Our coaching philosophy is centered on the idea that all athletes have the capability to achieve greatness with the proper guidance and desire. We believe that the process of learning how to master the physical and mental skills required to compete are not only more important to the athlete in the long term than winning, but are actually a prerequisite to success. Through an appreciation of this process, athletes can learn to value failure as much as success, which allows them the freedom to give their very best as they work toward their ultimate goals. As coaches, we strive to create an environment of mutual respect that allows for the self‐improvement of athletes from diverse backgrounds, in all areas of triathlon. Our common purpose is growth through the sport of triathlon and the road to success requires that athletes develop a passion for hard work. We seek to foster that passion by creating a challenging and fun environment that offers the loyalty and camaraderie of teammates, and the guidance and support of coaches that will ultimately benefit all the athletes regardless where their path in life takes them.
Learning to set goals is an important part of the process and coaches work with athletes to help them create and work toward attainable and age appropriate goals. For younger athletes this may be as simple as being able to run without stopping for a specific period of time or completing their first triathlon. Goal setting for older athletes broadens in scope, to cover both short and long term goals while individual goals focus in on more specific goals including some that are quantifiable like making a certain time standard in a benchmark run. As the inherent strengths and weaknesses of each athlete become more apparent through their development, goal setting becomes more individualized; allowing each athlete to define their own success in a way that is meaningful and attainable.
Skill based Training Groups.
From the beginner working to master the freestyle stroke to the high performance athlete trying to qualify for an international event, athletes need to focus their attention on what they are doing to get to their goals rather than the goal itself. To allow them the best opportunity to do that, athletes are divided into training groups based on age, experience, maturity and skills, speed and strength. These training groups are constantly changing based on the specific discipline or skill being addressed as well as the athlete’s progression during the course of the season.
Managing Team Diversity.
While the team is broken up into smaller groups for training activities, there are tremendous benefits to having athletes of different ages, experiences and skill levels as part of the same team. Whether a part of Teens Tri or the High Performance Team, older and experienced athletes can be powerful role models for younger members of the group and those new to the sport. The benefits to the older athletes are just as powerful. As a role models these athletes can fine tune leadership skills, begin to understand how they’re actions affect the larger team dynamic and strengthen their own learning by helping to teach others. Interactions between athletes with diverse backgrounds and training goals strengthens the long term developmental potential for athletes by allowing them to see and be a part of not only their own training experience but that of their team mates, and help the athletes to keep a big picture perspective of their own progress.
From the beginner working to master the freestyle stroke to the high performance athlete trying to qualify for an international event, athletes need to focus their attention on what they are doing to get to their goals, rather than on the goal itself. Having fun WHILE working hard is the best way to do this. Younger athletes require a higher ratio of fun to work, in fact it needs to be nearly ALL fun. As they gain maturity and experience, athletes will begin to see the benefits of the work they do in training and will become more self motivated. This internal motivation will allow them to increase their effort level in practices. Over the long term this allows the athlete see that it was their efforts that led to their successes and failures. This is how an athlete can begin to take ownership of their own training. Below is a diagram outlining age appropriate long term training development of youth athletes.
Break in the Training Progression.
To often in every sport, we see kids who seem to skyrocket to greatness at young ages only to quit or “retire” before most of us even began seriously participating in a sport. Most disturbing is that these kids often leave the sport completely rather than enjoy their accomplishments at a less competitive level. This is not what any of us, parents or coaches, want for our kids, and it us usually the result in a break in the natural progression of training. To avoid this outcome, we must let the progression of training happen at a pace that is appropriate to their development rather than rush ahead (see attached diagram from PHE Canada). This often happens because parents are afraid a child will miss out on an opportunity if they don’t go “all in” at an early age. By letting the athlete progress more organically, they become invested in their own choices and are more committed to their decisions.
The word can be very polarizing, but the bottom line is that we live in a competitive society and there are valuable lessons to be learned from competition that takes place in a principled environment. We are constantly bombarded with examples of competition gone awry, where the underlying principles of teamwork, perseverance, integrity, and honesty, are tossed aside for the sake of a win. For athletes to get the most out of their competitive experience its important for us as parents and coaches to understand that there are all different levels of competition and each has value for the athlete. As athletes develop in the sport, it is important that they are able to choose the level of competition that is right for them. No matter the level of competition, there is value in hard work and exercise. Even the best athletes in the world will eventually have to step out of the competitive limelight and will likely spend the majority of their lives enjoying sport as part of a healthy lifestyle. We need to appreciate that aspect of sport as much as the drive toward greatness.