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.
Thanks for reading!
Charles Infurna, Ed.D. is the owner of Forza Athletics, a throwing club that supports and mentors high school, collegiate, & post-collegiate throwers. Dr. Infurna currently coaches DIII National Champion Luis Rivera and Savannah Cook.