As a kid, I played every sport from sailing, golf, tennis and soccer to field hockey, softball, track, swimming, skiing, and lacrosse. I learned so much, not only from my teammates and coaches in each sport, but from the unique challenges that each sport presented. I thought this month we could look outside our sphere of triathlon and look to other sports around the world to see what we can learn.  


World Cup 2014 – Winning takes a team

Germany coach Joachim Löw attributed his team’s success in winning the World Cup to their team unity and work ethic. “We have been together for 55 days, we have started this project years ago and this is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” Löw said. In addition, he believes the tournament triumph was forged on team spirit saying, “this team has developed an unbelievable team spirit and has developed a marvellous mental capacity.”


What can we as triathletes learn?

Triathletes race alone on the course, but the truly successful athletes have an entire team that contributes to the win. To be successful, you need to build the best team around you from your coaches to your physical therapy team and training mates. A supportive team can take a great athlete and make you even better.


NFL – NFC championship – Stick with your game plan and never ever give up

The Seattle Seahawks, led by quarterback Russell Wilson, overcame the largest deficit in post-season history. They were down 16 to 0 well into the third quarter of the game. Wilson had attempted multiple passes to Kearse, only to be intercepted. But he stuck with his game plan and neither quarterback nor receiver lost faith in the other’s ability to execute. Finally in overtime on the last play of the game, Wilson and Kearse finally connected for the game winning touch down. Coach Pete Carroll said. “Even when things were rough, he was in it the whole way. He never doubted that he could get it done. He never hesitated, never flinched. We talked the whole time, and he kept saying that we were gonna find a way.”


What can we as triathletes learn?

Triathletes face many challenges on race day. When things go wrong, especially over the iron-distance, if you stick with your race plan and don’t give up, things can always turn around. Whereas if you give up, then there is only one outcome – failure.


NBA – Rest to peak for Championship season

In the NBA over the last few years, the coaches have learned that their players can’t perform at 100% for the entire season and still peak for the championship season. In order to peak for the championship season, teams have started to strategically rest their players during the year, especially fragile and ageing players, but even healthy ones. Jazz coach, Quin Snyder, a former Lakers assistant who was on the Hawks’ staff last season, endorsed the new-school philosophy. “It’s a long race,” the first-year coach said. “You make sure that you’re using your guys in the best possible way.” Even a team like the Jazz, with every core player 24 or younger, is trying to preserve its players. Snyder said. “We want guys to be fresh when the game is on the line. And you also want them to be fresh at the end of the year. And you want them to be healthy two years from now. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich plays who he wants when he wants. He rests his veteran San Antonio players whenever he thought it would help his team. This strategy has yielded 17 trips to the playoffs in 17 complete seasons and five championships.”

What can we as triathletes learn?

Triathlon is a tough sport. You can’t be race ready and race fit the entire year. It is important to pick out the key races that are your personal championships and build your year to peak at those one or two races.  Winning all year does no good if you fail to perform when it really counts.

Ellis_ChBH14_swim (c) witsup

Extreme sports – Finding your flow

Extreme athletes, from skiers and surfers, to skateboarders all the way to base jumpers and climbers are forced to focus their energies in ways most of us can’t image. When a mistake in sport means life or death, the athlete can’t let their mind wander and must be in a flow state to perform. Extreme athletes are pushing the boundaries of their sport and minds. Skateboarder Danny Way explains “it is either find the zone or suffer the consequences -there is no other choice available.”  For Shane McConkey, a skier, base jumper, and all around superman, it was always about pushing the envelope and creativity. He shifted the paradigm and showed what was possible to the entire generation.


What can we as triathletes learn?

Triathlon is not a life or death sport in the same way as extreme sports. But you can improve your training and race by breaking your objectives into clear steps that help you stay in the moment. In addition, having a tight feedback loop where you can see the results of your efforts will help you focus. Following your gut instincts in a race situation is key to staying in the zone. Finally, find the sweet spot where you are challenging your current skills adequately while keeping the objectives achievable.


Cycling – Goal-setting.“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there,” said baseball legend Yogi Berra.

After a stellar 2012 campaign, which saw him win the Tour De France and Olympic gold, Bradley Wiggins struggled in 2013 and 2014. It is not uncommon for an elite performer like Wiggins to struggle to set goals and to motivate themselves after hitting such phenomenal heights. The value of setting goals at any level of sport should not be underestimated as effective goals provide individuals with a basis for self-improvement. “If I do anything else after this it will be stuff I want to do, stuff that I’m willing to train hard and make sacrifices for really,” Wiggins said. “For me it was always about winning the Tour. That was a huge thing for me, a huge journey. I’ve been doing that for years. I don’t know if I’d want to go through all that again to be honest.” Wiggins struggles in 2013 serve to highlight how difficult it can be to produce your very best when you have achieved your ultimate goal. In 2014, we saw Wiggins bounce back and achieve his first world title on the road and set his sights on a fifth Olympic Games in 2016.


What can we as triathletes learn?

After a key race, especially an iron-distance, that has required such a large sacrifice, it is important to take a step back and reassess your goals. If you achieved your ultimate goal, then take some time to see what inspires you now. If you didn’t reach the goal, are you prepared to sacrifice another year of work and effort to try to achieve it? Taking the time to build your goal road map will pay off in the year so don’t just push on blindly, set your destination.


Boxing – The art of intimidation

Boxing is a sport where intimidation starts weeks, even months before the athletes ever enter the ring. Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have done it better than anyone. Tyson said “I just have this thing inside me that wants to eat and conquer. Maybe it’s egotistical, but I have it in me. I just want to conquer people and their souls.” Boxers create fear in their opponents and force them to start fighting not to lose, instead of to win. The winning boxers focus on their strengths, play to their strengths and make opponents change their behaviour.


What can we as triathletes learn?

Think in the present. The past has gone and the future hasn’t happened yet. Race to your strengths and use positive self-talk and refer back to the hard work you have done in training. If you feel yourself slipping into a landscape of fear, recognise the slip, acknowledge that your opponent has done this and then put a stop to this. Have a quick release that will put a stop to the intimidation and help you refocus on your strengths.


Yes as triathletes we may know all there is to know about swimming, biking, and running, but life and sport is so much more. To be the best athletes we can be, it is sometimes necessary to look outside our bubble and soak in the all the lessons we can from the world.


Text by Mary Beth Ellis – Follow her on twitter

Photo by Delly Carr –

About The Author

Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP

Serious about what I do, but don’t take myself too seriously

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