It is said every four years that the most difficult team to make is the Olympic Men's and Women's United States track & field teams. With only three Olympic spots available per event, more often than not there are more than three athletes that can realistically secure those spots. Specifically, the men's Shot-Put seems to have four or five throwers competing every Olympic year that have a chance to finish in the top 3, as well as be considered a favorite to bring home an Olympic medal. In that particular case, of course throwing far matters most on that specific day, the Olympic Trials.
Closer to home, and arguably the most important meet of the season for local high school athletes, the Section V Indoor track & field state qualifier meet was held this past Friday, February 23rd. The top 12-14 athletes in each field event compete for two automatic spots to represent Section V at the Indoor New York State championship meet. The third place finisher also qualifies as long as they have met the minimum standard. In total, four Forza Athletics throwers competed in the men's shot-put and weight throw, as well as the women's shot-put and weight throw.
I'm proud to say that three of the four Forza Athletics high school throwers secured spots to compete in the New York State Indoor track & field championships on March 3rd in New York City. Setting a new Section V record in the women's weight throw, Webster Thomas sophomore Monique Hardy finished first with a throw of 56'1". Lindsay Johnson, a senior at Rush-Henrietta, finished third with a personal best throw of 44'7". They will both competing in the women's weight throw. Both Monique and Lindsay will also be competing in the women's shot-put. Lindsay finished 2nd, while Monique finished 3rd. Earlier in the season Monique threw the minimum qualifier of 37'7".
Joining his Forza teammates in New York City next weekend, senior thrower from Spencerport High School Drew Palermo will be competing in the men's weight throw and shot-put competitions. Drew finished first in the men's weight throw will a final round throw of 68', while finishing second in the shot-put.
I cannot begin to express how proud I am to say that I have had the wonderful opportunity to coach these athletes this indoor season. We make most of the time we have together each week, maximizing our reps and really dialing in our focus on the smaller puzzle pieces that will assist them in reaching their throwing goals. Our coaching sessions go far beyond just throwing for the sake of throwing. Luis and I spend a great deal of time reviewing throwing videos, implementing plans for our throwers, and most importantly discussing our plans with our throwers. We value the input our throwers give us, especially when it comes to their needs, how they are feeling, and what they think they need to focus on in order to throw farther. Best wishes go out to our throwers and all the throwers competing at the New York State Indoor track & field championships this weekend.
Re-Writing the New York State Female Sophomore Class Weight Throw Record-We'll Leave it in Pencil For Now
Breaking a sports record of any kind, for most, might be the culmination of a wonderful and memorable experience. Chasing the record. The pursuit of excellence. And then, something happens. The record is broken. The chase, the thrill, and the exhilaration are met with a multitude of emotions-exuberance, excitement, and a sense of fulfillment. But then what? If the sole focus of the competition is to break the record, we may feel overcome with joy for a moment, but then what?
A fine balance exists between chasing records and chasing accomplishments. One can accomplish something without breaking a record, but yet the accomplishment and/or goal was accomplished. You can break a record, but not meet your goal. Emotionally, how does one prepare for such a situation?
With the Olympics in full swing, journalists and reporters have been interviewing new and repeat Olympic gold medalist in a multitude of events. A common theme that has emerged, from my perspective, is the satisfaction of winning a gold medal. One reporter interviewed someone about missing out on a chance to break the record, in which the athlete responded with, "The gold medal will be mine forever. Someone will always be able to break the record later." Much can be said with track and field athletes. Most would prefer to win an Olympic gold medal because nobody will ever be able to take that away from them. Breaking a record, well, someone can always do that later.
Webster Thomas Sophomore Monique Hardy with a new Section V and New York State Sophomore class record with a throw 55'3". Video credit to Webster Thomas High School.
As you can see from the video posted above, Webster Thomas High School Sophomore Monique Hardy has once again bettered the Section V and New York State Sophomore Class record in the 20# Weight Throw. I think for most athletes, breaking both records would suffice as having a successful season. Monique, however, is not like most athletes.
The drive, determination, and focus this young lady has is pushing her to heights not reached in New York for over a decade. She is quietly erasing records set many years ago, while keeping her sights set on much more profound opportunities-qualifying for the New York State Indoor Track and Field Championships and traveling to the famous Armory in New York City, to compete in the New Balance High School Track and Field National Championships in March.
The record is nice, however it is merely a by product of chasing a much greater and stoic outcome. For now, we'll leave the record written in pencil, just in case Monique has plans for bettering it while continuing with this monumental season.
The plan was set. The wheels put in motion. We were primed for a fantastic performance. Warm up went well. We were loose. We were ready. We stepped in the circle. Unlike past performances, it just wasn’t there.
When performances do not go as planned, how do we as coaches handle that situation with our athletes? Do you give your athletes time to think about it? Do you engage your athlete(s) immediately after the poor performance?
What are your thoughts?
Have you ever sat down with like-minded individuals for hours and talked about the topics you are most passionate about? When was the last time that happened? What was the topic of conversation? How long did you talk?
Let’s just say it has been a very, very, very long time since I saw the other side of 1am. Usually I don’t see the other side of 11pm, but this weekend was different. This weekend Luis and I traveled to Columbus, OH to compete in the Buckeye Classic. After the competition was completed, Luis and I joined some athletes and coaches for dinner. Once dinner was wrapped up, Luis and I went back to our hotel, got cleaned up, and met with a smaller group of coaches to talk throwing.
As so much as athletes need support systems, coaches benefit from support systems. Support from other coaches. Others to share thoughts, training, programming, and situations with. It is amazing how much time goes by when sitting with like-minded individuals. Our talk consisted of a couple of main ideas:
I could have spent many more hours learning from the other coaches I was with. With the onset and prevalence of social media, it makes learning from individuals very easy-as long as you know how to sort the good info from the better info. However, there is something so much more personal about sitting down with and speaking to others face-to-face.
One coach and I spent about an hour with me talking about the importance of helping your athletes focus on themselves, what they are doing, and how they can get better. This coach and I are about the same age, competed before Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram were invented. We weren’t able to watch or post videos anywhere. In 2018, anyone can post anything they want anytime they want. Anyone, anywhere in the world can view, in this case, throwing videos of others as soon as they are posted. Essentially, we spoke about controlling what you have control over. A thrower in New York cannot control what a thrower in Florida is doing. With the advent of rankings and lists, one can see what others are doing across the country. However, those are just marks. In the chances that the thrower from New York and thrower from Florida compete in the same meet, those marks are just marks. Just as any other meet-what you did before does not mean that is what you will do again.
My biggest takeaway from speaking to many coaches and athletes this weekend was trust. Trusting your coach, trusting your abilities, and trusting yourself that you have prepared the best you can in order to be successful (however you may define your success).
As always, thanks for reading-Charles
The start to the 2017-18 high school Indoor Track & Field season could not have been scripted any better. On Friday, December 8th, 2017, Spencerport senior and Dartmouth bound Drew Palermo broke the Section V 25# men's weight throw record with a massive toss of 68'7". Drew's throw broke the previous Section V record by over 6'. His throw is currently the #1 men's high school 25# weight throw in the United States!
Not to be outdone, Webster Thomas sophomore Monique Hardy broke the Section V 20# women's weight throw record with a throw of 51'.25". Monique's throw is currently the #1 women's 20# weight throw in the United States!
Below you can watch Monique break the Section V 20# weight throw record at the Rochester Institute of Technology on Friday, December 15th, 2017.
Below you can view Drew's Section V 25# weight throw record throw from SUNY Brockport on Friday, December 8th, 2017.
Many throwers in New York State are never exposed to the hammer throw until they attend college and are taught the event for the first time at 18 or 19 years of age. One of my goals with Forza Athletics is to provide high school athletes the opportunity to learn how to throw the hammer in a safe, nurturing, and fun environment (yes nurturing, I'll always be a teacher at heart). Along with the exposure athletes are having in the weight throw thanks to Section V allowing the weight to be contested indoors a couple of years ago, progress is being made in Western, NY.
One local thrower that has taken pretty well to the hammer is Monique Hardy. Monique will be a sophomore at Webster Thomas High School in Webster, NY this 2017-18 school year. She began throwing the weight this year as a freshman, in which she experienced great success. Along with winning the Section V weight throw championship, Monique finished third at New Balance Indoor Nationals with a throw of 48' (top throw in the USA for high school freshmen).
We began working together this past June to see if we could replicate her weight throw success with the hammer. After a couple of weeks of working together, Monique threw at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships held in North Carolina. Throwing in her first hammer competition, Monique fouled out of the competition. With that learning experience under her belt, we began to really focus in on the mental side of throwing as well (the software). With a more efficient routine and strategy in place, Monique experienced success in the Region 2 Junior Olympic qualifying meet held at SUNY Brockport on July 7th.
On this day, Monique took first in her age group (15-16), as well as first overall for all the female athletes competing. Her second round throw of 46.18m broke the New York State Frosh record set 10 years ago. You can read more about her record breaking performance by clicking http://ny.milesplit.com/articles/216287-frosh-hammer-state-record-goes-down-over-the-summer
You watch her record breaking performance below.
Monique will next be competing at the 2017 USA Junior Olympic Championships to be held on Monday, July 24th in Lawrence, Kansas. Best wishes to you Monique as you continue on your throwing journey.
A couple of weeks ago Forza Athletics athlete Savannah Cook competed in her first powerlifting meet. Lifting in the USAPL federation, Savannah totaled 924lbs., qualifying her for the 2017 USAPL Raw National Championships to be held in Orlando later this fall. Soon to come will be a guest blog post from Savannah, but for now you can view her lifting videos below.
If you are interested in throws or powerlifting programming, contact us at email@example.com.
The other day someone asked me about the transition to post-collegiate throwing immediately after graduating from college. It is an interesting question. My current research study with post-collegiate throwers may shed some light on the landscape of throwing at that level, especially since my research question is centered on the notion of why continue throwing.
After some consideration on the topic of transitioning to post-collegiate throwing, below I listed four traits or characteristics I think someone needs to possess in order to make a successful transition into the land of post-collegiate throwing. I would like to add that many more experienced coaches out there may find that different traits are necessary, therefore the list below is from my perspective and only my perspective.
With throwing, much like any other sports, it is rare to find a Phenom that takes the throwing world by storm in a relatively short amount of time. In most cases, specific to throwing, it takes time to develop the skills and traits necessary to be become an elite level thrower. In our case with Luis, he is in his fifth year of throwing. Compared to others who may begin throwing in 7th or 8th grade, Luis is behind the eight ball so to speak. He has exhibited the grittiness it takes in developing into an elite level thrower. He has goals, he is persistent in what he does, and his attention to throwing has not wavered. He could have “retired” after graduating from college last year. It would have been a pretty good career; one national championship and four All-American awards. His persistence to the sport of throwing has provided him with an opportunity to train with some of the best coaches and athletes in the United States. Like Dr. Duckworth clearly states in her Talk at Google, passion and perseverance are necessary in order to maintain focus and attention on a achieving one's long-term goals.
2. A Support System
I wrote an article about support systems a few weeks ago. Support systems make all look a little different, but the idea is that they provide individuals with love, care, guidance, and nurturing tendencies that individuals may not be able to fully provide. For our throwing example, the support system I am referring to is one that allows a thrower to continue pursuing their throwing dreams by providing; coaching, a facility to throw, a place to train and lift in, care, guidance, and other likeminded individuals pursuing similar dreams and goals. All are important.
As a post-collegiate thrower, if you are not able to secure a location a throw at, whether indoors or outdoors, it may make the dream to little more difficult to chase. Finding a group of likeminded individuals may be difficult to come by as well. If you are not one of the few individuals invited to train at the one of the Olympic Training Centers or one of the fewer individuals to receive grant monies in order to train, then the dream may be a little more difficult to come by. In Luis’ case, his training group is small. Just one other person in our small geographic area has dreams of continuing with her throwing career. Savannah and Luis working together has equally benefitted both of them. The camaraderie of having someone else to train with, throw with, and compete with has been a great asset to our training group.
Coaching is just as an important ingredient to the success of an elite post-collegiate thrower. With social media as large as it has got over the course of the past couple of years, people from around the world can instantly share just about anything in a matter of seconds. Virtual coaching is an avenue someone can pursue if they have a place to train, a group of people to train with, and a phone or camera. Moving someplace to train with a world-renowned coach may be difficult for most people to come by. However, reaching out to a coach and asking for assistance can’t hurt. You may never know the answer unless you are willing to ask the question.
3. Deliberate Practice
Anders Ericsson has spent the better part of his career focused on research about meaningful or deliberate practice. Not just showing up and going through the motions because you have to. What Anders, Angela, and Dan Chambliss have all written about is the time spent really focusing on a specific detail you are to a larger concept you may be trying to grasp. For example, in Anders’ latest book called Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise, he writes about a student learning to play a new piece of music, and then playing that musical number for her teacher. After the student is done playing the music, the teacher asks her how much time was spent playing the piece. The student shares with their teacher that they spent a lot of time practicing the musical piece from start to finish. The teacher follows up with asking how many times was the piece practiced correctly from start to finish. The student replies with a couple. Even though the student spent hours and hours practicing, they were just going through the motions, not necessarily being deliberate about what they were doing. Just playing individual notes as opposed to playing a musical number.
The same can be said about throwing, writing, and just about anything else. Something I really tried to emphasize last year with my group of throwers was to really encourage them to focus and be deliberate about what they were going to think about or work on with the next throw. Each thrower is unique, so a cookie-cutter approach to common terms like ‘maintain posture’ or ‘turn-faster’ was not going to be meaningful or efficient. Similar to someone learning a to play the piano, it takes time to gain the necessary where-with-all to know what you are doing and then be cognizant of what you are doing, and to finally be deliberate.
In respects to throwing, a non-deliberate style and methodology may look like this (I am certainly guilty of having coached like this in the past). This is an example of focusing on one specific phase of throwing the hammer:
Not an efficient way to spend your time practicing. Not an emphasis on anything specific. Let’s just get our throws in for the day.
A more deliberate style practice may look like this:
4. Ability to Self-Assess and Reflect
Anything worth pursuing and accomplishing takes time. Assessing the path to get reach that specific goal is a trait that has generated some momentum in empirical research. Being able to reflect upon where you were, where you are, and where you want to be (Thank you Jim Valvano). The self-assessment process may be difficult for some people to grasp. In those instances, people may reach out to a ‘life coach’ to gain a better perspective on how things are going.
For throwing, something that I have encouraged all my athletes to do is keep a detailed journal of their lifting and throwing practices. I have heard from and spoke to many Olympic Games participants that could not stress enough the importance of keeping detailed training journals for the purpose of being able to go back and see what may have worked, what didn’t work, and how those training sessions affected meet day performances. Knowing when to stay the course or veer off the course is a skill difficult to master without some type of previous experience or background knowledge. Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results I believe is the definition of insanity. Knowing when to step back and evaluate the situation can save you a lot of time, energy, and undue stress while reviewing the big picture goals of what you are trying to accomplish.
For all the coaches who have experience coaching post-collegiate throwers, what other traits would you add to this list? Would you remove any traits from this list? Tell us more about your experiences in coaching post-collegiate throwers.
My best ~ Charles
We didn't have perfect weather on Sunday May 7, 2017, however it did not discourage our throwers and coaches from putting on a fantastic hammer clinic. In total five local hammer throwers, two parents, and one coach braved through the cold and wet conditions.
The focus of our clinic was to educate young high school throwers on proper warm-up techniques, introduce drills specific to the hammer, and of course throw the hammer. Although the hammer is not a contested event in Western, NY, the indoor weight is, it was still a great opportunity to have some fun and watch the hammer fly.
Below you will find some highlights from our hammer throwing camp.
If you are interested in attending a future clinic, or if you would like our Forza Athletics throwing team to come to your school to host a clinic, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thanks for reading~Charles
Dr. Charles Infurna is the owner of Forza Athletics, a throwing club that supports and mentors high school, collegiate, & post-collegiate throwers.