Triathlon Best Coaches Special : Dave Williams

We continue the presentation of the best endurance coaches by presenting Dave Williams. Dave Williams is the coach of Loukia Lili, who lives and trains in the USA.

We feel very honoured that a very talented and experienced coach like Mr. Williams gives an exclusive interview to our triathlon digital magazine.

Dave Williams has served as a Cross Country Head Coach at Flagler college for 14 years and a Swimming Head Coach at Episcopal High School and St. Augustine Swim Teams for 8 years.

In a coaching career that spans over two decades, Dave Williams has earned 13 Coach of the Year awards while guiding teams to numerous conference and regional championships. While at Flagler, Williams has qualified an unprecedented 44 individuals to intercollegiate national championships.

Williams has served on the Florida Swimming Technical Planning Committee, the NAIA Cross Country Rating Committee, seven terms as the Cross Country Chair for the Florida Sun Conference, and four terms as the Cross Country Chair for Region XIV.

Now he is the associate director of the campus recreation center of Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA), which is the former host of the 1996 Olympic Games and was awarded the “Best Athletic Facility” in the Nation by the Princeton Review in 2012.

His major Career Achievements:

93 All-Conference Athletes
42 Individual Top 16 Rankings
15 All-Americans
13 “Coach of the Year” Awards
7 Conference Team Championships
6 District/Region Championships
4 National Top 25 Team Rankings
1 USMS World Champion, World Record Holder
1 Canadian National Triathlon Champion

We really hope that you will enjoy his interview and learn from his training secrets.


What is your coaching philosophy?

I believe that success is the direct result of preparation.  I believe in setting, striving for, and achieving personal and team goals.  I believe in overcoming adversity.  I believe that adversity (emotional and physical stress) introduces an athlete to him/herself in a way that nothing else in training and racing can.  I believe that smart, knowledgeable, and goal directed athletes tend to be more successful.  I believe in “can”, “will”, and “I will try” rather than “can’t”, “can-not”, and “won’t”.  The three later words are self-defeating, contagious, and serve to lower one’s own expectations/abilities.


I believe in a scientifically based approach of blending training volume and rest combined with a feel for what the athlete is capable of performing.  As a general rule, I will not subject an athlete to an impossible task.  I will however, challenge them and encourage them to TRY.  Accomplishing the things that they do not initially believe they can accomplish is after all what success is all about.



How has the coaching style changed over the last 20 years? Can you predict the style of coaching in the future?

As a profession, I would like to think that coaching has become much more sophisticated and data driven compared to the past.  We have many more tools available today that assist us in measuring, evaluating, and training the athlete for optimal performance.  Additionally, the triathlon is a fairly new sport and I envision a tremendous amount of progress to be made over the foreseeable future.  To this end, I would expect elite coaches to obtain a stronger foundation with regards to the physiology of exercise as well as the mechanics of each of the three disciplines.  Top tier collegiate and national teams will need to provide more sport specific expertise and instruction from a variety of resources in the same manner that other sports do to be competitive.



Do you believe that one coach is enough for triathlon or is it necessary to have one expert coach in each discipline?

The answer is yes and no.  Most individuals and smaller programs will lack the resources to provide for more than one coach.  Besides, this will not always be the best approach given the interdisciplinary nature of the triathlon.  Most sport specific coaches will lack this holistic approach to the training required across three mediums.  Fortunately, the energy systems utilized (effort, pace, rest, and distance) are transferable and will transcend across the training spectrum.  This is especially beneficial if the athlete has a balanced training program. As previously stated, I would expect the elite and top tier programs will utilize some sport specific elements, expertise and coaches under the general guidance and direction of the head coach just as other sports may utilize a position specific/assistant coach on a traditional team sport.




What kind of lab exams or test do you perform within a training/ racing environment in order to monitor the progress of the athlete?

Let me first state that races that are identified and scheduled at the outset of the season are in fact tests that I would utilize to gauge performance especially when scheduled across multiple years.  In terms of more traditional test, I find it helpful to collect data from a variety of other tests to measure different aspects of muscular strength and endurance and specific physiological or mechanical variables.  To be effective, it is important to capture data at regular intervals of approximately 6 weeks throughout the training cycle.

Tests that I typically perform include the following:

  1. Sport specific mechanical test such as stroke or gait cycle.
  2. Maximum Oxygen Uptake (VO2 Max)
  3. vVO2 Economy
  4. Power Test to measure Watts
  5. Muscular Strength Test
  6. Muscular Endurance Test

What/which are the major mistakes amateur athletes make?

I find that many amateur athletes fail to:

  1. Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time specific).
  2. Plan their training and racing calendar with these goals in mind.
  3. Execute the plan accordingly.
  4. Evaluate and reevaluate their progress during the season.

I also find that many amateur triathletes tend to avoid training their weakest sport and focus their attention more on their stronger sport.



What advice can you give our readers to help them progress fast in the sport?

I am often leery (I have doubts) of athletes that progress too quickly as they are often headed towards injury or disappointment.  The key to progression is a three-part process: 1) Set realistic, challenging, and reachable goals 2) Plan and be prepared to do the work necessary and as prescribed 3) Enjoy the ride.  Successful athletes love what they do.



What challenges/tests do you suggest that triathletes do in order to monitor their progress?

Every athlete has the capacity to improve.  The rate of improvement depends on preparation and on the proper blending of the mechanical, physiological, and psychological variables involved.  Each athlete should complete a sort of SWOT analysis whereby they analyze (preferably with a coach) their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to their ultimate success and performance.  This analysis should be utilized in concert with the test previously described to provide the athlete with the greatest possible opportunity for success.



What instruments/gadgets do you believe are necessary for calculating, monitoring their training intensity during a training session?

Watches, heart rate monitors, GPS, Bike computers, and the like are all great tools that athletes can use to monitor performance and many athletes in the U.S. own just about all of the latest gadget that hit the market.  The reality however, is that most athletes are distracted by these devices and tend to give them more attention than they should.  To be successful, athletes must learn their internal being and know how to interpret what their mind and body is telling them.  As a result, I would rarely let an athlete have access to any of these tools including a watch during training!  Conceptually, the idea is that they need to learn how to pay attention to and read their own internal clock.  As a coach I would provide the necessary feedback early in the process until the athlete begins to read and trust the internal athlete within.  This is a critical step in the development of the athlete that takes time to develop.  Once developed, the athlete will be able to track progress on a graph where time, heart rate, power, and perceived exertion move linearly in response to exertion or stress (e.g. if an athlete performs at 60% of their heart rate max that should correlate with his 60% effort and pace).



About triathlonworld

O Γιάννης Ψαρέλης γεννήθηκε το 1969 στην Αθήνα. Από το 1978 ασχολείται με τον αθλητισμό. Είναι αναγνωρισμένος προπονητής τριάθλου από την Ironman και Level 3 προπονητής τριάθλου από την εθνική Ομοσπονδία της Νεας Ζηλανδίας (με το καλύτερο σύστημα διαβίου εκπαίδευσης προπονητών), πιστοποιημένος δάσκαλος κολύμβησης (Teacher ID: 15843) από τον Σύνδεσμο Προπονητών Κολύμβησης της Αυστραλίας καθώς και Αργυρού Επιπέδου Διεθνής προπονητής από τον ίδιο σύνδεσμο (ASCTA International Silver :0534). Επίσης, είναι πιστοποιημένος προπονητής κολύμβησης από τον Σύνδεσμο Προπονητών κολύμβησης των ΗΠΑ επιπέδου 4:5 (ASCA Level 4:5). Συνολικά έχει συμμετάσχει σε περισσότερους από 200 αγώνες τριάθλου και multistports και σε περισσότερους από 150 αγώνες τρεξίματος εκτός σταδίου. Έχει διατελέσει μέλος της Ολομέλειας της Ελληνικής Ολυμπιακής Επιτροπής, Διοικητικός Διευθυντής στην Διεθνή Ολυμπιακή Ακαδημία, Γενικός Γραμματέας στην Ελληνική Ομοσπονδία Τριάθλου, Διευθυντής Αθλήματος στην ΟΕΟΑ Αθήνα 2004 κ.λπ. Έχει επίσης εμπνευστεί και διατελέσει Αθλητικός Διευθυντής του Κέντρου Υψηλού Αθλητισμού (Sports Excellence). Σπουδές: Χημεία (ΕΚΠΑ), ΜΒΑ (ΟΠΑ), Μεταπτυχιακό στην Αθλητική Διοίκηση (MSc,Lyon 1), το Μάρκετινγκ και την Επικοινωνία ( από το Οικονομικό Πανεπιστήμιο ΑθηνώνMSc). Πρόσφατα, είναι στη διαδικασία ολοκλήρωσης Μεταπτυχιακού πάνω στην Μεγιστοποίηση της Αθλητικής Απόδοσης και την Προπονητική (ΔΠΘ). Σήμερα, είναι υποψήφιος Διδάκτωρ στο ΔΠΘ με αντικείμενο την εφαρμοσμένη Φυσιολογία στα αθλήματα αντοχής.