We interview the Children's Coach of the Year, from our London Region Volunteer Awards 2018
Q1: You’ve had a long career in triathlon coaching. What has driven you to dedicate so much of your time to volunteering in the sport?
I was involved in multisport and a member of the Kingfisher Triathlon Club, but in 1996 I had a minor shoulder injury which kept me from swimming. Rather than drift away from the sport, I stood at the end of the lane and began to learn how to coach, soon realising that I was quite good at it! That’s where it all began...
Q2: You were voted the London Region Children’s Coach of the Year last year. What do you enjoy most about coaching juniors?
To me, it’s not just about the coaching of sport to children, it’s the life skills which we help them develop. Teaching them good behaviour, good moral conduct and respect for others around them. Our coaching team at Comets all specialise in single discipline and are all high achievers. When we started, they all had the training expertise but I added the mentoring and coaching techniques. This is the reason we’re having some success, the coaches all care about the children performing well.
Q3: Can you tell us about your proudest achievement in coaching?
There’s actually a couple of moments. The first was back in May 2012 when Paul Moss, whom I was under, awarded me my Triathlon Level 3 Coach Award. At the time I didn’t have the computer skills to do an electronic training log for senior athletes, which I needed to complete the final section of the course. Someone helped me to produce a really good one, I found two athletes to create training plans for, and then passed! I'm very proud of that moment.
The second was receiving the Childrens Coach of the Year in 2018. Although I always regard this as a coaching team effort, as without the coaches input and dedication, we wouldn’t have been as successful. I still have all of the original coaches who I brought on board, except for Cameron Brown who’s gone off to study at Loughborough University.
Q4: What inspired you to start the Comet Triathlon Club for juniors?
After being head coach for another club for 7 years (the first 5 for seniors and the last 2 taking on both seniors and juniors), I realised youngsters were more fun to coach! There was a wind of change at the club, and I decided the time was right to give someone else a chance and I stepped down.
After a year, I realised that I missed the cut and thrust of coach life - being responsible for 80 juniors/adults at swim sessions and 40 at track sessions. Plus all the planning, managing coaches, liaising with members and generally being involved with good athletes.
Another six months later, the germ of starting a club came to fruition with our first session at the old Walton Athletics track in October 2013. Two children, me and another athlete (who I thought would make a good coach) turned up!
Q5: One of the biggest challenges of being a coach and club volunteer is the time commitment. How do you juggle volunteering with your own training, work and family life? Can you offer any advice based on your experiences?
Because I have a passion, and I am now semi-retired (but still like working) I have the time to dedicate to Comets. I still do a small amount of training, around 4 to 5 hours a week.
I wear 10 different hats, having to make sure we have coaches, venues and all of the documents in place. I also try to go to as many of the London region children’s races as possible, to see how the kids get on.
There are dozens of responsibilities, being the team leader, and trying to do a good job is very time consuming. It’s the role most clubs have a large committee for.
Q6: If a parent asked you for help to get their child into the sport, and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?
I’d firstly ask them about the background of their child. If I realise it’s the parents desire, not the child's, we may give them a trial to see if they can grow to enjoy this tough sport. My tip to parents is not to expect too much from the first season, as it takes longer to understand balancing the training of multisport, than a single discipline one.
Q7: What’s the best piece of triathlon advice you’ve ever been given, and who gave it to you?
I met Alistair Brownlee at Hampton pool by chance about 8 or 9 years ago. He was having a swim, on his way from Leeds to Heathrow, to one of the far-flung races he was doing. We said how bad the weather had been in London with some snow, and over a hot chocolate, Alistair pulled out a battered old phone and showed us a photo of his bike up against a snow drift 5 foot high. He’d still been riding in the Yorkshire dales in those conditions, now that's real dedication! His advice was, never mind the gizmo’s, they are useful, but also do more training! Realising what a champion has to do to be the best, is beyond my comprehension, but I understood his meaning.
Q8: Do you have any specific goals for the rest of this year?
Firstly, to get more pool time for the club, we only have 2 lanes for 1 hour a week, which is a real handicap.
Secondly, to have 1 winner in any category at every race in the London League. So far we’ve achieved that with 5 different junior athletes. I’d never ask anyone to do what I wouldn’t, I still like racing, it’s in the blood. My motto has always been to lead by example.
Many thanks to Michael for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview for us. We'd like to wish him all the best for his club this year. If you'd like to find out more about Comet Triathlon Club for Juniors, head over to their website.