To Whom It May Concern at USA Triathlon,
One of your Core Programs, Sport Performance, is broke. The current decentralized system which allows individual athletes to choose individual coaches has not produced results relative to our country’s potential. The United States and Australia dominate the international swimming scene and, outside of Kenya and Ethiopia, the US produces the bulk of the world’s fastest long distance runners. So clearly there is untapped potential for excellence in triathlon.
This is neither a new revelation nor a novel idea. Indeed others have made the same argument. Last year, triathlon coach Paulo Sousa wrote on his blog, The Triathlon Book,
“2010 was a year where US triathletes went either backwards or sideways. Not only in terms of results, which is obvious to anyone, but it seems that the trend is definitely towards worse performances, when we’re less than two years from London 2012. This is undoubtedly a product of the no-structure structure model that was implemented in the last couple of years.”
Even USA Triathlon’s own business plan for 2010 commented,
“With the focus on individualization (encouraging athletes to work with personal coaches on personalized development), our athletes – especially those lower in the pipeline - lost out on the benefits of group training. A stronger focus on National Team camps and a centralized development team (in COS or elsewhere) will help us capitalize on the benefits of group training.”
Clearly then, if USA Triathlon wants its athletes to be competitive in ITU World Championships and, more importantly, the Olympics, it must make a change. A head coach should be hired in the hopes of salvaging success in London 2012. While finding the right candidate may sound like a daunting task, it is actually a surprisingly simple one as a coach with success on the WCS and Olympic level has recently found himself unemployed.
I don’t know the details behind Joel Filliol’s separation from British Triathlon. However, I do know he is without a doubt one the top triathlon coaches in the world. Between his work as the Head Coach for British Triathlon from 2009-2011, and Head Coach for Triathlon Canada from 2006-2008, his athletes have had a bevy of success, including the silver medal in the 2008 Olympics as well as multiple World Cup and World Championship Series wins.
And as if his athletes’ successes didn’t speak for themselves, you could always heed the advice of a man, Simon Whitfield, who has two Olympic medals and is tied for second in career ITU World Series wins. In a recent article on Slowtwitch.com, Whitfield said,
“Joel is the best coach I've ever had – it is not even close. He is the most passionate, most committed, most knowledgeable, best triathlon coach.”
I’m not sure a triathlon coach can come better recommended than that.
So the question now is simple. Is USA Triathlon ready to truly make a commitment to high performance? Dishing out some money to a few elite athletes is nice, but it clearly hasn’t brought the results its members deserve. Is USA Triathlon ready to change its culture regarding high performance sport?
One of your “key learnings” from 2009 was,
“Culture – while we have increased communication between USA Triathlon and our individual athlete coaches, bringing them together to work as a team to achieve our goals is the next challenge. We need to create a culture throughout our high performance program of excellence and team work. With a decentralized program, this will be a significant challenge.”
I can’t see a better way to overcome this challenge than to hire a man who is known for his commitment to excellence and hard work. And with a single head coach, communication and a unified focus on performance certainly will not be an issue. So I implore you; do everything you can to hire Joel Filliol.