Monday, March 6, 2017

BAM Strong: Interview with Andrew Stasinos

Check out this interview with Andrew Stasinos, a well-known BAM coach and athlete on the local scene.

Thanks for the time, Andrew, and best of luck to you and your crew this coming season!

What’s your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon?

When I was young I played soccer and I was into roller blading and ice skating. I would spend as much time as possible at the 49th street Galleria at the skating rink. When I got older I got obsessed with going to the gym and learning about strength and conditioning. So then I decided to go to school for personal training. When I got my first job at a small personal training studio in Holladay Utah, I started working with lots of runners and a few triathletes. I had been running for a while just for fun, nothing too serious. At that time I thought triathletes where these crazy super fit people that all grew up swimming. I had watched ITU draft legal triathlon whenever it was on Universal Sports and I loved watching the yearly Kona Ironman World Championships broadcast. But that was really all I had known about triathlon until I started doing personal training for Kyle Lambson. We were working on getting him stronger for the 2011 Ironman St. George race. He convinced me to learn how to swim and to borrow his road bike and start training for the Kokopelli triathlon in St. George in the fall of 2011. So I dove right in trusting that I could learn how to swim, and it sounded like a fun challenge. So months later, after training and learning as much as I could, I did my race. I decided not to wear a wetsuit because the temp was above USAT legal limit and if I wanted to get an award I would be disqualified wearing a wetsuit. What a disaster that was, I panicked and ended up being one of the last people out of the water (that was the longest swim of my life). I ended up loving the race and I had become obsessed with triathlon.

Some have speculated this is Stasinos circa 1999.

What’s the history of your transition into coaching and joining BAM?

I had played around with online certifications with triathlon coaching and also tried to get into a USAT Level 1 clinic. I didn’t get in to the USAT clinic so I did an online certification. After I got certified I realized I lacked confidence in my ability to coach and I really had no idea what I was doing. So I asked around to find the best coach around and Rory Duckworth introduced me to Wesley Johnson. Wesley (Wes) was very inviting and the timing was right for me to meet him, he needed someone with a strength and conditioning background to help him develop a strength program for his athletes. Wes has been the best mentor to me, we focus on continuing education and making sure we are up to date with the world in coaching strategies. He is always feeding me with podcasts, articles, coaching symposiums, and other ways of learning and growing as a coach.

You mentioned to me that your own racing has taken a back seat to coaching (at least this past year if I remember correctly). Do you miss focusing on your own racing, or are the rewards of coaching worth the personal sacrifice?

I've had some big years as an athlete, I’ve done some amazing races and made some major gains. But honestly I get more joy and excitement out of coaching and helping others and that's why my racing has taken a back seat. I will race again but I don’t know if I will ever put the time and focus in that I had before. My goals are all now focusing on what to do better and how to grow as a company and as a coach.

How would you summarize 2016 from a coaching perspective?

Very successful, I feel very fortunate to be able to work with such amazing and talented athletes. I do all the strength plans for the Elite, junior Elite, and a good portion of the age group athletes we have at BAM, so I have been able to see the development of so many athletes. I got to spend a good amount of time with Grace Norman and Chris Hammer in preparation for the Rio Paralympics, and I can't tell you how much fun it is to work with such talented and hard woking athletes. Also this year we had some athletes overcome some major obstacles and qualify for some big races such as age group nationals, Ironman 70.3 world championships, and Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii.

What have been your top 5 favorite all-time moments / highlights as a coach over the past few years?
  • Being hired as head coach for a Paratriathlon camp at The National Ability Center last year (I've been hired for two camps this year)
  • Assisting Wes with Grace Norman and Chris Hammer in prepping them for qualifying and racing the Rio Paralympics
  • Coaching and assisting coaching all of the athletes that qualified for Ironman 70.3 World Championships and Ironman World Championships in Kona
  • Getting so many people into the sport that thought they had no place in Triathlon
  • Every camp we do! There is a connection you get with athletes when you get to experience a BAM camp. They are always challenging but always so well supported and we get to see people overcome things they thought were impossible. You make life long connections at camps and really feel the family that BAM is.

What’s on tap in 2017 for Stasinos the triathlete and coach?

Developing an Advanced strength training plan with Danny Foerster (physical therapist) for increased strength, power, and for injury prevention. I'm developing a larger Paratriathlon/Adaptive sports program with a very talented intern. Continuing the growth and development of our youth and junior program. And maybe a race or two for me somewhere in all that.

You're also involved with BYU triathlon, correct?

Man I love working with the BYU club triathlon team, they even have a special name for me, BAMdrew. I've been working with them for going on two semesters now. I love the energy and their enthusiasm! They are so coachable and they really work hard. They are getting ready for the Havasu Triathlon and Mountain Collegiate Triathlon Conference Championships, I’m so excited to see how much better they do compared to previous years.

It’s often tough for triathletes to mix in strength training with swimming, biking, and running. With your background as a personal trainer, how can you help athletes combine the two and what are the benefits athletes will gain?

I think strength training for endurance athletes is an important topic and that it is an essential part of training. When I approach an endurance athlete my goal is to focus on injury prevention, balancing out the body, and getting stronger - more powerful. I've worked with Wes for 3 years to perfect the balance of strength training while avoiding any negative impacts on the rest of the endurance training. We have had a lot of success and have learned a lot about what endurance athletes really need to get strong and stay healthy. This year we are taking it a step further by partnering with our team run analysis expert/Physical Therapist, Danny Foerster, to develop an advanced strength training program. This program builds on our current strength program by incorporating plyometrics, agility, and power into the recipe for improved speed and performance.

strength training can increase your powers

Ultimately, we want people to perform well and remain healthy so that they can enjoy this sport for years to come. Look at Craig Alexander (3x IM World Champion), he was a physical therapist before turning pro and has preached about the benefits of strength training. He's 43 and is still winning races! I think that speaks to the longevity you can have in this sport if you develop a good foundation and build upon that.

What are your top 5 favorite Utah races and why?
  • St. George 70.3: Favorite race ever! Challenging and very beautiful. I spent so many summers in St. George and it's a very special place for me. 
  • Toughman Utah Half: I love the 1/2 iron distance and Aaron and Joel from RaceTri do such a good job with that race
  • Echo: Just an amazing bike course and I love the trail run, Dan from TriUtah does a great job with this race
  • Kokopelli: This was the first triathlon I ever did and it's in St. George!
  • Daybreak: Just a really cool course and a fun venue

Stasinos at the '15 Toughman Utah Half

Who would be your BAM male & female athletes of the year for 2016 and why? Who are some rising stars to watch out for in 2017?

Out of the athletes I personally coach I have seen some amazing results in 2016 with Josh Caraccio. From swim to bike and run he has completely transformed as an athlete. In just about a year he has improved his 1k TT in the pool by over 2 min. Also he is a power house on the bike and his run is developing so well. I'm very excited to see him race this year. 

As far as female this is really tough, it's hard to single one person out. However, the time and energy I have put into coaching and working with Tracy Campbell has paid off so well. I was nervous taking her on as an athlete because we were good friends before and sometimes mixing coaching after establishing a friendship can be hard when they have very serious goals. We have had so much fun working together and she is one of the most dedicated athletes I’ve ever worked with. Her husband likes to ask me to add fun things like date night and stuff like that because he knows if it's in her plan it will get done. When she decided to do a full Ironman we really had to focus on balancing her family and other commitments, but also train to be competitive. She trained and competed in Ironman Arizona and had a great race, but she missed qualifying for Kona by 1 spot. So after Arizona we focused on her racing Ironman Texas in 2016. Through a lot of little changes and really focusing on developing her cycling she was able to have a great race in Texas and qualify for Kona.

As far as rising stars, we have some new amazing talent at BAM. Kobe Bowen, he came to us as an established runner that had played around with triathlon but not trained seriously. He has only been swimming for 6 months and his 100 yard PR is under 1 min, he also has won awards at school for being the most improved and the most talented new athlete. I can say from a coaching side he works really hard and is very coachable, which is why he is having so much success early on. He will be focusing on draft legal junior elite triathlon this year and I’m so excited to see him race. Also Trinity Schimbeck, she has been racing for a few years with BAM. This year I’m seeing a whole new side of her that is exciting. She has always been a hard worker and been talented, but now she is developing into a national level junior and has been invited to international ITU races.

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