coaching, Training, triathlon

Notes from Day 1 of USA Triathlon’s Elite Coaching Mentorship Program

This week I am one of seven coaches nationwide fortunate to attend a unique offering from USAT at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While the knowledge is fresh on my mind, I want to share with you some key points or “quick hits” about what we learned during today’s session.

I tried to capture the essence of each topic and write down the items I personally found most interesting and helpful.

Today’s presenters were Chris Baker and Mike Ricci – both outstanding. Here are a few takeaways…

Chris Baker – ITU Points

Knowing the different between ITU points and ITU rankings is paramount.

Great opportunity in 2015 if you think you want to coach elites: Go to Chicago this year for Grand Championship to observe athletes and coaches (e.g., where are coaches standing, how are they interacting with the athletes, etc.)

It is interesting that more emphasis is put on Grand Final (GF) than on the Olympics from the athlete perspective; this is mainly due to financial considerations (500k at GF vs. 25k at OLY).

It is a 10-15 hour-a-week job just to manage the points and the rankings for the US team alone!

If you haven’t won a Continental Cup (CC), then why would the athlete be moving up to a World Cup (WC)? … “I believe in experiencing the stages of success.”

Going from CC to WC to World Triathlon Series (WTS) and then GF and experiencing this success at each level is so important because of the CONFIDENCE it brings.

Current RIO 2016 Strategy: Men’s US Olympic field not as deep, so for the 3 available Olympic spots, coaches will pick one person to win and then 2 to support as domestiques – at the Olympic level it’s a team sport not individual! Many elites do not like this. However, women’s field much stronger and can pick three athletes to contend.

Steve Kelley is great to work with and one to know for anything related to youth/junior development.

Important coaching objectives for youth and juniors:

  1. Skill/technique (flip turn, turn a buoy, mount/dismount, the list goes on and on!)
  2. Games, fun and challenges, structured PLAY vs. a training session (it’s got to be fun and dynamic)
  3. Use the word “challenge” instead of “workout”

Video and Mechanical Analysis – Chris Baker

Best reasons to use video: 1) performance enhancement and 2) injury prevention (they go hand-in-hand)

The Olympic Training Center uses the upgraded version of Ubersense.

Video is the most important tool you can utilize as a coach.

Every training session has a purpose and objectives (e.g., A recovery run (4min run, 1min walk) with a focus on arm mechanics – Athletes always have a FOCUS for each s/b/r set). Not as important with other populations perhaps but a necessity with elites. Sessions must be designed around improving technical skills, efficiency, economy, and other factors.

Have an athlete watch a video of another athlete that is doing something well; then immediately have that athlete close their eyes and visualize doing the same skill from multiple angles. HIGHLY, HIGHLY EFFECTIVE. Within a session, pull athlete out of water and use black-out goggles to enhance visualization experience.

Show side-by-side video analysis of one athlete with another, and side-by-side with the same athlete showing today and 6 months previous – great way to show progression and to give feedback.

Look at run mechanics after a hard bike, after a hilly bike, with regular run shoes, with racing flats, etc. Form changes (sometimes drastically) after all of these situations (and in different ways), and so there are lots of areas to show the athlete where improvements can be made.

Shoe selection – take video camera to run shop and if a treadmill is available, take multiple angles with 4-5 pairs of shoes to determine ground force reactions on physiology, susceptibility to pronation, etc.

Keep a video library (one for skills/drills AND one for each individual athlete). Create key points to focus on with voice-over.

Make sure that you value your service and charge accordingly for video as most coaches do not offer this service.

Video is extremely useful for buy-in on getting athlete to incorporate recovery techniques (stretching, etc.) because you can show them how their gluts are shutting down or alignment issues, etc.

Each style of wetsuit has different drag, so video each wetsuit and the impact on form to see which is best.

Katie Hursey was terrible on handling the bike in 2013 and would fall down at 180 degree turns. She got better at OTC, now on the ITU circuit she is really good. Showing the youth and juniors that you can get better at skills by using Katie’s videos as proof and as motivation.

There are significant benefits to drafting on the run. Use video to show athletes how they are or are not doing this properly.

Video is also a great way to see if the changes we are asking athletes to make are actually working; we are not perfect so not everything we suggest is going to result in the performance we had in mind.

Key points:

  • Swim – video athletes sighting and then without sighting – this is very race specific. Every swim workout Chris writes has sighting in it – e.g., 6 times per 50 for a 500).
  • Bike – video athletes on the trainer and the open road, before and after a hard swim. All of his elites race crits once/twice a week – it’s a very important skill set. Compare power data with more and less hip angle (tweaking bike fit) and the impact it has on the run.
  • Run- video athletes on the treadmill, road, and track, in training and racing shoes, and before and after a hard bike.

Summary : Video Analysis is a continual, integrated process dealing the following five areas – preparation, observation, evaluation, feedback, monitoring.


The Business of Coaching– Mike Ricci

The #1 way of advertising after 15 years is still: WORD OF MOUTH. Be nice to people and do a great job and others will find out about you.

Writing an article is better advertising than paying for an ad in a magazine.

Credibility will allow you to charge more but be aware that when you do, you must BE MORE yourself in order to justify the jump.

It’s possible that you don’t know why you’re clients really stay with you…you think it’s the results but don’t underestimate the power of the relationship, the friendship, the hand-holding, the listening – these reasons are why people will STAY with you.

Diversify revenue streams.

Along his way to the goal of 100 clients, he imploded at 53. Since then he’s gone from 53 to 30 to 20 to 15 and now less than 10. Of course he charges more now but with 53 clients he had a strong relationship with about 5-6; the rest just floating out there, so he advises against doing this!

Mike writes training plans for Training Peaks – soon he will have more than 300 and is moving towards his goal of $10k/month.

A business mentor challenged him to list 50 things he could do to increase his revenue (i.e., 50 different ideas). He got to 23 and then was stuck. The mentor said, “What about ‘buying CTS’?” The point is not about CTS but rather, to dream big and think outside the box of things you can do to have a thriving and growing business.

You have to take a step back from your business (out of the minutia) in order to take two steps forward. Read the E-Myth.

What separates you from the next guy? Product differentiation very important.

Be able to justify why you’re more expensive. Sell others on VALUE not price.

Weak sales people usually depend on brochures and websites (as opposed to explaining to people what the actual value is).

The favorite and ONLY station your client listens to is WIFM – What’s In it For Me!!

You can be Wal-Mart (everything to everyone) or you can be Mercedes-Benz (sell to a specific person). Over 95% of d3 clients are executives, which makes it easier to get more executives because they hang in the same circles.

Google “Hedgehog Concept” from Jim Collin’s book Good to Great – Find your “sweet spot”.

What Mike did at the beginning for a newsletter was to force himself 1) to write 2 articles a month…now after 12 years lots of content (500+ articles). And 2) build relationships. Those two things are critical.

Write down the type of athletes you want to coach. Gotta know where you are going.

Follow your passion, the money will come.

Team Leadership and Organization – Mike Ricci

Mike Ricci’s style – loves discipline and structure and that’s what brings out the best in his athletes. Must find what works for you and what is empowering for the athletes.

The “ability to inspire” is one of the most important leadership qualities to have.

Coach and athlete philosophies must align. You must convince the athlete that what you’re going to do will work. This is a constant process and requires a great relationship with the athlete.

Of course the plan has to be good, but you have to be able to EXCEED their expectations of what they even have of themselves (e.g., an athlete that wants a 20-minute 5k…Mike is thinking “how can I get him to 19:30”)

Treat everyone fairly, but don’t treat everyone the same.

Once a Runner – great book to put on your reading list.


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