“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?
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.