Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 16 - Zack Hamner - COACH BY EXPERIENCE - Part 3 of 3

There's like, just from the outside looking in, it looks like there's kind of a divide. Some people are obsessed with helicopters and other people are obsessed with planes. Have you seen the two groups a little more close up?

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JESSE: There's like, just from the outside looking in, it looks like there's kind of a divide. Some people are obsessed with helicopters and other people are obsessed with planes. Have you seen the two groups a little more close up? Do you notice all this kind of personality really likes this or that? Or is it less that-- ZACK: I think aviation is a very strong path. If you kind of get that bug, it's a lot like triathlon actually. If you get that bug, it's really hard to kind of let go no matter what. And whether that's in fixed-wing, whether that's in the rotary helicopter stuff, I think it's really hard to kind of get out of that. And I think it's whatever you kind of fall into first. I think most people are going to fall into flying plane because it is cheaper if you're going to learn, way cheaper. But if you happen to be, you know someone that maybe takes you on a helicopter ride, they have their helicopter pilot license, and they won't take you out, and you might think that's the coolest thing ever. Maybe that's the path you go down to. Either way, they’re both aviation, but it's just kind of a different side of things. Yeah, I don't I think there's a lot of common ground. I don't think there's any sort of rivalry. But there definitely is-- I haven't seen a whole lot of, I guess, major difference in personalities. I've known helicopter pilots, and they're all tend to be kind of the same cut from the same cloth, I guess. At least in my experience, I don't know, I honestly don't know, a ton of helicopter pilots so that’ too. JESSE: Well, you probably know more than I do. So, that's why I asked because it's like, in my head, I want to paint this like caricature of two different people. I'm always trying to figure out how do people get down the paths that they get down? How a while where I am versus where you are versus somebody like, how do we even-- Aside from, I’ll say the lottery of birth, that puts us different places, how do we each find our own way into these various places? ZACK: Yeah, it's a really-- and my path, in particular, has been really, has gone a couple of different directions that, especially, recently, having gone into the finance side, just completely different path than where I thought it would go. And so I don't know, if it's a personality thing, I think a lot of it is a means to an end, for me, in terms of I do enjoy-- Obviously, I'm not a big math guy, in fact, I've never really ever enjoyed math. Enough, there's a ton of math involved in my job, but I work with numbers all day now. 10 years ago, I never would have considered a career in finance, like that was probably the last place I expected myself to be. And then just found my way into this and turns out actually kind of enjoy. And it's not fun, per se, but it's rewarding in its own unique way. And then to have the coaching side where I do like really working with people and mentoring people and mentoring, particularly like the college age group that 18 to like 21 year old age group, I really found like working with the group. They're old enough. I haven't worked a lot of juniors so I wouldn't-- I don't have a lot of experience in that. But they're very at that point, especially in the collegiate club team, they’re there because they want to be there. They're not forced to be there. A lot of times and I've been told this by, like my friend, who coaches swim, swimmers, in particular, will come to a university on a scholarship, and they get very burnt out, they're already burnt out running from high school, and then they get to college and they realize that they don't necessarily have that passion that they used to. And they might even be in a full-ride scholarship and they'll quit the team just because they just can't do it anymore, they don't like it. But everybody that joins the team at ?? 4:03> wants to be there, obviously. If they didn't want to be there, they're not going to be here. There's no incentive for them to be there. In fact, the pain to get this - because we don't offer any scholarships, they're paying for everything out of their own pocket, we get discounts, but by and large, they have to want to do it, they have to be willing to pay and put in the time and put in the effort to come to practice and to train hard and race hard. And I like that kind of-- that's the kind of athlete that I really like. A lot of juniors, in particular, sometimes their folks are triathletes, so they kind of just fell into like, oh, I guess I'll be a triathlete. And then they get to be 16-17 and there's not a whole lot NCAA development yet. But I'm interested to see how that's going to go with athletes that were triathletes from when they were kids because that's such a rarity nowadays. Hopefully, that becomes less and less a rarity. But that'll be interesting how that transitions, but I really enjoyed working with that group. And the club group is nice, because you don't have that pressure of high performance and really, really achieving, I guess, earning your keep for the school, because you're giving out scholarships, you kind of have less of that pressure. And so you can kind of you have a lot of freedom to kind of trend the program in the direction that you want it to be. And so, yeah, so that with coaching, in particular, it's just been great to have that kind of have that group of consistent young athletes that I can mentor and help achieve their dreams, their goals, whether that's competing in the first triathlon, which a lot of them do on the team or maybe they want to go top 10 at Nationals, and I can help them do that, too. So, having a wide array of athletes in that age group from that are beginners to borderline elites, being able to train those, and everything in between, being able to train all of that in one setting, it's really, really awesome. JESSE: So, I want to ask you a little bit of a kind of esoteric question. And I like to talk to coaches about this because I mean, you see it firsthand. And I mean, you have a large impact on the athletes, you kind of have under your care, but I'm wondering if you have an idea or thought about what the purpose of sport is? ZACK: It’s a good question. I think, for me, sport is it's kind of almost primal if you put it in that way. It's very, in competition in general, it's competition. But it's also in particularly in anything like endurance sports, where it's like a race, it's very-- For me, when I started triathlon, what really appealed me was the racing and the competition side. And that's still what drives me today is I like obviously, seeing my times get faster is cool. But I really like being able to basically go and beat other people at something where it's measured, we're all fighting the same triathlon and endurance sports in general, everyone's going the same distance but who ?? 7:27> the best. And so it was kind of almost like a-- I guess, yeah, like I said, a very primal thing of like, I want to be the best at this. And here's-- everyone gets the same course and you all have to go do it, but I want to be the first to the other end. And so having that kind of-- I don't know if it's an instinct thing and I think some people are very much in tune with that, and others aren't so much. I know plenty of people that even in the sport triathlon, that are not in any way competitive and they do it because they enjoy training, and they enjoy the social aspect and the lifestyle. But I've always particularly enjoyed that competition. And so in sport, it's been really about proving, I know, it's proving yourself against everybody else, or a lot of times you go back and forth between that and proving something to yourself that you worked hard, you earn this, and now go prove it against the other people who also worked hard. So, that's kind of, I guess, it's kind of hard to-- A roundabout way to answer that question. But I think it comes back to that need to be the best. That's what it's for me, at least. I think that definition, obviously, varies vastly from people that something that's fun versus something that I want to be the best. JESSE: Yeah, I don't know if you see variations, so like, say, so I’m gonna call them kids, but they're not really kids. The kids are like, they're not elite, they're not ever going to be anywhere near that. But they're still out there just like working their butt off. Do you see a different motivation for them? Like what is or like learning life lessons? Are we just getting in shape? Or you know what are we even out here doing? ZACK: Yeah, I mean, I think you learn a lot, especially when-- you learn a lot about yourself. And triathlon, in particular, is very because it is so physically and mentally demanding, and not even just with racing, but with the training, especially like I said earlier with kids having to balance their school life around the sport that plays such a big role in just like, making sure that your priorities are straight. And making sure that everything-- you're doing the best you can in the moment in whatever it is. And some people have the motivation that they just-- maybe they want to better themselves, and it's very internal. And they don't care if they’re last place, they just want to go and finish that race. And I've had athletes that are like that, they want to do-- they're 18 years old, and by the time they graduate, they want to do an Ironman. I've had several athletes that want to do that at some point. And they ?? 10:30> do sprints one year at the Olympics, the next year, half Ironman, and then the Ironman their senior year or something. And that's 100% internal, they don't want to go and they don't really care about being competitive, they just want to go and finish that. And so if they can go and finish that, and cross that off their list; I've done my job as a coach, even though maybe I thought that they should focus on this or that because that's kind of my own personal goals for the team. But if they want to do this, I'm going to help them along the way anyway I can. So, I think there's so many different motivations for people and athletes, in particular, they're just-- especially with mass participation, sports because there's not a huge-- And I'm fortunate that I have a team environment to work with, like my own private kind of practice coaching with athletes that are in their mid 30s, late 40s and up. They tend to be a lot more intrinsically motivated versus I'm going to do this because my team, my friends doing it and do this because-- and maybe their motivations change. But a lot of times, the older athletes are very much I want to go and finish an Ironman, I want to go and maybe get this PR, maybe I want to race this race, I want to do Alcatraz or I want to go to 70.3 worlds, or whatever it is, or maybe I'll even want to go pro. But they're very, a lot more intrinsically motivated, versus my younger athletes can get a lot more external motivation from teammates, and from just being around a lot more athletes that are similar to yourself. So there's a lot of...change. JESSE: Yeah, it's just amazing to see the progression from, like younger athletes to older athletes, and the people that stay with it. I mean, I recently saw a lot of my college teammates and my college coaches. And I always felt bad like I was doing something wrong. It was just this weird experience where so many people kept being like, Oh, do you still do triathlon like when you can get to it? And I just want to be like, no I'm still training more hours than I was in college and I'm still trying to be better than I was. And like, I'm still after it, here eight years after graduation. Whereas a lot of them are kind of settling into life and having kids and getting married and you know, just kind of compartmentalizing things down. So, yeah, I still likes, it's definitely interesting to see who makes that transition, why? And like where does that post-college career basically stop for so many people? ZACK: Yeah. And triathlon, in particular, I've seen that and that I've had-- It's interesting, actually, I should do a follow up one of these days and just go back to a lot of prior athletes and kind of just see where they're at, and maybe how they benefit from the team, how they benefit-- how triathlon has benefited their life. I would say of the ones that I know, I'd say only about half of them, you ever do triathlon after college. But the ones that do, I think almost every single one of the athletes on my team that has done triathlon in college, even if they don't do it seriously, in terms of they're never going to train 10 to 15 hours a week again. And then - for any, almost every single one of them will still do some sort of races, whether that's a 5K on the Fourth of July, whether that's going in. And maybe you're trying to run a marathon in five years or trying to go by that time, they're in their 30s, they want to do an Ironman again. As long as they came out of that program, and they developed some sort of a love for the sport and something being active and being healthy. That's also a big benefit that I've tried to I feel like having done my job as a coach for that for years, if nothing else, they still have that and wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle, that's a part of it, too. But yeah, it's interesting to-- It’d be really interesting to go back and see what a lot of these athletes are up to nowadays in terms of sport because a lot of them do post-grad, they don't really do much of it anymore. And just by nature of having a having now working 40 to 55 hours a week, having a full-time job, it gets really, really hard to continue to really want to do this on limited time, especially when you have a family, sure I give the utmost respect for guys that are working crazy hours and are still going you know, trying to go to like 70.3 worlds or go to Kona on 10-12 hours of training. Utmost respect for those guys, those age groupers. Because unlike the pros, they're fitting in training, just like my student-athletes, they're putting in training on top of everything else in their life, family life, and work-life all in one where the pros don't have it easy in that way, but all they have to focus on is... JESSE: Yeah, the only mental focus is training. Yeah. ZACK: Yeah. JESSE: Yeah. If you do a follow up with your athletes and kind of figure out who the people that are doing it, and like why they're doing it; I’d love to collect that stuff and maybe put it up on the website or something like do like a little article with - from everybody. That would be really cool. ZACK: Yeah, definitely. That's something that I haven't done because I've only been coaching the team for about four years. So, I've just this last year-- JESSE: Just done the full cycle through. ZACK: Yeah, exactly. So, I'm really interested to see the-- only a few of them are retention for athletes tend to be pretty good. But we, a lot of time, we'll start off in terms of recruiting, we will start off with maybe 35-40 people signing up for the team in the fall. And then by the time the falls over, we have maybe 20-25. And then of those 20 to 25, it gets whittled down to probably, maybe 10 to 20 like core members. And people come in and out throughout the spring. But those usually 10 to 12 that are actually going to stay the next year, tend to go all four years in my experience. So, it'll be interesting now that I have a full cycle, I can kind of see. ?? 17:01> my people, I start coaching as freshmen who just graduated at the end of the year in May, what they're going to be doing, what their plans are, and as far as I know, a lot of them are still training for something. I don't know what, but then most of are usually, a lot of times, I get a lot of ex-runners. And so they always go back into running as they do. JESSE: There's always that temptation. Even now I'm probably a better triathlete than I was a runner, but there's still the temptation of like, maybe I can go back and try to have a new PR 5K or something because I love running the 5K and like, do I really want to do that? I don't know. ZACK: Yeah, that's a whole the whole commitment and to a different - distance to that kind of training and it's-- I had to tell myself and I have to do it now even that I'm never going to be as-- there's no way I'm going to be as fast as I was when I was trading basically full-time. And I have to let that dream go that I'm going to be able to run under 16 minutes off the bike like I'm not going to be able to probably ever do that, unless I start really, really training hard again. And so, yeah, with that, following up with athletes will definitely be something that I look in, that's a really good idea. I should do that. So, yeah-- JESSE: Yeah, getting those life perspectives. ZACK: Yeah, absolutely. That'd be valuable. JESSE: We're running a little out of time here. So, I'll ask you the question I asked everybody. If you could only choose one food for recovery to eat for the rest of your life, what do you choose? ZACK: One food for recovery? After every race-- What was that? JESSE: I was gonna say I'm hoping for some like pro secrets here like you guys eat like a weird fruit you can only find on an island. ZACK: So, I've already always-- After races, I always crave a big protein shake. Like just like with a bunch of bananas and like protein powder and stuff. But that was what I used to crave. And now as of lately, I've really really wanted like a big fat hamburger, like a cheeseburger right after a race. So, that'll be-- I don't usually give in to that temptation, but I really enjoy like a big like juicy cheeseburger or something or some sort of like really greasy breakfast food after like a race. And the nice thing about racing sprints is that you can race them so often that it basically becomes, you work, you have a really hard workout followed by brunch for me. So, something related to breakfast food or a big fat cheeseburger. That was what I want to after all my half Ironmans is a cheeseburger. So-- JESSE: deserve so it's okay. ZACK: Yeah, yeah, I don't feel-- I haven't given into that temptation a whole lot for the sprints, but I definitely did for the half Ironman. JESSE: Zach, if people want to follow you kind of see what you're up to, where can they find you? ZACK: So, I'm not incredibly active a lot anymore. I do post stories on my Instagram and it's @ZackLetic, Z-A-C-K L-E-T-I-C. Like athletic but with Zack. And then and I have a website is my private coaching if you're interested in one on one client coaching. I do remote coaching and I have athletes here in San Diego that I coach as well. And also if you're in San Diego, and you're looking to-- and you're between the ages of say 16 and 18 and you're thinking about going somewhere for school, I’d love to talk with you about going to San Diego State University for the Tri Team. I can't give you any scholarships, but I would love to talk with you about getting - triathlon. JESSE: That sounds good. Thanks for coming on today and sharing your time with us. ZACK: Yeah, no problem. I’m glad to be here. Go to Part 1 Go to Part 2

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