Coaching on Cobblestones
Back in March, I was hired by USA Triathlon to serve as Head Coach for week 1 of the ITU World Championship Festival in Fyn, Denmark. To say my time in Denmark has been the experience of a lifetime would be an understatement. My role as Team USA Coach has involved months of preparation and communication with athletes and other staff, familiarizing athletes with courses, presenting useful and relevant information through webinars, and writing training plans which were made available to athletes racing the Standard Sprint Duathlon, Draft Legal Sprint Duathlon, and Cross Triathlon (essentially XTerra). Since arriving, my time has been spent on the track, alongside athletes on the bike course, and providing guidance/answering questions about the many logistical details of the event. The support for this event is spectacular, and USA Triathlon goes above and beyond for their teams. The USAT Staff includes 2 massage therapists, a team physician, a chiropractor/physical therapist, 2 bike mechanics, a coach, an operations director, and 3 managers who oversee it all. Each day has a unique set of challenges, but each one is handled and delegated to its respective expert on duty. The positivity and support is unparalleled, and to have the opportunity to optimize the experience for all the athletes here in Denmark.
Week One - The Power of Positivity
My biggest takeaway from this week has been my realization of the power of positivity. Athletes are incredibly invested in themselves, yet this can come as a detriment too as we are also our own worst critics. Each athlete racing here in Denmark has taken time out of their lives and schedules to embark on a journey around the globe to race. This presents a sense of purpose and importance that is exciting, but can be also be overwhelming. Everyone here is also racing on the world stage, which can ignite nerves, fear, self doubt, and anxiety. In order to reach your potential, having a level head and a good attitude is a must. Most athletes come in with a high level of fitness, but their successes can hinge on whether or not they have the ability to effectively address setbacks, and maintain their trajectory through the little snafus that often feel like a huge hurdle in the moment. As coaches, we talk about “racing in the moment” and “being present”. But before an athlete can do that in a race setting, they have to be at ease the moment they toe the line without anything else in their foresight but the task at hand.
At first, I expected the work to be in the nitty gritty details, having proficiency in knowing everything about the event, and of course leading sessions with perfection and quality. Instead, I’ve found that my own positive and upbeat attitude, sharing my excitement for being in an amazing place, and simply sharing a smile, a laugh, and a high five has made all the difference in the world for the athletes. Of course assisting in overcoming the little obstacles helps athletes feel at ease, but more than anything, it’s the contagiousness of positivity that has had the most impactful and rewarding effect on each person’s experience. I’m beginning to find my true sense of purpose as a coach here, and I’m beyond blessed to share this experience with every athlete I work with. I only hope to continue getting better at my job, and plan to carry this experience into each day to come.
“Every day you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same.” - Bo Schembechler
Cheers from Denmark,
Coach Pat Casey