'Sam what made you get into coaching?'
The simple answer is because I love triathlon but coaching isn’t really that simple. It’s not really just about loving the sport, it’s much more.
I started my triathlon journey 10yrs ago because a personal crisis had me doing two things, 1. Running from my crappy situation and 2. Desperately craving something that was just for me. After spending many years dedicating myself to being a mum and a wife I realised I needed to do something for me.
Despite wild conditions and a flat tyre my very first race was a significant turning point in my life and at the time I had no idea just how significant. When I look back now it’s hard to believe what a huge impact entering that first race had on the trajectory of my life.
Enter… Fitness, freedom, friendships, fearlessness.
For the first few years I dabbled. I did my own training. Kept things really simple, road an aluminium bike with cages on the pedals, swam in a small mens wetsuit I had borrowed, didn’t own a garmin and entered 2-3 races a season. I had no clue about fartlek, swimming paddles, watts, race wheels, TT bikes, cadence or cadence sensors, hill reps, heart rate monitors or FTP tests but I knew I loved triathlon. Although I was keeping things simple my race results were improving and I found myself insanely motivated to be better, get faster, finish in higher places. At the start of my 3rd season of racing I began working with a coach and dedicated more time to both training and learning about the sport of triathlon. I made triathlon friends who I began training and socialising with. I fell more in love with the sport of triathlon.
That season I did 6 races. Before the season started I bought a garmin, a wetsuit that fitted me, cleat pedals and cycling shoes and set a goal to finish in the top 10 by the final race and then I would reward myself with a time trial bike. That final race was nothing short of a disaster (that’s for another blog) but I finished 8th and I got my new bike.
From here my triathlon career got much more serious. I now had my eye’s on the podium and fancied myself as a top age grouper in the sprint series races. I still kept things relatively simple but I put more time and effort into training, correcting technique and getting fitter and faster. I was getting braver.
I achieved podium finishes in sprint and Olympic distance events and progressed up to the half distance races. Due to being a single mum of two working full time I focused mostly on the sprint and Olympic distances as my competitive nature meant that I could do well at those races without absorbing too much time training. In 2017 I competed at the World Championships on the Gold Coast after dedicating a month to frantically chasing Australian Team points because in true ‘Sam’ style I didn’t know anything about the world champs or the process involved to compete and by the time it became known to me there was just 3 events left to grab points and qualify and they were all in the same month!
World Champs was an experience I will never forget. Racing in the green and gold, competing against the best in the world was a dream I didn’t even know I had when I started this crazy journey. The road to worlds was both exhausting and exciting, I was relentless and fearless in my pursuit tackling aspects of triathlon I didn't even know existed beforehand such as 'rollers' (also a story for another blog!), I rode in road cycling races getting dropped and finishing last with my ego bruised and battered.
I’m still in awe of the dedication my coach showed to my goal. Even writing this has me tearing up at the thought! He went above and beyond. We trained through a Melbourne winter. He was up at 5am at the velodrome, at the swimming pool at 5am, teaching me running mounts and dismounts in his socks when the ground was wet and even I didn’t want my socks to get wet! Our relationship was so crucial to my day and I didn’t know it at the time but that would play a big part in the direction my triathlon career took next.
As often happens to athletes who compete in big events I felt lost after my stint at worlds. It was most definitely a career highlight and I didn’t know what to do next. I knew I needed a break as it had been a long and tiring road, with many months of early mornings and complete commitment to my goal. I took a break and allowed myself time to reflect and really think about what it was I wanted to do next, then my coach suggested I would make a good coach…
The seed had been planted.
I’ve been known to ponder and can be slow to make a decision and take action, sometimes far too relaxed about life, letting things naturally ‘happen’. I like to do things at my own pace but when I am in, I am all in. It ended up that coaching kinda just ‘happened’. I put my hand up to help with the Triathlon Club at my daughters school, which led to me doing my coaching course so I felt prepared to ‘help’. This resulted in a paid coaching gig with Triathlon Victoria delivering their Tri2gether program at the school, which had me effectively running the schools tri club, not simply ‘helping’ out. I have a teaching background so coaching came fairly naturally to me and I really had all the skills necessary I just needed to build on my triathlon knowledge.
Over the years many people had said to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it, how do you find the time to train for a triathlon? I would love to do a triathlon but I’m too busy with the kids / work etc…’ When I really started to think about coaching, I reflected on my relationship with my coach and suddenly I was excited. The thought of supporting others like I had been supported and building relationships like I shared with my coach genuinely made me buzz. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to empower women. I wanted them to be able to do a triathlon even though they were mums, wives, employees, employers etc… I wanted to give them the support and guidance to do a triathlon, or many triathlons, if they loved it like I did. I wanted them to find their way to incredible goals they never knew they had and I wanted them to bravely learn new skills they'd never thought they could.
And so I dove in. Head first into the world of triathlon coaching. My coach became my mentor and business partner. I now coach a junior squad and have a list of Age Group athletes. My passion is women. I provide support and guidance so that they can balance their triathlon goals with life. I provide creative options so that training can fit into even the most chaotic schedules. I provide a balance of compassion and accountability so that they're challenged yet understood.
Ladies, I want you to know you can. I want you to ditch the excuses and do something for you and I don’t want you to feel guilty about that. I want you to experience the fitness, freedom, friendships and fearlessness that I have experienced as a result of doing triathlon. And I want you to surprise yourself because I know you will.