2021 Global Coaches Day Profile: Ian O'Brien

by Courtney Akrigg on 25 Sep, 2021 12:19 • Español
2021 Global Coaches Day Profile: Ian O'Brien

There are millions of coaches around the world, most of them working on a voluntary basis and all of them having a big impact on our lives and societies. As part of European Week of Sport 2021, ‘Global Coaches Day’ has been marked for Saturday, 25 September and World Triathlon are profiling various coaches and acknowledging all coaches, around the world, for their incredible and ongoing contribution to Triathlon and Para Triathlon.

Coach Profile: Ian O’Brien
Ian O’Brien, coaches an international squad of elite men and women, with a focus on the Olympic Games and World Triathlon Championship Series.

Full time roster:
Taylor Knibb
Matthew McElroy
Kirsten Kasper
Vittoria Lopes
Eli Hemming
Ran Sagiv
Sandra Dodet
Edda Hannesdóttir
Jeanni Metzler
Kyliegh Spearing
Brent Demarest
Marty Andrie

Guest athletes who train with us in a single modality:
Flora Duffy (key swims only)
Morgan Pearson (swims only - casual attendance)

How did Ian get into sport coaching?

I started coaching Track and field in my early 20’s and progressed into cycling coaching then triathlon. I moved to the United States in 2012 after leaving the British Army and started working at the United States Military Academy at West Point as a volunteer coach. Soon afterwards the Head Coach position came available and I interviewed for that job and got it. At West Point we had numerous breakthroughs and attained many titles. In 2014 I was talent spotted by USA triathlon after attending a training camp at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and was subsequently offered an interim job as the USAT National Development Coach for a program known as the Elite Triathlon Academy based at the Olympic Training Center. I started working in that position the very next day. Straight into it. I then created my own independent international training and coaching group. Over the following quadrennial, developing and building multiple elite athletes to World Triathlon Championship Series podium performance level, multiple World Ironman 70.3 podium performances and Olympic Games medal winning.

In 2021 leading into the Olympic Games I worked with other coaches to provide a training base for their athletes because training in their own countries had proven to be a challenge due of COVID restrictions; such as:
Amelie Kretz (worked with us for most of the first half of 2021 leading into the Olympic Games)
Joanna Brown (Various Camps throughout 2021)

What’s Ian approach to training both elite men and women?

Athlete physiology is individual and so each athlete is treated as an individual. I work on identifying an athlete’s strengths and areas of growth to ensure the performance outcomes they desire are met. I coach every athlete differently to ensure we meet those performance outcome goals.

What are some of Ian’s achievements in a season like no other?

I am very lucky and grateful to work with some outstanding athletes and people. Those are my greatest achievements. I am a very performance driven coach but the journey myself and my athletes have taken has been by far the most rewarding. We have had multiple World Cup and World Triathlon Championship Series podiums, an Olympic medal, a Grand final podium and much more! However we have had so many new discoveries of how we can continue to get better, which is so exciting as a coach. The future is very bright and we are excited for the next 3 years heading towards Paris and beyond.

How has Ian and the squad adapted during the pandemic?

We have for the most part isolated ourselves as a group and been very careful to maintain training momentum. It has been a real challenge but we have used this time to develop a great culture with high standards and relentless commitment towards excellence whilst having fun and enjoying the process.

What are Ian’s goals as a coach?

Firstly and foremost is to meet and exceed my own personal development expectations as a coach. As coaches we are growing and learning constantly and finding new inventive ways to get the very best out of our athletes but in a fun and interesting way. Ultimately my goal is to plan, prepare and launch my athletes into their goal races as well prepared physically and mentally as I can with an array of tactical and executive tools that set their conditions for success. Also having fun whilst I am doing it.

It’s Global Coaches Day, what does Ian think of being part of global coaches community?

I am very lucky to have so many friends who are coaches and service providers. Especially those I work alongside in the quest to develop athletes on the World Triathlon Championship Series from across the globe. We are all competing to make our own athletes the best in the world and yet we all have huge respect for each other. It truly feels like a huge triathlon family and one I feel lucky to be a part of.

Global Coaches Day: Ian O'Brien

For more information on the World Triathlon Coach Education Programme, visit the website.

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