I’m a local shire boy, but a passionate Souths man, I love coaching, it challenges me, my athletes inspire me & the sport, especially the ITU racing, I just love it, there is soo much to learn and soo much excitement to the racing now.
HPT is based out of Sutherland, although we utilise the great locations of the shire for open water swims, trail runs and bike rides. I do conduct 3 – 4 camps per year & Mudgee is a favourite winter camp base for the athletes. Brilliant country roads, awesome local hospitality and the accommodation and facilities available for winter work is perfect.
How did you come to the sport?
I played all sports as a kid, Rugby League, Little League baseball, I ran & did swim club, funnily enough never got into cycling. I was riding trackwork as a highschool kid at Randwick under the legendary Theo Green. 14 shoulder dislocations later I took on swimming again to build my strength. A mate & I decided to head to Hawaii for drink in my early 20’s & ended up in a place called Kona. I came home, bought my 11kg 8 speed Avanti Sprint & took on the Kurnell World Cup. I was hooked after that.
I have been coaching Juniors in a few sports for well over 20 years, my Dad coached league for years, coached some Sharks Matthews Cup & SG Ball teams to grand finals. He loved coaching & cared for his players & I suppose he was a heavy influence on me taking the plunge. From a Triathlon perspective I was training with Engadine Triathlon Club & every Saturday we would have 1 or 2 teenagers turn up to give the sport a go. They would come & go as no real environment existed for them, so I decided to set up the Junior Engadine Triathletes “JET’S” program through the club which grew from nothing to 70 kids in 3 years…. At the Level 1 coaching course out at Penrith I met a peanut named Peter Clifford who was coaching the kids at Cronulla. We had the same passion & dream and decided to start coaching together under the HPT brand.
The majority of athletes I work with are ITU Juniors & U23’s so 90% of my coaching is face to face, I don’t believe I can make a big difference to young athletes via the internet. I do work with a couple of athletes that I don’t get to see everyday due to their location but we communicate and catch up face to face regularly. The power of a squad environment cant be underestimated. Socially its great, most of the kids go to different schools, different universities etc but come together with a common motivation. Culturally its great to have the older athletes taking on leadership roles for the younger kids, seeing the younger kids enthusiasm rubbing off on the older crew, it’s a positive environment.
I love the short ITU stuff, developing critical speed is such as an important aspect of the sport, over any distance, but I love the variables in short course racing, the skills required under fatigue and pressure & the athleticism required to race at the top level, its amazing to watch the top kids in the country in action.
Good question, not really, I love creating a challenging test set & I am not talking about time trials, but a session that extends the athletes across tactical, technical &/or physiological boundaries really row my boat. It’s the creativity involved in coming up with something new and then the challenge of delivery.
We were one of the first recognised ‘Junior” daily coached environments in the State that had its own identity outside of the Juniors Development system. Uniforms, camps, race support, male & female coaches. From 10 year olds through to ITU Professionals, we have been around a long time now & will be for many years to come. Couple my squad with Pete’s age group & long Course Pro guys I think HPT offers quite a diversity outside of club structures.
Having participated in the sport you coach in is an obvious advantage. Having an Elite background can certainly have its advantages and it’s a quality I unfortunately don’t possess. I think like any quality, its nice to have and can be utilised in your coaching style but its not necessary to be a success & there are many examples of this. Regardless of background all good Coaches have similar traits. A genuine passion for what they do and the athletes they Coach, a desire to continually learn and develop their skills and knowledge & longevity.
We have over 20 athletes in our ITU Youth, ITU Junior/Junior Age Group & U23 program but I personally “coach” a maximum of 12 athletes. What I mean by that is I program these athletes and provide a more personalised coaching service to them. I work full time & can’t realistically devote the time to anymore athletes than this. In saying that I work with all our athletes on a daily basis. Its worth saying that I couldn’t sustain the current environment I have without the daily support of my assistant Coach Elle Clifford. She is gold & having a female Coach on deck is extremely beneficial.
I got my Personal Trainers Licence (Cert IV) and Massage Therapy Licence in the days when they gave them away on the back of Minti wrappers. I dropped out of Law at Uni. Apart from that, 22 years Coaching Juniors & 7 years working with a ton of world class athletes & Coaches within the ITU Development program.
My goals are simple, if not cheesy. Continue to provide an Athlete Centric daily coached environment where athletes have the opportunity to become the best they can be. My measurement for success is the long term progression of my athletes from kids to adults. Not all of them can become professional athletes, but all can become successful and happy adults in life. I get a real buzz catching up with an old athlete for a beer or dinner. A kid I coached in Rugby League years ago rang me for a reference a few weeks ago because he wanted to join the armed forces. He is over 30 now and a dad himself, it was great to catch up with him and see him happy in life.
I am glad you asked me this question and not my athletes. (Although I would be very interested in the response) I am a big kid to be honest but I have high expectations on training with purpose in every session. I take on athletes of all abilities but all the athletes have a few things in common. They are committed, adaptable & open to change. I am a ‘artist’ more than a ‘scientist’, especially with the younger kids & I like to develop the athletes through exposure to ‘life lessons’….failure is one of those.
I have worked with some great athletes and Coaches internationally. Libby Burrell – High Performance Manager of Triathlon Canada, Bobby McGee – legendary run Coach, Jamie Turner- Now Canadian triathlon Coach, the list goes on Stephen Moss, Sergio Santos. They have all worked with Elite Juniors, Olympians, World Champions within the ITU system, I have taken soo much from their guidance over the years, no more than JT himself. I am very thankful for the opportunities I have had with the ITU over the last 7 years.
One thing I have learned, as simple as it sounds, is that every session has a purpose and the athlete should know what that purpose is. I coach to achieve performance, but also athlete independence. I do this through encouraging problem solving, not being scared of failure, through support & reinforcement. At our recent camp in Mudgee I had 14 Juniors all under the age of 16 budgeting, shopping, cooking & cleaning after themselves for 6 nights & they all nailed it. Sure there were some failed meals, but the athletes trained everyday & had to look after their recovery processes, nutrition & hydration needs, equipment etc & all in a team environment. They had support and were closely monitored but most didn’t need much input & the more experienced guys who had been there & done that looked after the less experienced.
I coach Juniors so I use emails, facebook, text (a lot), skype, phone calls & of course we speak face to face. I would like to say Daily but its probably hourly!
Depending on the stage of development of the athlete I can measure performance in very different ways. Physiologically I use Power for the older Juniors & U23 athletes, TT’s & training test sets. Technically I use metrics like leg speed, rating, competence over cadence ranges, ability to do U turns at speed, ride rollers no hands etc etc, Tactically I introduce race plans for the older athletes and gauge execution under fatigue. Psychologically I use a Jim Loehr theory to look at self confidence, attention control, visual imagery (which kids today are perennially poor at), Motivation and attitude control.
I don’t like being one dimensional with juniors, I believe a complete athlete is skilled in many aspects of the above. Juniors too have performance plateau’s and can sometimes go backwards through periods of growth, it doesn’t mean they are not progressing & focussing on aspects other then speed & strength are important for them to understand that they are indeed developing as an athlete.
I like power, but only as a “tool” of trade. I like my mode 3 button on the stop watch for measuring rating, cadence and leg speed. Efficiency is a key skill in my books & I am always onto that.
PLENTY, especially the athletes I see face to face, its not uncommon for me to come home from training, reflect & then send a text & say “Great work on those U turns tonight – you nailed it”. At training its non stop, but its not always verbal, body language can often be just as effective.
I use Training Peaks as a training diary. I am an excel man for programs as I spend many a day tweeking programs offline, so Training Peaks doesn’t work for me in that sense.
Most of my athletes have to juggle School, Uni, family & some even other sports. Life is bedlam nowadays isn’t it. I have one main rule – SCHOOL FIRST. There needs to be a balance but I am not going to have a parent argue with me about school work being a priority, if anything, I’ll take athletes off program if school grades are suffering.
But like us oldies juggling work, the younger adults have to juggle school, Uni, part time work, social life, Triathlon…I will manage that differently with every athlete to be honest, depending on their individual goals and ability. For some of my athletes Triathlon is just a fun weekend sport, for others, it’s their profession.
There is a mix between individually prescribed programs and more general group sessions. Both have their place and benefits. Thankfully, I have chosen to specialise at this point in my coaching & the diversity of athletes is not as great as say Pete’s guys. I develop skills for the demands of ITU racing & that doesn’t change amongst athletes, it’s only the level they are at. Having Elle on deck most session’s means we can split the team accordingly. My older guys & Pro athletes can also mix it up with Pete’s Pro guys in certain sessions as well which adds a healthy dynamic. Programmed are all tailored.
I have a holistic view on Junior Development. I firmly believe coaching Juniors to be equipped with the skills to race at the highest level of competition in the world for their age is important. That is the ITU style of racing. I coach to the highest denominator. Each athlete may not ever have the opportunity of racing at that level, but they sure as hell develop some pretty handy skills that stay with them for a lifetime. Technique, efficiency, a high degree of bike handling skills, race tactics, pace change, speed mechanics & of course the life lessons of independence I spoke about earlier. Whilst there is always going to be exceptions to the rule its no co-incidence that as this sport matures, the top long course guys & girls will have developed in the short course ITU scene in their early years. I have had a few kids go onto age group long course racing which is great but the skills developed as kids has equipped them well for their next racing journey.
Yep. Referrals to the ones that know it best. Although I do offer firm advice before taking vitamins and supplements. Those that are racing Nationally or Internationally at an Elite level know what the ASADA & WADA code is & how to invest 30 secs in looking up any potential drug they take. They understand their accountabilities in this area and we are particular in our processes here. We even run the younger kids through the processes from time to time at camps so they understand.
Having the ability to make change. Not everyone can.
Do you specialise in or have a preference for novice athletes, seasoned athletes, etc, etc.
Juniors, U23 & an Elite ITU athlete.
I would be negligent if I wasn’t. It’s not what you say but how its delivered sometimes & in my experience its not the athlete that has the inflated aspirations.
Not for not following advice, its part of the learning process, hard lessons can sometimes be the best teachers and hey, I am not always right with my advice either. I like to work WITH my athletes, & the older & more informed they become, the more consultative I become (if it suits the athlete).
Yes I have, in my earlier years as a triathlon coach but at this stage of my career it’s not an area I work in.
I understand the recovery needs of a 40 year old something Coach after a camp or race weekend!
Thankfully only a small percentage find themselves injured from training & if it is, it is usually through something silly they’ve done. I’ll admit to making a few mistakes along the way with prescription but its something you learn from. I am rarely working with overuse injuries as training load for Juniors is pretty low (although consistent), the issues are usually growth related, mechanical and hormones. I like to keep in the loop with their practitioners whenever I can so I can understand the uniqueness of each ailment. We have a couple of Diabetics amongst our Team, asthmatics, those who suffer allergies and of course the joys of kids growing 2cm’s a month from time to time. There are always “athlete management” issues to deal with but we managed them professionally rather than aggravate them.
Wow, I wish. I don’t underestimate the role I play in the influence I can have on some of these kids in their lives so I try to be as good a role model as I can be. After my health issues of 2 years ago which unfortunately a few of the athletes bore witness to, I have certainly had to lead a healthier life. I don’t exercise as much as I would like but that is a sacrifice I have made in order to spend time coaching. Ironic? But, I plan every session, I look forward to every session and I am motivated by improving athletes.
How do you look at intensity vs volumes?
I focus on Frequency as No.1 given the neural benefits to muscle memory in aiding positive change and skill development. I then work on a quality over quantity principle, get the most from each session you can. That doesn’t mean high intensity all the time. My Saturday swim sessions for example focus a lot on swimming slow, you can pick up many floors when athletes are forced to rate at 20.
I agree, success can be seeing a young kid growing into a happy adult taking lessons & experiences from their time with HPT into adult life with long lasting friendships. But from an athlete point of view & I have a young bloke who has recently gained his professional licence, had a top 10 finish in an ITU Continental cup event. I have worked with him since he was 12, he never made a NSW Development Squad, never made an All Schools team & lucky to ever finish in the top 30 (if ever) in any National Junior race. Yet, at 20, he now races professionally and importantly loves what he does. To me its an advert for perseverance, for consistency and for doing the sport simply because you love it and not because you’re a child champion. I often use him as a case study to ‘educate’ an over excited parent who’s 12 year old is the next big thing. I did some stats recently for a lecture I gave, 90% of the ‘child champions’ in the last 15 years in Australia are no longer in the sport……. Now I’m not suggesting Triathlon is not a great sport for kids, what I am saying is that they don’t have to be great at 15 to be great at 25 or 35.
All details are available on our website, I encourage any athlete to come along and see if they enjoy the sport and the HPT environment for a few weeks before I start charging. For programmed athletes I have a 3 month ‘probation” period, Basically it allows the athlete to take their time to settle in and see if they like the environment, it allows me time to asses the athlete’s ability to make change and of course if they culturally fit within our team.