Monday, April 1, 2013

An open letter to the young triathlon coach...


Like the rest of the world, the coaching profession (and in particular, triathlon coaching) has been going through a rapid period of dilution. I will write more on this subject at a later date, but for now, I just wanted to offer a couple of thoughts.

Chances are you have never heard of Malcolm Brown. Or Ben Bright. Or Jamie Turner. Not because they’re not good; in fact, they’re three of the best and most successful triathlon coaches in the industry. You haven’t heard of these guys because they’re too busy being triathlon coaches - not writers.

To me, it seems there are three types of industry professionals:

1. The on-line gurus, who enjoy excellent reputations, write a ton of stuff, but don’t really have a lot of ‘in the trenches’ work in high-performance sport. If you’re writing a couple of thousand words a day, when can you possibly have time to coach?

2. The ‘in the trenches’ guys, who spend their time working with athletes, and learning how to do this better.

3. A combination of the two.

The first group of guys is what annoys me a little about this industry right now. Because these are the dudes that people are reading, and ‘learning’ from. I’ve worked in high-performance sport for one decade, and it was only until the last couple of years where I have begun to have close to the time needed to begin to write down my thoughts. My time in my coaching career has been spent, well...coaching.
The guys in the first group are well-known, so I won’t bother naming anyone here, and I’m not sure that I really blame them anyway. They’re just trying to make a living, right?

hmmm...

...I’m not really sure this is the way one should do it. I really feel that you should build your reputation doing what it is that you are actually supposed to be doing. i.e. if you’re a chef, you should develop your reputation by cooking good food that people really enjoy. My reputation in this industry (good, bad, or indifferent) has been built by what I have done - coaching. My ten years of coaching athletes. What they have said to others. How they have competed. How many medals they have won. By regular discussions with fellow coaches.



My reputation as a COACH should NOT be based on how and what I write.
The on-line gurus have - with almost no exceptions - built their reputations while punching away at a keyboard from behind a computer screen. I’m not saying that many of them are not excellent coaches - I’m sure that some are. But how do we know?

In what other industry is this present? Do we judge a doctor by playing him 1 on 1 on the basketball court?

The third group - I have no problem with. Normally, these are the dudes that have put in their time. Have had successful coaching careers, and perhaps want to spread their message a little. Maybe leave a legacy for others (a good example here would be Vern Gambetta - legendary coach - who developed his reputation actually coaching - and is now spending more of his time writing; passing on his knowledge to guys like me). Or perhaps they are guys in mid-career, and are combining the two. This is difficult, but has been done successfully by a few.

So my take-home is this...

Instead of blindly following whoever happens to be popular on Lava magazine at the moment, read some studies.

Read the classics.

Talk to successful coaches.

Ask them why they do what they do. Who have they learned from? Go to sport science conferences, and ask why....not what.

Constantly try your ideas on yourself, and whoever else you can talk into your wackiness. Find some athletes to coach. Don’t be afraid to experiment. A little.

And please...don’t worry about your ‘brand’. Your ‘image’.

Do good work. Add value.
...and build your reputation with integrity.


IMPORTANT NOTE: This was a great write-up. I didn't write it, though. The original was written by Stuart McMillan and it relates to strength and conditioning coaches. Full credit to him for nailing the current state of coaching. Don't forget to visit his blog, great stuff there:

McMillanSpeed.com

Friday, December 21, 2012

The REAL Top-10 Most Influential People in Triathlon

When I saw Inside Triathlon's list of the top-10 most influential people in triathlon I was first amused, then surprised, then shocked and finally angered. Even if I am aware of how these "pay-for-play" outlets operate, it was disturbing to see an image of the sport that absolutely does not correspond to reality.

Reflecting some comments I saw on twitter from others, I got together with Joel Filliol and we came up with a list of the most influential people in Triathlon. These are people that are trend-setters and are truly moving our sport forward.



1 - Brownlee brothers

The Brownlee brothers are the biggest trend-setters in our sport. The whole sport follows, both literally and figuratively, every move they make.


2 - Brett Sutton

Always controversial, always divisive, but there's no way of going around the fact that when it comes to triathlon coaching, he's the biggest figure around.


3 - Chris McCormack

Even if Macca's level of results have somewhat leveled off in the last couple of years, the whole sport keeps hanging on almost every word Macca says.


4 - Bobby Behan

Specialized brought a level of athlete sponsorship to triathlon that was not present before. They dominated the landscape through a wise choice of what athletes and events they sponsor, and Bobby Behan was the man behind this strategy.


5 - Lisa Norden

On top of consistently being one of the top athletes in the past few years, Lisa Norden is also a great personality not only in her home country of Sweden, but also around the triathlon world.


6 - Javier Gomez

A huge personality in our sport. Extremely versatile and a reference to everyone for almost a decade now.


7 - Darren Smith

In a working environment that is extremely hostile towards private contractors, Coach Smith's results with a multitude of female athletes marked his presence as one of the best coaches in our sport.


8 - Robert PĆ¼stow

This mention goes towards the WTS Event Director, but it could go to everyone that worked towards making the WTS a premier international race series.


9 - Felix Walchschofer

The CEO of Challenge has been around for a while and continues to help build and develop our sport in a positive way.


10 - Andrew Messick

WTC's CEO has had a lot of difficult decisions to make in the past year, and some of them proved to be the right ones. Even if WTC continues to push their own agenda of developing their brand, which sometimes is not the same as developing our sport, the CEO for WTC remains an influential figure.



Honorable mention: Leanda Cave.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Call to Action 2013

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of The Triathlon Squad before. That’s because in the past two years, The Triathlon Squad has established itself as the premier high performance training environment in North America.

We’ve been very successful these past couple of years. We, the athletes and I, were able to create a fantastic training environment, which was the basis for the good level of results achieved. Each and every one of the athletes in the Squad developed at what I consider an excellent rate by high performance standards.

For this Call to Action, we’re looking for new athletes that are ready to step-up their commitment to being excellent. We’re looking for two kinds of athletes:
- Those who want to represent their country at the Olympic Games.
- Those who want to win an Ironman.

We’re looking for a minimum commitment of two years. I consider 2 years as the minimum time for both athlete and coach to have a clear picture of where they are and what can be achieved. The Squad is an “all-in” endeavor. The athletes are all-in and I am all-in. Everything we do in the Squad is performance-oriented. Every action, every decision, we ask “how is this helping us win?”

The Squad is based on commitment. My commitment to offer world-class coaching, and the athletes’ commitment to achieve their world-class goals. Words like commitment are nice words, words that you can find in any self-help book. But few of us realize what they really mean because few of us have an idea of what commitment really means. In a society where everything is served to us on a platter, everyone has an increasing difficulty in understanding the real meaning of commitment. And that means that few of us have what it takes. How do you know if you have what it takes? It is quite simple: You go through the process. You put the work in. You commit. And the product of your commitment will answer the question.

The core values of the Squad are:
- Commitment to excellence, fair play and clean sport
- Integrity, loyalty and honesty
- Long-term approach to high performance
- Stability of methods and technical approaches

The Squad operates mainly in North America, with a permanent base in San Diego, CA. In addition to the work done at the Squad’s base, the Triathlon Squad will have training camps outside San Diego. Locations for training camps will not be decided by lifestyle considerations, but on what is the best training environment for the athletes to work. The Squad has distinguished itself for being an extremely flexible structure, totally focused on what is the best environment for the athletes, and will continue to work with that philosophy.

Selection for the Squad will be composed of two phases:
Phase 1 – Application to join the Squad (October 2012).
Phase 2 – Evaluation after attending a trial training camp (November 2012).

Applications for Phase 1 are open until October 26th, 2012. Just send an email to pstriathlon@gmail.com with your resume and a statement on your motivation to join the Squad. All athletes applying to the Squad will receive a reply, stating their acceptance or not into the Squad.

The athletes selected for Phase 2 will be announced before November 15th. Those athletes will attend a two-week training camp in San Diego, CA in November 2012. At the camp, the athletes will be evaluated as to their potential to be part of the Squad in 2013 and beyond.

If you have any questions regarding the Squad, please don’t hesitate to contact me at pstriathlon@gmail.com

Yours in Triathlon,

Paulo

Monday, January 9, 2012

Practice makes perfect

We've heard it before: Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent. And for most people, this evokes images of a person doing something wrong over and over again to the point that the wrong skill is ingrained and it can't be changed. With this model for learning, unless you have perfected the movement beforehand, you cannot go on to repeat it. This means that event-specific endurance can't be built before perfect technique is learned. This model also tells you that technique does not change with repetition, meaning that an athlete goes through repetition of the movement essentially like a robot.

What this model leaves out is one important aspect of all biological systems: adaptation to stimulus. While a particular movement is being performed and repeated, changes of technique do occur. An athlete does not go through repetition with an immutable technique, but technique changes throughout the process. One of the jobs of a coach is to make sure this adaptation process is a positive one.

All this to talk about band swimming. Band swimming is a training tool that induces positive changes in swimming technique by giving the swimmer instant feedback on a variety of technical aspects in front crawl swimming. Here's my top-2:

- High-elbow pull - Swimming with a band increases drag. In order to overcome the additional drag, swimmers get instant feedback if they're not pulling through the water correctly. What is interesting is that pretty much any swimmer will improve their high-elbow catch by swimming with a band. They adapt to the new stimulus by positively changing their technique.

- Head position - Swimming with a band affects your horizontal balance in the water. Swimmers get instant feedback if they don't have an horizontal position. They quickly realize that their head position has a great role in horizontal position. They adapt to the new stimulus by positively changing their technique.

Now, just put on a band around your ankles and all your swimming problems are solved, right? Actually no. As with all things training, coaching and training design have a bigger impact in your progression as a swimmer. Swimming with a band is one tool that will help that progression, but doing the right training mix will have the greatest impact in a swimmer's development.

Friday, December 30, 2011

My top-10 triathletes of 2011

These lists are always fun to make, so instead of complaining about other people's lists, I decided to write my own.

Top-10 Women

1 - Helen Jenkins
2 - Andrea Hewitt
3 - Chrissie Wellington
4 - Leanda Cave
5 - Mirinda Carfrae
6 - Sarah Groff
7 - Melissa Rollinson
8 - Sarah Haskins
9 - Paula Findlay
10 - Rachel Joyce


Top-10 Men

1 - Alistair Brownlee
2 - Craig Alexander
3 - Jonathan Brownlee
4 - Javier Gomez
5 - Andreas Raelert
6 - Sven Riederer
7 - Alexander Bryukhankov
8 - Marino Vanhoenacker
9 - Timo Bracht
10 - Pete Jacobs

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quotes

"There's not too many Americans out there running 2:08 so I'll take it." -- Ryan Hall.


"To be honest it's pretty sad that this kind of time was good enough to be the top Japanese man." -- Yuki Kawauchi