Welcome to The Forza Athletics Life & Coaching Podcast! The purpose of this podcast will be to share my thoughts and experiences about coaching high school, collegiate, and post-collegiate throwers. I’ll be discussing research based ideas as well as my personal thoughts about various topics, including but not limited to; coaching, routines, rituals, coach/life balance, motivation, preparation, and self-efficacy.
Where to listen
Season 2020 - Episode 12 Do You Really Want to be Great?
We came back for a second interview with Highland Games professional thrower Matt Hand. Matt is a graduate of SUNY Brockport that has made a successful transition to the world of Highland Games.
In this episode Matt and I discuss:
Nutrition for Highland competitors,
Meet preparation, and;
How the Corona virus has impacted his season and that other Highland athletes
This past weekend I attended a Division III track & field meet at Nazareth College. While I was sitting in the bleachers, two coaches standing in front of me had this conversation:
Coach 1-How was conference last week?
Coach 2-Not that good. We should have won, but didn't.
Coach 1-What happened?
Coach 2-Our best athlete didn't perform as well as he should have. His girlfriend of 7 years broke up with him the week before and he didn't compete well.
Coach 2-Yeah, he competed really (insert four letter word here). I didn't find out about his girlfriend breaking up with him until after the meet.
For all the coaches out there, should this particular athlete's heartache affect his athletic performance? If you were his coach, how would you have handled this. First, as this athlete's coach, do you think you should have been aware of this situation ahead of time? Second, how would you have handled the situation if you learned about it before the conference championships? Learning about this after the conference meet was over, would you approach the athlete and engage him in a conversation about this situation?
In this episode I continue to conversation from last week about re-evaluating expectations and the work it truly takes in order to move forward in a positive manner throughout your throwing journey.
I do want to revisit this topic again because I think it is important to provide coaches out there with some strategies and tools they can implement when encountering situations like this. First off, I’d like to share some feedback I received when I was working on a project a couple of years ago.
The scope of my project was to ask post-collegiate throwers why they continued throwing after graduating from college. I was really fortunate to interview three American Olympians for the project. I cannot share their names or the events they competed in because it would give away their anonymity (and would show poor ethics on my part).
While I was conducting the interviews, I asked everyone the same follow-up question about how much time each individual spent training per week and season. When I interviewed the Olympians, I asked them how much time they spent training for the respective event per Olympic quad.
In re-evaluating expectations after break with my athletes, I would; 1) review their goals with them, 2) develop an action plan with them on how to get back on track, 3) input accountability metrics along the way, and 4) share with them that at least for the first couple of meets (usually through the beginning of February) to focus on the process of getting back into throwing shape and not stress or feel anxious about the distances they thought they should be throwing at this point in the season and weren’t.
Last week I got a swim session in at the local YMCA with my dad. After my swim, I sat down in the sauna. There was a gentleman sitting there. After a few moments we started talking about training, life, and inspiration. I usually get anxious after sitting in the sauna at around the 30 minute mark, but on this day the time was flying by. Before he left the sauna, he asked me what gave me the inspiration to train as much as I do at my age. Earlier in the conversation I told him I was going to turn 38 in February and that I had three little boys. I said to him, “What inspires me to train as much as I do?” He said, “Yes.” Without hesitation I told him about my friend Adriane (Blewitt) Wilson.
In this week's episode I thought it would be fitting to discuss the summer of 2004. I had just graduated from college, was enrolled in graduate school, and I was beginning my teaching career that fall. With all the positive opportunities in my life at that time, I reflect back on how fearful and apprehensive I was to follow my dreams. Rather than try to continue pursing my passion of throwing, I reluctantly made the decisions that everyone in my life expected of me, and here we are almost 16 years later.
This episode shares my early post-collegiate throwing story, how I got there, but more importantly where I really wanted to go. Sitting here now and looking back to that summer, I wish I wasn't as fearful and scared to follow my dream.
As a coach at Forza Athletics for the past three years, I can honestly say that I have been truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to work with such an outstanding group of post-collegiate and high-school throwers! This past year saw our athletes grow by leaps and bounds in the circle. It marked the 3rd year in a row we have had a thrower accept a Division I scholarship and the 2nd year in a row we have had a male thrower in New York State join the 70' weight and 50' shot-put club during a season. This year William was able to accomplish the feat in the same meet. On the women's high school side, Monique Hardy won the 2019 New Balance Indoor National Championship in the 20lb. weight throw with a distance of 64'7", moving her up to 6th all-time among high school female throwers and 2nd all-time in New York State. I appreciate everyone that has taken the time to engage with me here on social media. It means a lot to mean that you have taken the time to watch a video, leave a comment here and on Instagram, and engage with our Forza Friday series. I hope that the content shared with everyone is helpful, meaningful, but most importantly that you are able to apply the concepts, thoughts, and ideas discussed within your own throwing world. Thank you!
I asked our social media friends on Tuesday if they had any ideas about podcast episodes. I received two great ideas from a graduate assistant throwing coach in the Mid-West. Her first question was about making the transition to post-collegiate throwing. In this episode, I discuss three facets I think are important when making a successful transition to post-collegiate throwing.
1. Why do you want to continue throwing post-collegiately
2. What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to achieve your goal(s)
3. Do you have a support system that is as enthusiastic about you achieving your goal(s) as you are
Thank you Liz and Sean for asking great questions yesterday that I could answer on today's episode about goal setting.
Liz's question was-What's a process that actually works? SMART seems superficial/not always helpful
Sean asked-When looking long term, how many short term goals are necessary to achieve your long term goal
I tried my best to answer these two questions by reviewing what the SMART goal template looks like, the process I've incorporated with my collegiate and post-collegiate athletes, how I'm planning my half ironman training, and how focus plays a key factor in achieving your goals.
I've written about goal setting before. You can click the following link to read more about how I've incorporated Lou Holtz's process with my collegiate athletes https://www.forzathletics.com/docs-thoughts/a-letter-to-my-collegiate-athletes
I've also incorporated Jon Gordon's message about telescopes and microscopes as well. You can read more about that by clicking here
In this brief episode I ramble about coaching, expectations and professional goals for the upcoming year. If you haven't had the chance to read Jon Gordon's book One Word, you can purchase his book by clicking this link
You read other articles I've written about being focused by clicking here and here
You can learn more about Forza Athletics by visiting www.forzathletics.com
Use code "throw" to save on my latest book Thrower: Propelling Towards Greatness - 2nd Edition
You can purchase the pdf version by clicking here
We began this season by looking at our vision as a coach, why we coach, and how we want to be remembered. Looking at Episode 3, the focus was on the end of our career's. In this episode, I wanted to spend some time discussing how to develop your coaching philosophy. Our philosophy will change a little bit as we move along with our coaching journey, but some of our core values will remain the same.
My philosophy is to illuminate a path for my athlete's that helps them achieve their goals. I'm ashamed to say that it wasn't always as such. When I first began coaching my philosophy was "coach-centered". I was more concerned with what my peers would think of me and how far my athletes threw. That was pretty much it. As I have traveled along in my coaching journey, I've had a paradigm shift in the way I coach. My focus is now "athlete-centered". I provide my athletes a lot of autonomy in regards to their training, goals, meet selection, etc. When I first began coaching, I didn't feel comfortable with athlete input. Now I thrive upon learning more about myself as a coach and most importantly what my athletes think and how I can better coach my athletes throughout the course of a season and their careers!
What is your coaching philosophy? Has it changed since you began coaching? Why or why not?
It probably isn't something we think about often, but do you ever wonder what people will say about you at your 80th birthday party? Or, has the thought of what will people say about me at my funeral come across your mind? If you answered no, you are probably in the majority. I'm not sure how many people think about these two questions on a daily or even regular basis, but I think about it quite often.
In one of my doctorate courses we were asked to present our future legacy to the class. We were instructed to think about the two questions above, and to provide examples of how we think we had left or would leave our legacy. We had 30 minutes to give our presentation. It was a surreal presentation to say the least. My presentation was filled with tears. Not of sadness, but of joy. I asked four former athletes to send me a 30 second video explaining to the class the legacy they think I left upon them. I didn't watch the video's until class that night. It was a big chance, but I wanted my expression to be genuine. I think we all do, don't we?
My homework for those of you that listened to this episode. On a 3x5 index card, write down what you think your coaching legacy will be. Be as detailed as possible. Second, after you have written down your legacy thoughts, under each one provide an example or two that suggests you might really be left with this legacy. This is your opportunity to share all the good things you perceive to have done during your time as a coach. You don't need to show anyone anything, but be honest with yourself. How do you think people will remember you? They may forget all about the awards and championships, but I'm positive they won't forget how you made them feel.
In our first episode of Season 2020 I discussed what it means to find your purpose, North Star, or why. There are many terms used by many different social influencers out there, so you can decipher for yourself which term you most prefer.
When you understand your purpose for doing what you do, it'll make doing your What so much more rewarding for you. In my example, my purpose is to propel athletes into leaving their positive mark on the world. I am able to guide and mentor athletes by meeting them at speaking engagements, via social media (on-line coaching), and in person coaching.
My what is the coaching itself! It is one of the most rewarding experiences I get to enjoy everyday. I don't consider coaching a job. It is a passion of mine that I have had for a very long time. In some cases, the two hours I spend coaching my collegiate and high school athletes is the best part of my day (on-top of the time I get to spend with my family at home).
Now the question is up to you, how does your passion and why fuel your what? If those two elements don't line up, what can you do about that? In this episode I provide some tips and suggestions for you that are easily transferable to other parts of your life besides just coaching and working with high school, collegiate, and post-collegiate athletes.
If you are a coach or athlete, deep down we all have a reason or purpose for doing the things we do. Some may be fueled by external validation or acknowledgement. Others may coach or compete for the love of it. All of us have a reason why we do what we do. What is your why? Why do you coach? Why do you compete?
It has been quite a long time since I last recorded a podcast! What better way to come back into the fold by sharing some information about the release of my second book Thrower: Propelling Towards Greatness - 2nd Edition. I've included two traits in this edition that really provide some perspective on what it really means to take your throwing to the next level; being able to seize the moment and what it means to be mentally tough. Proceeds from book purchases help support our post-collegiate throwers making the push to qualify for and compete in the 2020 Olympic Trials. You can purchase your copy by clicking the following link https://www.forzathletics.com/store/p27/Thrower%3A_Propelling_Towards_Greatness_2nd_Edition_%28PDF_Version%29.html
Mel Herl is a 2x Division II National Champion and multiple time All-American. Not only is she a decorated thrower, but an exceptional Olympic weightlifter as well. In our 3rd interview, Mel discussed;
1. Her late start to throwing at the high school level
2. The transition to collegiate throwing at the Division II level
3. How the relationship with her coach played a role in her throwing performance(s)
4. Graduating from college and figuring out what to do next
5. Throwing at the USA Indoor and Outdoor National Championships
6. Making the transition to post-collegiate throwing
7. Finding a new coach
8. Trying Olympic weightlifting
9. Moving across the country multiple times
10. Making the transition to coaching, and;
11. Advice for post-collegiate athletes
I had the honor to spend some time discussing throwing, training, and the work/life balance with Highland Games Professional Thrower Matt Hand. Matt has been involved with the Highland Games for over 15 years. In this episode he discusses how he got into throwing, training at two different colleges, making the transition to the Highland Games, turning pro, competing around the world, while balancing everything will a full-time job. Matt lives in Corning, NY, and offers coaching and clinics throughout the year. You can contact Matt directly through social media on Twitter and Instagram @MattHandThrows. Even though I've known Matt for a very long time, I learned some new things today about him, how he plans his programming, and what he 5-15 year plan is for growing the Highland Games.
I had the great pleasure and honor to spend some time speaking with Sean Foulkes. He is an amazing throwing coach at Portage Northern High School located in Michigan. In his brief time there, he has coached a multitude of great shot-put, discus, hammer, and weight throwers.
In this episode we spend some time discussing how he got into coaching, what it's like to coach 30-40 throwers in one session, bringing kids together, culture, buy-in, and his coaching philosophy. I learned a lot from Sean. I know you will as well!
I had the opportunity to speak to student-athletes at SUNY Fredonia on Sunday, February 17th. During my presentation, one of the students asked me a question about how I had got to where I was in my professional life. I thought for a moment, and it ultimately came down to one decision I made while I was in graduate school. I received a phone call while I was working from our then current athletic director at SUNY Fredonia. The decision I made on the phone with him has led me to where I am today. Be sure to listen and find out what that decision was.
Everyone once in awhile I'll get asked by another coach how we 'do' things at Nazareth College. Up until a couple of years ago, I never gave that much thought. Unfortunately, I didn't realize the importance of having a strong team culture was until we didn't have one.
Looking for a fresh start with my group of throwers this season, I wrote them all a letter in July. In that letter, I asked them to think about three things:
1. What their expectations of themselves were going to be for the season
2. What their expectations of me as their coach were, and;
3. What their expectations of their teammates were going to be
Those three questions helped establish our team's culture. Take a listen as I go into much more detail about our three questions and how they have helped shape the group of throwers we have at Nazareth College.
In this episode of the Forza Athletics Life & Coaching podcast I share my thoughts of what our throwers expect to learn and be able to do by our first meet in December. At practice yesterday I asked each thrower to share their thoughts about what they hope to be able to do by our first meet, which is on December 6th. Not one thrower made reference to a specific distance they wanted to throw. This is a proud coach moment for me because in the past athletes would solely focus on outcomes, rather than process. A common theme that my throwers shared was about developing a pre-meet routine that would help them stay more focused and in the moment. I share some tips that I shared with my throwers yesterday.
In this episode, I discuss deliberate practice. You may have heard the term in the past, but do you really know what it means?
In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth goes into great detail sharing her research about the topic and how it can be applied to pretty much any endeavor you wish to get more proficient in.
The cycle of deliberate practice has four steps. They are:
1. Set a goal
2. Put forth 100% focus on that goal
3. Get feedback from your coach, and;
4. Implement that feedback until you reach your goal
It sounds pretty simple, but how often do we as coaches give our athletes 101 cues or things to focus on during a throw? I've been guilty of that in the past as well. What Angela's research suggests is that focusing on one thing at a time will help us achieve our goals sooner and more efficiently.
It is important for coaches and athletes to spend time and discuss individual goals, specific things to focus on during practice, and how we can become more efficient throwers. Spending time on one aspect of the throw at a time will help us get there faster than worrying about 10 facets of the throw at a time.
In episode 22 of the Forza Athletics Life and Coaching Podcast I review the 4 yearly expectations I discuss with my collegiate throwers to ensure us the best possible opportunity to have a safe, successful, and rewarding season.
The 4 expectations I review with my throwers on a daily/weekly basis are:
1. Everyone will give their best effort everyday
2. We will support each other throughout the season
3. Hold yourself and your teammates accountable, and;
4. Always represent yourself and Nazareth College with respect and dignity (Do what is right, avoid what is wrong – Lou Holtz)
As a whole track & field program at Nazareth, we have 9 team expectations that we discuss with all of our athletes at the beginning of the season. We revert back to our team expectations if as a coaching staff we feel someone is not meeting them. I focus on the 4 above because I feel those are the one's that have the most direct relationship with throwing.
In this episode of the Forza Athletics Life and Coaching Podcast I discuss a few ways coaches can better involve athletes in the yearly goal-setting process. Engagement is paramount. As coaches, we need to be able to engage our athletes, especially in long track & field seasons. It's important for us to engage our athletes as best we can to give them ownership in the yearly process.
In this episode of our podcast, I review the contents of my latest book release-Thrower: Propelling Towards Greatness. My intention behind this book is to help coaches and athletes bridge the gap between goals, accountability, and expectations.
For coaches, this book will assist you in creating a culture and environment that will provide your athletes the best opportunity to be successful. You will be able to better communicate and engage your athletes in devising plans that will propel them towards realizing their vision(s). Athletes, this book will help you be more accountable to your commitments and vision. Everyone wants to throw far, but what are you willing to do and sacrifice in order to reach your goals. This book will act as a guide that you will be able to follow throughout this season, and be able to reflect back on in the future.
I provide a recap of the:
2. 7 Traits and Activities
3. Practice Log, and;
4. Competition Journey
You can purchase a copy of Thrower by visiting www.forzathletics.com.
On our latest episode, I introduce the first trait that the best of the best throwers possess - a vision. They have a vision and plan set out for themselves. In some instances, the vision may be to accomplish a shorter-term goal, like qualify for a conference championship.
For others, however, the vision may be to one day become a national champion. When we are able to see see or visualize where we want to be in one, five, or ten years, we are then able to define our commitments and how we will hold ourselves accountable to achieving that goal and realizing our vision. A vision without a plan to get there is still just a vision.
Over the course of the next few weeks I'm going to spend more time discussing my thoughts about what it takes to be a great thrower. I'm going to be speaking from my experiences as a coach and what I've learned from Olympic throwers, their coaches, and their support systems.
In this episode I ask the question, what makes great throwers?
As with any new season, coaches and athletes alike are filled with hope, new goals, and expectations. In this episode I discuss how coaches and athletes need to hold each other accountable to their expectations.
In this brief episode, I speak about the notion of cultivating athletes at the collegiate level. When selecting a college to attend, one of the topics worth looking into would be how much better do athletes get while enrolled at that college. Are coaches developing athletes and making them considerably better, or are they maintaining those athletes?