This past weekend I had the opportunity to go the USAT Junior select camp as an Elite athlete in Colorado Springs. My role was to act as a mentor to twelve rising 15-17 year old boys in the sport of triathlon. This sounds a little crazy to me, considering I just finished up my U23 career. It was not very long ago that I was in the same position that they were, listening to people like Hunter Kemper or Andy Potts. Now the role was reversed, and I was expected to provide guidance.
The realization of a leadership role, and watching the juniors last weekend let me reflect a lot on how far I have come since starting this sport almost fifteen years ago. It is about time I started considering myself a true professional triathlete. Don’t get me wrong. I have been trying to act, train, and perform like one for the past few years, but I have always been the young guy. There is nothing wrong with this, but I feel like I am still in that learning position. Plus, the top guys seem to have an answer for just about everything. What I am starting to figure out is that everyone is constantly learning, and that nobody has all of the answers. The only thing you can do is continue to learn, minimize your mistakes (and there will be many), and surround yourself with knowledgeable people.
These past few years have been great learning years for me, but I am done looking at myself as an underdog or a “novice.” There will always be lessons to learn, but after sitting down and reflecting on my past year (and even before), I have found that I have a confidence and drive that has been missing at some points throughout my career because I was always thinking about when I will be fully developed (as an elite). I think that I am finally comfortable moving into this elite role and not only pitting myself against the best and truly believing I belong, but even passing on information to the younger generation so they avoid the mistakes I have made.
The younger generation is ready to learn, and the juniors at this camp were no different. I watched them take more meticulous notes than I did for a lot of my high school and college classes. They asked great questions and expected better answers, and they were some of the most respectful 15-17 year olds I have met. Being around them brought back a special kind of fire and passion that I felt in my junior years, and I think I was there to learn just as much as they were.
I just want to take the time to thank Steve Kelly and Steve Wright for inviting me to this camp. Also, thank you to Jim Vance and Ken Axford for doing an outstanding job leading these kids through the camp. Finally, thanks to Kevin McDowell, Erin Jones, and Chelsea Burns for showing me around Colorado Springs and the OTC. I’m glad there is great coffee in the Springs, and not just the Folgers they serve at the Center ;).
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