Michelle is a triathlon coach, but competed as a runner then a triathlete before this. Born in the UK, she moved to Australia aged 8, and represented Australia at the World Junior Cross Country Championships and in the final of the 10,000 at the Commonwealth Games.
Injuries saw her move to triathlon, and she represented Great Britain at 2 Olympics (with the best performance in an Olympic Triathlon by a GB woman so far with 6th place in Athens 2004).
Michelle won the European Championships in 2001, finished 3rd in the World Championships a year later, and also had several World Cup podium finishes during her career.
Now she helps other triathletes achieve their goals, through Team Dillon Coaching ( www.teamdilloncoaching.com ).
Michelle set up her coaching business in 2008 and it has been hugely successful. She now has 5 coaches on board with her, looking after over 50 athletes, from age-groupers to elite triathletes (including Will Clarke , another of our interviewees). Michelle Dillon was voted 220 Triathlon Coach of the Year in 2010.
You were obviously a very successful triathlete in your day! Did you find it hard to stop being full time athlete?
At first it was tough as the door closed on my career very quickly and all of a sudden. Although I had long standing back problems, I didn’t quite realise how bad they were until 2008 when my sports doctor said I had a step in my back and that my spine was slipping forward! From there I had many scans and doctors appointments to find my back had no disc left at level five and a torn disc at level four. I was in agony and had no choice but to have an operation and when one door closes another one opens and this is when I decided to start coaching.
Why did you move into coaching? Did it come naturally?
It has always come to me very naturally. When I was younger I used motivate all my little athletics friends to come training with me. I used to set the program then and it worked! I coached myself and - don’t get my wrong - I made lots of my own mistakes but I also won big races too.
I just love helping people and get lots out of it. I didn’t have to think twice about moving into coaching, I was already coaching my now husband Stuart Hayes and a few other athletes with success before I retired.
Who was your coach and do they influence your coaching now? Through my career I didn’t have many coaches but the ones I did have in running and triathlon I took the best parts and knowledge and added them into my way of coaching.
A big part of coaching is mentoring and counselling believe it or not, and this is one part that I feel is my strength as I am fairly good at reading my athletes. So I can tweak their training according to what they need.
Team Dillon Coaching seems to be a great success – you have grown a buzzing community of happy, successful triathletes. One of the things that really stands out just from your website is how much you care about all your athletes, and what a great motivator you are – what techniques do you use to keep all the athletes you coach motivated?
For me it’s always been treat every one the same no matter what level they are at. Everyone can get the best out of themselves if you believe in them. It's all about staying as positive as possible and helping an athlete see the positive when the chips are down and the going gets tough.
It's easy to be there for an athlete when everything is going well, athletes need their coach the most when things are not going so well. I have found if you can motivate an athlete when they are at their lowest, you are a good coach!
Moving from being an athlete into coaching is something that a lot of athletes do (from all sports) but not all are successful, why do you think you have managed to make this move successfully?
Being passionate, motivated and staying positive as a coach and enjoying what I do. If you enjoy what you do then it comes across in your work, and your athletes respond to this and will get the results.
What should someone be looking for in a triathlon coach, and why do you think should someone invest in one-to-one coaching rather than just training with a coach at their local club?
It depends on the type of person you are. Working closely with a coach can work well if you need that one-on-one motivation and a bit of a push or looking to improve on technique. Whereas if you just like to do it for fun and join your local tri club then that can be fun too.
What do you find the hardest thing about being a coach?
Trying to keep all of your athletes positive. If you have lots of athletes that are down at the same time it can take its toll on you, it can be draining and very emotional. You have to learn how to manage that and take some time for yourself, because if you're not a happy coach it can affect your athletes.
What is your proudest achievement as a coach?
I have many proud moments so far, this is a few of them.
What are your aims moving forward, with your business and coaching?
This year is focused on getting as many of my elite athletes to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, and to continue to grow Team Dillon Coaching in all areas and have a healthy, happy, and successful family of athletes racing for TDC in the future!
27th February 2012