Thames Valley Tristars – Coaching philosophy and ethos
The ethos of TVTristars is to provide a fun environment in which children can take part in triathlon. The club aims to be inclusive for all abilities and will provide opportunities for athletes to challenge themselves in a manner that is appropriate for their age and personal ambitions.
We want to give the athletes skills and experience that will instil a life long love of sport and exercise. We want athletes to still be involved in triathlon or other sports throughout their life. We also want to develop good sportsmanship and will promote the support and encouragement of fellow athletes whatever their level.
The Coaches’ Philosophy
We follow the BTF and Sports Coach UK philosophy and guidelines for training. This is similar to British Cycling and other sports bodies. All these organisations believe that too much competitive pressure or structured training early on can be detrimental to children both physically and mentally.
The emphasis for children up to age 16 is on enjoyment, skills, team work, appropriate competition and variety. As athletes approach 16 we start to introduce them to some of the appropriate adult sessions to allow them to progress fully to the adult club. It is at this age where more structured training and coaching becomes appropriate for children. Derek is providing more tailored individual coaching for some of our older juniors.
Children are not mini adults and do not respond well to being trained like adults.
As coaches we are taught by BTF that each session should have an appropriate volume, which means the main part of the session will be short with full recovery. The main focus should be on technique and skills. The overarching requirement is that the sessions should be fun.
In addition we aim to make the sessions inclusive for the whole group. There may be sessions or times in a session which are not as relevant to your child as others, as this is a group coaching session, not an individual one. However we split the athletes into groups based on age. This is important – you may think your child should be doing harder work but the session are based on their age – and they like being with their friends who are usually of similar age.
There is ample opportunity for personal challenges – this is not just about going faster or harder. The challenge can be mastering a technique drill, getting pacing right or being able to mount the bike quickly.
We will also include races and games so that they can be competitive for themselves and their teams. Even here the emphasis is on participation, process and effort rather than the outcome. Winning is good but it is not the only thing that is important.
The Head Coach of the club is Derek Bowley who is qualified at BTF Level 3 (the highest level). Derek is one of the top triathlon coaches in the country and was voted SE Coach of the year in 2006 and was nominated for a lifetime achievement award in 2008. Under his direction the coaching team of the adult and junior club provide swim, bike and run sessions suitable for all standards – beginner to International.
Tessa and Steve are BTF qualified Level 2 coaches. They plan the junior sessions and generally take an overview of the running of each session. Chris Aitken and Debbie Wilson are BTF Level 1 qualified. Robbie Elsey is a professional running coach. Steve and Debbie used to be assistants on expeditions for children undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
In addition to coaching we all take part in triathlon and several have children who take part in triathlon(or have in the past).
Turbo training for young athletes – TVTristars policy
Children are physically different to adults in a number of areas. In particular children rely heavily on aerobic metabolism to obtain energy for exercise. This means that approaches to training that adults use are not appropriate for children.
The aerobic ability of young athletes can be developed so it makes aerobic training worthwhile, since it will improve their performance. Anaerobic training is of limited use to young athletes as they possess little anaerobic capacity and is perhaps best left until the young athlete reaches adolescence.
Turbo training can cover extended aerobic training or anaerobic training (things like very short all out sprint intervals). Using a turbo trainer effectively requires not only physical capacity but also mental resilience. 3 hours on a turbo trainer for aerobic endurance is not that much fun! Even shorter sessions are mentally tough and could easily put children off sport.
In view of this turbo training will only be promoted by TVTristars as an organised activity for athletes in the last year of Youth Category (ie ages 15 to 16). Turbo training at home can be a solitary affair. One of main reasons children participate in sport is because of friendships and belonging to a group and therefore it is far better for children to be introduced to turbo training in a group.
We have therefore agreed with the adult club that children in the 15 to 16 years old age group can attend the adult Turbo Sessions that are held during winter. Athletes that are eligible to attend will be notified of the times and dates.
If you do have turbos at home and athletes want to try them – let them do it for fun, not structured all out sprint intervals – they will have no benefit for young athletes and could be harmful to their development. If the children want to ride on the turbo encourage them to do it for short periods and to use it to help them pedal more efficiently – they can make it fun and more interesting by doing single leg drills to encourage a fluid pedalling motion, or other drills (concentrating on the knees moving vertically on each leg for 30 secs or so at a time, lightly kicking over the top of the stroke from 10 to 2 o’clock and lightly “scraping” their foot backwards from 4 to 8 o’clock.
TVTristars Coaching team – Sept 2015.