Steve Trew: A Love Letter To My Athletes

Steve Trew is putting pen to paper for personal reasons. Dear triathletes…

You have no idea how much I enjoy coaching you and working with you. You have no idea just how much pleasure it gives me to see all those improvements over weeks and months and years. You have no idea how much I would miss it all –and miss you all – if I were no longer able to coach you, my lovely bunch.

A reason for living? Well, maybe not quite that philosophical, but a very big part of my life anyway. So, is it a substitute for not racing? Hmm … probably to some extent; competing in swimming, running and triathlon (again) was a big part of my life. But this is different. Coaching is different. That magic moment in the pool when you can see the mind light up with that awesome message, “Now I get it!” and that front crawl stroke just seems… different. That previously uncoordinated athlete in the pool now looks amazingly like… a swimmer! Those 100 metre reps that were taking almost three minutes go down to 2:30, and then 2:10 and then one magical day, the whole set is done in under two minutes – WOW! OMG is, I believe, the current expression.

Sport builds character, it is said. And then some philosophical fraud says, “No, it reveals it,” and looks smugly on as if he has revealed the secrets of the universe. Well, you know what? Both statements are true, and they work together, they are not mutually exclusive. Truth is not the premise of one person who thinks he’s smarter than the rest. Truth is there in every single session that you do, every single time you face the next rep daring to expect that, yes, you will get through it in the time set, even if one year ago it would have been both unthinkable and unimaginable. The dream becomes the reality and the next dream becomes the next reality. That is the nature of sport, it is the nature of training and the nature of coaching to set those challenges just a tiny bit harder each time, but keep them accessible.

And the improvements come both in training and in racing. “Dare to dream” is the cliché (and the other cliché is “the difference between humans and machines is that machines can’t dream”). And you must dream, if you don’t dream then how do you know when those dreams have come true? Go up a lane in swimming, drop the recovery times on those 400m reps on the track, make the club team, maybe make the GB age-group team, go to the Europeans, go to the worlds. Win the world championship! Yes, dare to dream and those dreams can and do come true. My little group of nice people, and some of them carry that title, World Champion. Does that make me a great coach? Erm… I don’t think so, I most certainly don’t think so! The guys I’m privileged to work with would rip me apart if I ever claimed that. What it means is that they dared to dream, to make the dream come true. They had the pure guts and determination to keep on going when most others would have stopped. As my good friend Rudyard Kipling wrote:

‘If you can force your heart and
nerve and sinew.

To serve your turn long after
they are gone,

And so hold on when there is
nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them:
‘Hold on!’

That’s what makes them different, that’s what makes them world champions.

And would you recognise these ‘best in the world’ if you saw them? Well, you might, but only because you’re triathletes and you’ve been there and done it and got the badge. And you recognise that tenacity in others and you know what it takes. But Joe Bloggs, the guy who’s walking in the park on Saturday morning when my little group are hanging their guts out on the line? No, he doesn’t recognise them and why should he? “Is this a running club or something?” Yes, it’s the ‘or something’, that’s exactly what it is, thank you.

So, thank you to all my athletes, present and past – and future. The juniors, the internationals, the Olympians, the age-groupers, the old and the young. Thank you for teaching me humility, for teaching me friendship, for making me (and I say this in all seriousness which is most unlike me) a better and nicer person.

See you Tuesday, on poolside, at 5:55am. Don’t be late. Ever.

Steve Trew Coach & commentor

Steve is never, ever late for sessions. Because he doesn’t have to do them, he just shouts at those who can. Steve is an advisory coach for Speedo, he can be contacted for all things triathlon at trew@personalbest.demon.co.uk.