Joel Filliol is an independent elite triathlon coach. He represented Canada as a junior triathlete, having started racing at the age of 11.
He founded his own triathlon training company in 2000, having first got into coaching by supporting his girlfriend to Canada’s National Team, before moving into a development coach role with Triathlon Canada in 2001.
He was head coach for British Triathlon from 2009 to 2011 and before that Triathlon Canada head coach from 2006 – 2008, including the Beijing Olympic Games. He coached Simon Whitfield to Olympic Silver (Beijing 2008).
Now Joel coaches elite, pros and ambitious amateur athletes. He works via camps around the world, and online, and his athletes include Kyle Jones, Paula Findlay, Sarah Groff, Jarrod Shoemaker, Mario Mola, Richard Murray & Mirinda Carfrae.
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Working semi-independently backed by a central budget to support travel, camp expenses and medical support would be the ideal model, however I have yet to find federation or a perhaps financial backer to set this up.
As an independent coach working remotely for much of year, significant time is spent coordinating logistics with athletes who have different levels of resources available to them, which means there is a fair bit of ground work to set up these environments. It’s not as straightforward as within a federation where the athletes generally don’t pay as many expenses directly and there is admin help to sort out the details.
However doing it ourselves forces us to keep things simple and basic, and as a result the athletes must invest in their environment and make decisions about what is truly important.
Working independently means I am not assigned athletes from a federation, and must attract and retain athletes whom I think I can help, and that choose to work with me and join the squad, which is a very positive change, as the attitude is fundamentally different, as we invest in each other, and are accountable to each other.
I gained a lot from working with British Triathlon, including exposure to an even wider variety of outstanding athletes who have been successful, seeing both the differences and similarities in their approach. That perspective has been hugely valuable, and built upon the experiences gained in Victoria Canada where many high level international athletes trained including the Bennetts, Hamish Carter post his 2004 Gold, and many more.
Regarding resources, I went from a modest budget in Canada through to 2008, to a significant larger budget with BTF, however I experienced the additional complexities these resources incurred. As a result the perspective of what is essential and the ability to focus on doing the basics well have been reinforced.
We spent four years grafting in the pool, developing strength endurance!
Really we built on what Simon had done before, working to become stronger, and very well conditioned, combined with achieving a good ranking/start position, which helps for consistent top placing out of the water.
Dress warm and get on with it Canadians have had a history of success in triathlon, not dissimilar to the UK. The inclement winter weather weeds out the uncommitted, so motivation is a requirement.
Much can be achieved in the winter months via indoor training, snow is no excuse for not moving forward in many areas.
I would add this context: that learning from what you are doing and implementing, by critically reflecting and observing the impacts of your programme is essential.
So this process is not about learning new things constantly, or about innovation, but doing the basics very well, which is by far the major performance limiter at any level.
The trend of getting slower and/or limiting progression over time for long course athletes is common. Athletes get stuck with ‘one-speed’ due to excessive focus on race specific training and duration.
Once the duration is no longer the limiter, long races are still races, and faster is faster. It’s all aerobic, so bring changes of pace and training stimulus into the longer distance preparations.
The swim will become more important, and the need to get ‘on the train’ on the bike early in the race, therefore the ability to hold over-race wattage for the early stages, then settle down without blowing. The level of running will move forward as those athletes coming across from ITU who are in, or not too far away from their prime.
As the depth in ITU racing continues to grow, the requirement to be well balanced across each sport, while getting faster on the run is higher than ever before.
The complete athlete who has no significant weaknesses, can swim front pack consistently, can ride as hard as strategy and tactics demand, and can start and finish the run fast, and change pace is one who can win in the all scenarios, so is to model to prepare toward.
The relationships I have with the athletes are most rewarding to me. This is what I missed most working as a non-coaching head coach – the relationships were not the same, and I didn’t enjoy the dynamic in the same way.
I am working with a fantastic, and inspiring group of athletes and while it’s by no means easy, working together toward their hopes and dreams in sport and life is very motivating and rewarding.
I hope to be fortunate enough to continue to have the opportunities to work with great athletes towards big goals.
7th April 2013