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Life lessons learned in triathlon club

Madison McClear gives it her all. (click for larger version)
August 28, 2013 - The old saying is "those who can't do; teach," but for Oxford resident Jim McClear nothing could be further from the truth.

After nine years of competing as a tri-athlete in 50 different races including the toughest race, known as the Iron Man, McClear decided to get into coaching. For those who don't know, a triathlon consists of biking, swimming and running. The Iron Man is a 2.5-mile open water swim, 112-mile bike ride and then a marathon.

"After I had done the Iron Man in 2010, I thought there is no place to go (from here)," he said. "Sure, you can compete in them again, but why climb Mount Everest twice?"

Not seeing the point in doing more Iron Man competitions, gave McClear the thought of becoming a triathlon coach.

From left: Paige Hodder, Rachael Gusesch, Paul DeAngelis, Maddy Lovins, Jenna Fistler, Emma DeMalmata, Caroline Marsh, Luke Gubesch, Riley Hodder, Emily McClear, Madison McClear, Kate Marsh, Danielle Kemp, Abby Knope, Carter Polland. Front: Coach Jim McClear. Not pictured Grace Voglen and Emily Overturf. Photo submitted. (click for larger version)
"Though I love my job and I love sales, it's not something I see myself doing at 60 or 70 years-old," he said. "I wanted to have something else and coaching seemed like a real good place to go."

Three years ago, McClear began formally pursuing becoming a triathlon coach through USA Triathlon, which he said is a "rigorous process."

"You (have) got show you exhibit X amount of variance in this sport and you (have) got to go to very specialized classes," he added. "You have to get tested, continue with your education and you have to give back to the sport."

In his first year of coaching, McClear began with adults and realized the biggest barrier to them was swimming. As he entered his second year, he decided to try coaching youth, beginning with a pilot program of six kids, known as the Oxford Tri Club (OTC) to see if it would work out. To his amazement, they had "phenomenal success."

However, success for McClear has less to do with how many kids are standing on the podium to receive medals and more to do with what he calls "translational skill sets." Examples are learning how to overcome adversity, controlling the things you can control and letting go of things you can't control.

"A 9-year-old if they can learn that, the power of that is phenomenal. I'm 48 years old and still have a hard time figuring that out," explained McClear.

Another example is being in the middle of a race and falling off your bike.

"Are you going to complain and cry about it or pick up your bike and move on?" McClear said. "We have a three-second rule. Identify, overcome and move on. That's how long you have to worry about it."

He is also using the translational skills to teach the kids about responsibility by telling them that preparing their gear bag before a race is their responsibility. If they forget their goggles, it's not their mom's fault, but their own. His hope is that these translational skills will transfer from OTC to everyday life like preparing for their upcoming spelling test or interviewing for a job.

"These are things I will know I am successful if these things happen," added McClear.

The other thing that's important to him is that the kids are being active and getting exercise, while still having fun.

"Three things you have to worry about when you coach kids. Is it fun? Is it fun? And most importantly, is it fun? That's it," he said. "The challenge as a coach is preparing them and setting up the venue to where they're working out, but having the time of their life."

Even though teaching responsibility is good and having fun is good, the most important thing McClear wants his athletes to know is they are "valued, unique and special beyond words."

"There is a saying that 'triathlons do not build character, but reveal it,'" he said. "I want them to have a goal. Not just for practice, a race or even the season, but for life."

As for the future of OTC, McClear is looking to grow it "little by little." After having 17 kids on this year's team, he is looking to increase it to 20 to 25 kids next year.

His goal is to take some of the kids from this year's team and put them in more leadership roles next year where they will be teaching and helping the newer kids. He likes having smaller groups so he can get to know each athlete and focus on them.

"Parents are giving me money to train their kids," he said. "At the end of the season, I want parents to say 'I got the best deal ever.'"

For more information about triathlons visit www.usatriathlon.org

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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