5 Questions with USA Triathlon Certified Coach Michael Harlow
by USA Triathlon
In this, Q&A, we chat with Michael Harlow, founder and director of Endorphin Fitness and his non-profit, the Live Red Foundation, which is focused on teaching life skills through free youth fitness programs in underserved communities.
USAT: How did you get started coaching Youth and Junior athletes?
Harlow: I started racing triathlons at 10 years old when youth triathlon was unheard of. I grew up racing local adult sprint triathlons because that is all that was available. As my interest in triathlon grew through college, I found that I really enjoyed working with kids through coaching youth swimming and running a youth mentorship program. Upon graduation, I set out to make triathlon more accessible for youth athletes by starting one of the country's first youth triathlon teams. Luckily, USA Triathlon started to really place a focus on the youth segment around this same time and youth athletes became the fastest growing segment of triathlon for much of the next decade.
USAT: What have you learned from the kids that you coach about coaching?
Harlow: The biggest takeaway from 18 years of coaching is that this sport is about much more than just getting faster. It is a lifestyle and teaches kids skills that truly change the course of their lives. I have watched my athletes over the years adopt these skills and go on to do amazing things in life with these skills. So, I always try to keep this bigger picture in mind when coaching.
USAT: What can adults learn from kids when it comes to pre-race nerves?
Harlow: Our kids obviously can get nervous too, but they often deal with these nerves differently. I think the team atmosphere that is inherent in youth triathlon helps with this. Races are an opportunity to see their friends and race with their friends so this creates a distraction from the pressures of the race. Adults should race with a club or group of friends to keep it fun.
USAT: How can I start a kids club as part of my team?
Harlow: The first step is learning how to coach youth athletes. The best way to do this is to get your USAT Youth & Junior Coach Certification. Next, begin advertising to your adult athletes, local families, schools, youth organizations, and at races that you will be starting a youth team. Offer youth-specific practice options as they have different needs from adults. From there, keep it fun!
USAT: What is your favorite workout for the team this week?
Harlow: We are getting ready for Youth & Junior Nationals and have a race-prep brick with this with a series of short sets consisting of 1 mile bike and 400m run for our juniors and 1/2 mile bike and 200m run for our youth. This workout develops their transition skills and gets them ready to race fast.