When the Ironman/WTC folks announced their new “Ironman University” coaching program there was a ton of negative comments posted all over the web and social media. The program was slated as a 14-day online program that would make you a coach, capable of training athletes to complete an Ironman event. With no prerequisites required either. So, basically anybody off the street could plop down $600(now $700), complete the course and become an Ironman-certified coach.
I have to admit, I am as cynical of WTC as many others are since they are just a corporation mainly out to make money for shareholders. Many of the negative comments were things similar to what Coach Brett Sutton had stated: “14 hours of online study does not make you a coach, and it sure as hell shouldn’t qualify you to take on athletes preparing for the biggest endurance test of their lives.” Yeah, no shit Sherlock! Obviously you are not going to become a Brett Sutton or Matt Dixon after completing 14 hours of online training. But what is really necessary to help someone reach their Ironman goals? Many people succeed with no coaching whatsoever.
I would hope that any person looking to hire a coach for an Ironman event would consider their other qualifications besides just completing the Ironman University curriculum. But, there are many peopIe out there coaching with probably less training than that. It also depends on what the athletes’ goals and their budget are. Not everyone can afford to hire Brett Sutton if all they want to do is cross the finish line in 16 hours and 59 minutes. On the other hand, I really think that WTC should have some type of requirement as to IU attendees having finished at least an Ironman or two to show they have at least have some experience and been through the rigors of completing the event.
I decided to try to take a more positive look at this course. I have been coaching myself for the past couple years after having been coached for a few years before that. My coach had passed along much his knowledge to me and I read everything I can get my hands on to build as much knowledge as I can about the sport. I have attended workshops on things like ChiRunning and functional strength training to expand on that knowledge. I would love to be able to coach other people in triathlon someday. This would be a great way to give back to the sport that has done so much for me personally. For now I just want to accumulate as much knowledge and experience as I can about the sport. Much of the knowledge I gain I put into practice myself to determine what really works and what does not.
I have also been investigating what I would need to do become a certified coach. USA Triathlon is the typical standard certification that most coaches mention in addition to their experience. Well, in order to attend a level 1 USA Triathon coaching clinic, One requirement is that you have to have a reference from someone that you have already coached. Huh? So, basically you have to have already coached someone with NO Qualification before attending level 1? Wouldn’t it be better to provide some education before certification? Why isn’t anyone complaining about that? So how do I learn the things I need to learn in order to coach someone so that I can get certified?
The USA Triathlon certification is also ~$550 plus it requires you to travel to a major city and pay for lodging for at couple nights. Surely an investment of over $1000. If I do consider pursing this coaching thing going forward, I would still look to complete this, but I obviously have to have some kind of education and experience in coaching first. I don’t see USAT providing any education before certification.
The Ironman course seems pretty expensive at $600, but I considered what I would pay for a coach at around $150/month for one season for 6 months…$900. You also have a curriculum put together by 5 of THE BEST coaches in the business and access to their knowledge. Even if I am only using this knowledge for myself, why wouldn’t I do this just for coaching myself?
I also frequently help guide friends who are training for Ironman or other triathlons. Having a good base knowledge of triathlon coaching in addition to my personal experience would highly benefit them as well. Some friends are just downloading random training plans off the web, so I would think my little bit of knowledge that can be customized for an individual would be better than that.
The convenience of the online medium for the Ironman course is also bonus. I can complete this course on my schedule at my pace and not have to fly somewhere to attend in person. I don’t know where the “14 day” piece comes in, since you have 90 days to complete the course work. Perhaps they are referring to the 12 modules included in the course, plus maybe a couple extra days? Not sure really.
Despite all the negativity about Ironman University on the web, I have decided to pursue this. Even if I gain some valuble knowledge for only coaching myself, it will be well worth the $600. If it also provides me with the ability to help some friends get through their first race and get me a Level 1 USAT certification down the road, than even better. What is wrong with learning, especially if you can learn from some of the best in the business. You have to start somewhere and I think that this is a good opportunity to do that.
The Ironman University course was opened up for use late in August and I have been using the tool for a few weeks now. It is obviously, full of Ironman propaganda, but it so far chock full of well laid out information. It also has good exercises along the way to demonstrate and further reinforce the concepts it teaches. There are also handouts for each section, with sample questions and area to make notes.
I have to say I am pretty impressed with it. Technically it works pretty well too. The only bug I ran into was when I had to exit the course in the middle of section and then tried to come back to that point later. It just showed a blank white window, so I had to start the section over again. Not a bid deal since it was probably good to reinforce that again.
Some of the areas that I am curious to see about is about teaching topics like swimming technique and nutrition. Swimming is a complex beast and I would not feel comfortable teaching someone who was not a good swimmer(like I was in 2008) to become one. This is something that should be left to someone more highly qualified for sure. I am also curious to see if they try injecting their sponsors, like Chocolate Milk, into the nutrition curriculum. I have seen enough evidence about dairy and especially milk, to know that this is NOT a food that belongs in a healthy diet. That goes double when pour a bunch of sugary chocolate syrup in it too. Stay tuned for future posts about the program as I make my way through the course.