We set off to sunny Gran Canaria for a 10 day camp with arguably the worlds best triathlon coach and his squad of champion athletes. Everyone, including me was slightly nervous as we were keen to make out that HK athletes are stronger than they are sometimes perceived.
Due to the high turnover of families leaving HK its extremely difficult to build a squad that retains older athlete role models, who inevitably inspire potential athletes to achieve what it takes to be a professional. This has meant that the squad has always been very young and in need of professional athletes to inspire them, something not available to them in HK. One of my main aims of the camp was to inspire our athletes, give them confidence and get them thinking on a more competitive level.
Staying calm in a difficult situation. Missed flight connection and lost luggage meant showing up with no equipment. Very frustrating and slightly embarrassing. Putting a positive spin on it we agreed as a group that staying calm in a difficult situation was a good skill to have and we all spontaneously laughed. When this happens in future the athletes will be prepared, confident and know what steps to take. Learning great life skills already.
The biggest reason we were there was of course for the training. To experience what Olympians and World champions do in training on a weekly basis, guided by a world champion coach. Current Olympic champion Nicola Spirig, Current ITU long distance World Champ Mary-Beth Ellis as well as Junior World Champ Lucas Verzbicas were all in attendance. Training with them gave massive confidence to our guys and pushed them faster than they have ever trained before. It made the athletes realise the amount of hard training done by top level athletes and that there are no complaints when tough sets are handed out. Oscar, Cricket and Henry performed extremely well and took their training to a new level. It was also great to have the input of the other trisutto coaches and to learn about training in their countries.
Lesson 3 - Unconventional training practices
There were also some unconventional ideas to experience which may not have strict scientific reasoning but obviously have their place and are backed up with years of results.
- Big gears on the bike especially during easy rides
- No liquids during swims
- Lots of high intensity even for junior athletes
- No Power meters or HR monitors
- 3 training zones, moderate, medium, and mad (max)
Whilst on camp other vital skills that the athletes learn on camp with no parents or helpers around include shopping, traveling, cooking, health, cleaning, time management, budgeting and recovering to name a few. Each day an athlete took turns to buy and cook healthy meals under my nutritional guidance. Cricket, Henry and Oscar are all very capable in this respect, and took most of these duties in their stride without the need of much input from me. In HK basic skills are rarely taught but are essential ones in becoming a good athlete.
The message from this camp for performances coaches is that almost anyone can prescribe a training session or plan. When two coaches set the same programme and one gets better results than the other, that is the true art of coaching and where Brett is a step above the rest. It is the interaction of the coach and athlete and how the athlete is guided through the many obstacles to the top of the podium by squeezing out an extra few % that makes the difference. Many of these obstacles have nothing at all to do with what sessions are given and often the training becomes inconsequential. None of the athletes on the camp questioned the coach no matter what the session was, there was 100% trust to get the best results. Brett's squad produces continual results whereas other squads "have hit and miss" years, whether they be private or National federations.
On a local level our 26 squad has consistently produced youth and junior athletes over the past few years by applying many of the same training principles to our individual athletes as Brett does. We also pride ourselves on having a high level of coach-athlete interaction, something I see very few other coaches able or willing to do. Standing on the track shouting with everyone doing the same set isn’t good coaching. Letting your athletes know they are all individually important to your squad is essential for development and they will reward you with hard work if you apply this philosophy to you coaching.
Our athletes will return home very fit, having gained a huge amount of experience, and with a renewed steeled confidence. These key ingredients are going to be invaluable to them, whether it helps turn them into champions or just very rounded individuals. These experiences and skills will certainly make them very hard to beat this season.
By the end of the camp Brett gave us all a lecture that 2020 Olympics is a very realistic goal for Cricket and Oscar based on their work ethic and ability. A plan has been put into place to get them there through the ITU rankings. The training pathway in our opinion is the easy part as they are both on a great programme and are beginning to think like winners. It will be politics, social pressures and all the difficulties of living in HK that make it that much harder. Priorities have to be put in place and sacrifices made. Henry also demonstrated that he should be racing ITU for the depleted HK team and performed better than he has in a while.
See you all on the start line and thanks to Brett for letting us join the group.