Track & Field really don’t have many similarities. I’m not going to get lost in the weeds here with semantics. Watching the game though really got me thinking a lot about the upcoming 2017-18 season.
As you watch College or Pro Football on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, you might hear commentators make a statement like, “Anyone can beat anyone today.” You may hear it being said more in NFL commentary, however anyone really can beat anyone. The same can be said for throwing as well. Regardless of the 90% rule. Let me give you an example.
In May of 2016, Luis competed at the Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Wartburg College in Iowa. The first flight of the men’s hammer competition had some fantastic weather. It was sunny. Fairly warm. A great day to throw. Then, as the second flight started warming up and started throwing, it began to rain.
The mood began to change. You could see the looks on some throwers face change. They didn’t look that happy. Of the top 10 seeded throwers, only a handful were able to produce seasonal best throws. I know that three of them had career bests. The top three throwers had career days, even with the weather as bad as it was. It may not happen often, but three throwers from the first flight earned All-American status. They placed in the top 8. It was a great competition. Higher seeded throwers were not able to perform to their best of their abilities. If they would have performed up to their 90%, they would have made the finals and probably earned All-American status. For some reason, on that particular day they could not throw up to 90%. Did the rain really take away 10% of their performance? I recall a couple of Olympic Hammer competitions being contested in the rain. There were still some great performances. Granted, the level of competition may be different, however the nerves may have been the same.
Now, back to that 90% statement. Even though it was raining, shouldn’t have a majority of the throwers from the second flight still have thrown at least up to 90% of their personal best? Was the weather that much of a hindrance? I’m not really sure how much the weather played into it. Yet, it begs the question, if everyone should throw at about 90% of their best, regardless of the circumstances, would the Syracuse Orange throwers of the world ever be able to beat the Clemson Tigers throwers of the world (probably not a good analogy, but it’s the best I can think of right now).
As with Division I College Football, anything can happen at any given time in Track & Field as well. You see, in Track, you really only have control over a few variables; training, recovery, nutrition, mindfulness, attitude, and mindset-just to name a few. We, as coaches, have relatively little control of what happens at meets. Specific to throwing, once an athlete enters the circle, their coach really has no control over what may happen. We spend hundreds of hours practicing during the season in the hopes of making the top 15 and qualifying for the Division III Indoor or Outdoor National Championships. All of that training boils down to maybe two or three minutes of throwing throughout the course of a season. A lot comes down to chance. I would say there is some luck involved.
Yes, I believe there is a bit of luck at play when it comes to throwing. Now, with indoor track, all elements are fairly equal. You may need to travel some distance to compete, but the weather inside is pretty nice. A ton of things can still happen though-you forget your shoes, your glove rips, your weight breaks, you only get one warm-up throw….You see where I’m going with this. I wouldn’t call those things luck, but randomness and chance. Outdoor is a completely different animal. In Western, NY, we have snow on the ground through mid-April sometimes. The Southern and Mid-Western schools probably don’t have to worry about that. They may be concerned with the heat, not finding your hammer or discus under a foot of snow.
Before I heard Lance say those words, I never really had thought about it. I never thought about how far someone should be able to throw at any given time. Do any other coaches out there have a variable or predictor of throwing success? I’m not talking about the “secret” to throwing, but does anyone else think it is realistic that our throwers should be able to throw up to 90% of their best, even on their worst days? What are your thoughts?
I took to Twitter the other day and asked what type of content people would like to learn more about or hear more about with our Forza Athletics Podcast. One of the topics that came up multiple times was recruiting. Nothing specific, but just recruiting.
With that in mind, below you will find my five things to consider when deciding what college to attend. Our example will be for a high school senior that will be assured a full-athletic scholarship in which tuition, room, board, and meals will all be included. For the sake of this example, we know that finances will not play a role in the decision-making process because you will be assured that all expenses will be paid. This is hypothetical, but please play along for the example.
-Note, These are in no Particular Order-
1. Current Coaching Situation
2. “Feel” of the Location
4. Team Atmosphere
5. Other—Everything that may play a role for some or for none at all
What did I miss?
As always, thanks for reading!
Continuing with our conversation from last week, the researcher in me wanted to further explore the notion of coaches as experts. Rather than guess what athletes might say about the topic, I asked them. I took to Twitter to ask athletes what they thought was most important when considering to work with a weightlifting and/or throwing coach. Below you will see the four options with the percent of votes per option.
I’ve been thinking about these results for the past couple of days. Only half of the voters selected the second option of the most important trait in selecting a weightlifting and/or throwing coach was past athlete successes. I was a little taken aback by these results. My guess would have been that more than just half of the votes would have gone to this option. A couple of thoughts with this result:
When I wrote the option of past athlete successes, my thought process was that of accomplishments in either weightlifting and throwing. For example, past athlete successes as a trait when hiring an Olympic weightlifting coach, to me means someone who has coached individuals that have previously (within the past three years) qualified for the American Open, USA Championships, and Olympic Trials. I realize that there are more national championships for Olympic weightlifting, however at my age I would only be eligible to qualify for the three I listed above. For a 10 or 11 year-old youth athlete, many more opportunities exist for competing at the national level, therefore the athlete and their family may not be as concerned with hiring an Olympic weightlifting coach that has coached XX number of athletes that have previously qualified for the Olympic Trials or USA Open Championships. Depending on where they live, there may not be a coach that fits that criteria for hundreds of miles. Virtually, however is an option that I will discuss in a later blog post.
Continuing with my example, at my age (35) I would be most interested in hiring an Olympic weightlifting coach that has worked with other lifters my age-in which those other lifters competed in the American Open, Masters Nationals, and even possibly the USA Championships. At my age, the Olympic Trials would totally be out of the question. For a youth athlete, however, a coach who may have already coached youth athletes to the youth nationals may qualify and meet the definition of “success”. Ultimately I think it would depend on what the athlete’s goals are, what the family goals are, and what their reality and expectations are in achieving those goals.
Similarly, I don’t think a coach needs lots of years of experience or prior athletic success in order to be a successful coach themselves. Some coaches I know have very limited years of experience, yet they have coached multiple athletes to All-American status in the throws at the Division II and Division III level. I myself had very limited success as an athlete at the Division III level (1 conference championship in the Hammer throw). One of my first athletes I coached at Fredonia had somewhat limited success at the collegiate level, and now is one of the most prominent throwing coaches at the Division II level. He is dedicated to the craft of coaching, is open to learning from others, is a student of throwing, and has invested time in traveling around North America to learn from Olympic and Pan-American Medalist Hammer throwers.
Even more surprising than the votes garnered by option two were the results of option 4, “other”. I thought about adding a fourth option about relationship development/comfort/personality, but I didn’t want to try and get everything else into that option. With a quarter of the votes going to this option, I may consider conducting another Twitter poll that is made up of those traits/qualities listed above. A researcher in the field of athlete self-efficacy and resiliency that is currently working on her dissertation posted a great comment on my Instagram page the other day about questions she would ask if being recruited at the collegiate level. You can see her questions below.
I wish I would have asked those questions when I was 18 years old when trying to decide which college to attend. I selected SUNY Fredonia for a couple of reasons—one of which was that SUNY Fredonia had won over 30 conference championships between 1976 and 2000 in combined indoor and outdoor competitions. I didn’t ask those questions when I was trying to select between my college options. I wish I would have.
Besides the questions Sara listed above, what questions would you want to ask on a recruiting trip? For the coaches out there, how would you answer the questions listed above? Will your answers vary depending on what level you are coaching (Division I, or Division II, or Division III)? Should your answers vary?
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
Last week I started reading a series of articles on my desk about coaching mental toughness in athletes. A wide range and variety of articles published in peer reviewed journals by some of the most respected and brilliant sports psychologists and researchers in the world. One of the articles that was sent to me by a friend was recently published in 2017, and spoke about a business coaching methodology and framework reformatted to be implemented with a group of elite level soccer coaches and their athletes. The focus of the study was to teach elite level soccer coaches in Europe a variety of ways to introduce and help develop the mental toughness of their athletes.
The methodology implemented in the study was adapted from the business model developed by John Whitmore, from his book titled Coaching for Performance: GROWing human potential and purpose, the principals and practice of coaching and leadership, 4th edition. I immediately ordered the book because the coaching framework makes a lot of sense to me. I’m always interested in learning more about how business models of coaching individuals and teams are applied to the sports world, especially for research. However, one brief section in the book caught my attention. On page 42, John wrote a very concise paragraph about the coach as an expert. One sentence in particular struck me, and I have been thinking about it since I read it. John wrote, “Does a coach need to have experience or technical knowledge in the area in which he is coaching?”
Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to spend some time digging down and really reflecting on the notion of coaches as experts in their specific fields of instruction. How much, if any, does prior competitive throwing experience really matter in the eyes of potential recruits and athletes at the collegiate and post-collegiate level? For example, would a Division I recruit not attend a specific college or university because their event specific throwing coach never threw in college? Would that same recruit commit to a college if they knew their throwing coach never threw, but had already coached XX All-Americans and X National Champions?
So, for those of you that are still reading, I pose a question: From the perspective of a competitive thrower, to what capacity, if any, would you feel comfortable being coached by someone with no prior experience as a thrower and little to no technical background knowledge in the shot-put, discus, hammer, weight throw, and javelin? How much does prior competitive experience really matter in the eyes of high school, collegiate, and post-collegiate athletes?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.
As always, thanks for reading-Charles
“The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when nobody else is watching.”
-Anson Dorrance, The Vision of a Champion
It’s dark. It’s gloomy. It’s pouring rain. For most throwers, this may be a sign to call it a day, not throw, and not risk injury. However, for some throwers, this is another opportunity to look deep down inside themselves and make a concerted effort to get better. Another opportunity to reach their goals. Regardless of the conditions, these throwers dig down deep when nobody is watching in order to satisfy a need, accomplish a goal, or simply continue to chase their dream.
The cliché often used in literary verses is that a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture above sums up so much more than a thousand however. In a state of pure joy and happiness, I got this picture in a text message last night at around 7:45pm. It is not just a picture of a hammer in the sector, but is a symbol of grit, determination, work-ethic. With nobody around, alone at practice, Savannah broke through the 50m barrier. I will not downplay the obvious that this was done in practice. It is so much more than that. It means so much more, especially as a coach, that I know Savannah will put in the work. Not because she has to, but because she wants to.
I’ve been coaching since I graduated from Fredonia in 2004. One of the facets I have found somewhat difficult to wrap my head around is the ability for coaches to coach heart. How do we as coaches instill the confidence, self-determination, and want-to in our athletes that may not always want-to? It’s a question I’ll continue to ask, and hopefully someday I’ll have an appropriate response.
However, I know heart when I see it. Savannah has heart. That it factor. Sports personalities and professional wrestling scouts frequently discuss the it factor. It’s difficult to describe. The it factor is a combination of many factors, qualities, and perhaps personality traits that seem to align for specific athletes and individuals around the world. Even though it is difficult to describe, the guru’s say they know it when they see it. I’m not a coaching guru, nor a throwing coach guru for that matter. However, I think I can identify it when I see it. Savannah has it.
Work-ethic alone is not enough. That is not the only pre-requisite to having it. Effort counts. According to Angela Duckworth, effort counts twice. Anders Ericsson has spent the last 20 years researching deliberate practice. Deliberate practice counts. Being diligent in what you do counts. Merely going through the motions will not suffice. That is not good enough. A lot of individuals merely go through the motions. Day-in, day-out we see talented individuals not take advantage of the great opportunities presented to them. As a coach, mentor, and friend I cannot put into words how proud I am of Savannah and all that she has accomplished in her relatively short throwing career. The intangible gifts she possesses will take her places. Savannah has it.
Do you have it?
If you look at the current landscape of throwing in the United States, you are quick to see that there are many up-and-coming throwers currently competing at the collegiate level. In the opening week of the outdoor season, Magdalyn Ewen, competing for Arizona State, broke the women's American collegian hammer record with a throw of 72.71m. There have been countless performances, such as this one, this past season.
Another young and up-and-coming thrower is Mckenzie Warren, throwing for Concordia University. She broke the Division II Indoor Shot-Put record with a throw of 17.62m.
With so many great performances coming this 2016-17 season, the researcher in me is thinking, "What type of support system(s) do throwers like Magdalyn and Mckenzie have in place that have allowed them the opportunity to reach the pinnacle of throwing in their respective events (Hammer & Shot-Put)?"
A great opportunity was presented to me the other day when Sean Donnelly, an up-and-coming American hammer thrower, invited people to ask him questions for Q&A he was conducting with fellow thrower Cullen Aubin. For those of you reading, you know I couldn't resist the temptation to ask Sean this question, "What people have contributed most to your post-collegiate success so far?" Thank you Cullen for selecting my question. Thank you Sean for answering. You can find his answer below.
You can find Cullen's Youtube page below.
For the current collegiate and post-collegiate throwers out there, in what ways do you feel your support system has contributed to your throwing success? Are there specific people that assisted you early on in your throwing career that paved the way for you? Do you feel it was the physical environment and location? Have training partners played a role in your success?
Like I mentioned on Sean's Youtube comments, I believe it is important for throwers to share their message's for others to hear. Throwing is a relatively obscure sport, however sharing your why and putting yourself out there can generate a following, or social media support system, that gets behind you and is interested in your throwing success. It's difficult to support someone if you don't know that much about them, what they like and don't like, and do what they do.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share your comments below, on Facebook, or even on Instagram.
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.