With great excitement & some nerves, thirty-seven keen students gathered at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen on Monday for the inaugural Billigence Talent ID Academy Camp. Designed for talent transfer and new athletes, the three day camp exposed the 12-16 year olds to multisport in an inviting camp environment, under the guidance of some of the state’s best coaches.
Day one commenced with a parent and athlete welcome from head coach & camp coordinator, Mick Delamotte. The talk focused on the Triathlon NSW junior development pathway and philosophy, which centres on the idea ‘do triathlon, don’t be a triathlete’. This philosophy encourages late specialisation and sport sampling rather than myopic – and often detrimental – focus on the sport from a very young age.
After a chat about camp rules and expectations, the parents said goodbye and the athletes were introduced to the coaches – Peter Clifford & Symon Astley of HPT, Brendan Sexton of the Illawarra Academy of Sport, Andrew Tong of Tri Focus, Tristan Harrison of the Orange Piranhas , and Junior Development Officer, Alana Leabeater – and completed a getting-to-know-you exercise.
Following lunch, the athletes and coaches went to their first training session, a bike skills session focusing on bike handling, balance and stability. These skills are fundamental to athlete development and in particular for high speed, technical racing, which are predominant for elite youth and juniors. This session was followed by a short run skills set on the oval, encouraging good form through short drills.
Day one finished with dinner and another chat with the coaches about the triathlon pathway and skills required, including physical, technical, tactical and mental skills. The athletes demonstrated a profound understanding of qualities like resilience, persistence, grit and determination, holding them in good steed for their athletic journeys ahead.
Day two dawned smoky and hot, unfortunately forcing all sessions to be held indoors. Starting with a pool skills session after breakfast, the athletes tried pack swimming, group race starts and sighting drills before doing some short races and games. After a short break, the group gathered in the indoor multisport space for another bike skills session, focusing on agility drills, bunch riding safety and cornering.
After lunch, the athletes and coaches continued with bike skills, encouraging ‘discovery learning’ by setting up various obstacles and allowing athletes to experiment to find solutions. This was followed by transition skills training, with mini-triathlons and helmet & shoe relays. These activities were greatly enjoyed by all, and helped the athletes to prepare for the triathlon and aquathon on day three.
Dinner was followed by a surprise visit from the race director, Ben Mildren of Mildren Events, who kindly lent his time to answer the numerous questions about Wednesday’s races from the budding athletes. It was a good opportunity to go through the basics of a triathlon, like listening to the race briefing, setting up your transition area, and fuelling appropriately for a morning race.
Wednesday morning was an early start, with a light breakfast followed by a bike course recon and race briefing. The first wave of athletes went off at 7.30am, guided by Ben & Kylie Mildren and a fantastic team of parent & sibling volunteers. The triathlon race of a 200m swim/3km bike/1km run was followed by an aquathon of 200m swim/1.5km run, which were fiercely contested by all athletes. It was fantastic to see them implement their new skills and race with great determination and enthusiasm.
At the conclusion of the races, with their well-deserved medals draped around their necks, the athletes had a post-race briefing and farewell with the coaches. The athletes were encouraged to continue their triathlon journey by engaging with one of the fantastic local junior clubs, racing one of the many junior events in NSW or competing in the NSW All Schools Triathlon next February.
This camp and race would not have been successful without the contribution of a number of key people. Firstly, thank you to Jana Kapr, CEO of Billigence, whose enthusiasm and support of junior development drove the evolution of the concept.
Thank you also to Mildren Events, Northern Suburbs Tri Club, Warringah Tri Club, Balmoral Tri Club and Tri Focus, who supported the race, and the coaches who attended and shared their knowledge and passion with the athletes.
Most importantly, thank you to the athletes, who showed great eagerness, respect and maturity over the camp. We hope to support and guide you in your triathlon journey to come.