From Volunteer To Coach
I was working at the NYU Coles Sports & Recreation Center, where I worked during my undergraduate studies there, and was recruited to be a fitness supervisor/personal trainer. The man who was educating me on human anatomy and teaching me how to train and educate members happened to be a triathlon coach and was always talking about “his triathletes” and they sounded like superheroes, so I wanted in!
I wanted to learn and thought that volunteering would be a great way to do that. Volunteering also allowed me to be as close and intimate as I could get without actually participating in a triathlon. I went to where the athletes, the coaches, and the faithful volunteers were so I could learn from them and “see what it was all about and how exactly it worked.
Finding Balance In A Club
I received guaranteed entry into NYC Tri and felt the “pressure” to sign up. After I pressed the registration button, I did extensive research and compared clubs. First — I saw lots of people in Empire gear at the NYC Tri when I volunteered and they looked like they took the sport seriously, but weren’t pros. Good balance. When I looked them up online they worked with people from 1st timers to Ironman athletes and that was important to me. I didn’t want to be with a casual lazy club, but I also didn’t want to train with a club of Olympians, so they were a good balance.
They offered a beginner program that mixed in with regular club members so I would be with newbies like me, but also learn from veterans.
The club offered a 2-week free trial, so I went the first time on a cold, dark, January night. When I got there, I found a group of friendly people who welcomed me with open arms. Even when I was the slowest in the group, there was always someone who would wait and run with me in the back and chat with me like we had been friends for a while and just completely welcomed and supported me. When I got back to the start of the run, dead last, the other team members were there and clapped me in.
With my membership to the Empire Tri Club completed, I signed up for swimming lessons and eventually bought an 8-yr old used bike that was sitting in someone’s garage. My first year in triathlon, planning to do that 1 NYC Tri, I fell in love with the sport and the community and I did 5 triathlons that year. My life has never been the same.
One Of the Best Decisions I’ve Made
The following year I was asked to coach the beginner tri program. I didn’t think I was ready, but was really encouraged and supported by our head coach. He reminded me about what I had to offer the athletes. I agreed and I can say that it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Throughout the process of coaching I am reminded that I started with the idea of having fun and it’s a phrase I use often with the athletes. HAVE FUN! I want them to enjoy their entry into the sport of triathlon and embrace the journey. We are going to push ourselves, but we don’t want it to be stressful. There needs to be a balance between the training and the enjoyment of the support. My advice to those getting started is to not get uptight about finishing times but rather, to focus on finishing strong and healthy.
I could not have foreseen how going from volunteer to coach would change my life, but it has and I am not looking back. These past 5 years have given me the ability to believe in myself and help others believe in themselves.