Over the course of the past couple of weeks I have reconnected with a former athlete that I coached at SUNY Fredonia. He is now a throwing coach at a prominent Division II program in Texas. We have been sharing thoughts about training, how to coach certain athletes, goal-setting, and support systems.
He recently visited one of our practices, and spent a great deal of time with a couple of athletes. It is amazing what a second set of eyes will do. He made one very important suggestion to the athletes, worded in a different way than I have suggested to them. It was like watching the light bulb go off above their heads! The mood in practice changed for the better. All of a sudden turns got smoother and releases more aggressive. The simple suggestion was, "Keep your right foot down as long as possible and push the weight as hard as you can." For more experienced throwers, it may sound a lot more simple than just pushing hard after your winds or sling start. Once an athlete is able to understand this concept, the sky is the limit.
After practice was done, our special guest granted me the best compliment an athlete has ever given me. He told my athletes that if it wasn't for my persistence with him back at SUNY Fredonia ten years ago, he wouldn't be the person or coach he is now. He went onto discuss the support system and guidance I provided after graduation that made the lasting impression on his life. It was my trip to Ashland in January, 2005 that I credit towards that comment. What I witnessed during that trip was nothing short of a well established support system for athletes in the mist of pursuing their dreams-the 2008 Olympic Games.
The model I wanted to replicate back at Fredonia was that of what I observed in Ashland. Rather than just coach, I wanted to and still want to help my athletes with whatever I am able to assist with within NCAA guidelines and regulations. That is the piece of my college career and post-collegiate career I feel I missed out on. When I was a student-athlete at Fredonia, we practiced a couple of times a week, and that was pretty much about it. Very rarely, if ever, did my throwing coach ask about anything else besides throwing related stuff. My senior year was a 100% better than what it was from my freshmen to junior year.
I was fortunate enough to be coaching by an Olympic caliber athlete my senior year. Although the event of choice was the long jump/triple jump, the conversation always stemmed towards what the goal of the week/month was, and were we doing things necessary to accomplish those goals. We doubled our practice time, but spent less time actually talking about throwing. It was my most successful collegiate season. I broke into the Top Ten All-Time in the 35lb. Weight Throw and Hammer Throw. I won my only SUNYAC Championship in the Hammer in April, 2004. I attest my success to the guidance Coach Barr provided me. It was always about the bigger picture, life lessons, and his personal experiences.
To be continued in a later post.
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As we make our push towards the season opener at RIT on Thursday, December 10th, I'm consistently reminding myself and Taylor that this is simply the opening meet of the 2015-2016 season. Due to the time constraints of the meet, every athlete will be receiving four throws. The mindset of the athlete doesn't need to change in regards to competing, but at this stage in Taylor's young career she will be able to compete the same nonetheless.
We seeded Taylor at a comfortable distance to insure she will be throwing in the highest seeded flight. The game plan is simple; 1) Smile, and 2) Have fun.
Above you will find three screen shots from this weeks throwing. Rather than transition to the sling start and three heel turns, Taylor will be sticking with the wind and three turns. Comfort is key in throwing. Whatever feels most comfortable to her is what I support one hundred percent. We don't know how far her throws are going, but based on the velocity the weight hits the curtain, I'm confident in the fact Taylor will exceed her expectations at RIT. With her parents coming to watch her throw, the little extra support will lead to big things happening.
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The 2006-2007 Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field seasons treated me pretty well! The video above captures the opening meet of the indoor season. I always enjoyed opening the season at Cornell. A nice facility with fantastic competition from Western and Central New York.
I had a major breakthrough at this meet. It was my first meet over the 18m in New York State. Let me explain. After graduating from SUNY Fredonia, I stayed on as an Assistant Track & Field coach, working with the throwers. Our seasons always opened up at Kent State, located in Ohio. For about four years, I always hit my season best and or personal best throws at the Kent State opener. A couple of factors may play into that; 1) The best competitions I was a part of were usually held here (In December of 2005 I threw against the Ashland University throwers, along with Kibwe Johnson and AG Kruger). If you didn't bring your 'A' game, a 19m throw would not make the finals most years, and 2) I always felt the freshest at those opening meets. I didn't really bring high expectations of myself at these season opening competitions. I looked at my performances as rewards for the hard work I had put in leading up to them.
I came into this meet with a personal best of just over 60', from the previous season's opener at Kent State. On this day, however, I ran into a buzz saw that was Jesse Doty. Jesse, a graduate of SUNY Brockport, was and still is an accomplished weight/hammer thrower. He threw at the 2008 Olympic Trials, and also finished in the top 5 a couple of years at the USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships. His personal best weight throw is over 22m. His best hammer throw is over 70m. He got the most out of the gifts and skills granted to him.
Jesse threw a mark to qualify for the USATF Indoor Track and Field Championships at this competition. I do not remember how far he actually threw, but it was well over the 20m. I threw well, good enough for 2nd place, just under the USATF qualifying weight throw mark of 19.80m.
If you look closely, I have a fairly popular saying on my homemade shirt. Regardless of the competition I threw against, I always felt comfortable with my abilities and knew what I was capable of. It took me a long time to come to the realization that I should be competing against the tape, and not my competition. It is difficult to turn those emotions off. That maybe why I always felt more relaxed at these opening competitions. It wasn't until after this 2006-2007 season that I started enjoying myself more at competitions.
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After completing our first week of indoor practice, I find myself enthusiastic about the upcoming 2015-2016 season. Although we have only practiced with the weight three times, Taylor has showed much growth in her delivery.
Open to constructive feedback, Taylor has undergone a weight throw transformation. Not being a slouch in the weight last season, Taylor was a top 15 DIII weight thrower. She also finished 9th at the DIII Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Rather than continue with a two-turn grip it and rip it style of technique, we are transitioning to a sling start three turn throw. The video above shows Taylor's progression from our first weight practice (right video) taken in October to our practice this past Thursday. Third time throwing the weight this season, and I think we may be onto something special. We certainly need to increase our speed throughout the throw, but once we nail down the entry into the first turn, special things will happen.
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I have had the great honor to have spent the past two months coaching Taylor Youngkrans. In that time, we have spent our time increasing her wind speed and third turn speed. The video above shows Taylor's progression. The throw on the left is from this past Thursday. The throw on the right is from seven weeks ago. The different may look subtle, but it has added a great deal of confidence to her throws.
This will be the last week we throw outside. We'll get a mock meet in on Saturday afternoon to gauge where we are before we transition to the weight. Beginning next week we'll start throwing the 20lb. weight.
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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.