By JAY SCHWAB firstname.lastname@example.org
Elburn resident takes triathlon coaching award
Avoiding burn-out for young athletes is tricky enough in traditional sports such as soccer, basketball or baseball.
Now consider the risk in a sport as mentally and physically demanding as triathlon.
Adam Zucco, of Elburn, has a strategy for tapping the potential of young triathletes without sapping the joy from the sport. That approach went a long way toward Zucco being named USA Triathlon Developmental Coach of the Year on Tuesday.
“It’s a huge honor because there are so many great coaches out there and so many people out there trying to do great things,” Zucco said. “I just got lucky enough to get the tap on the shoulder this year.”
Zucco, 34, is head coach of the Tri-Cities based Multisport Madness Triathlon program, an outfit that in the past decade has produced numerous top finishers in national and international competitions. He also is a partner with TrainingBible Coaching, an organization that mentors “results-driven endurance athletes.”
Patience and vision have factored heavily into his coaching success, Zucco said.
“I think a lot of coaches feel under the pump to get instantaneous responses,” Zucco said. “With a lot of these kids, I’ve taken three- and four-year plans. The biggest thing you can do for an athlete to make them better is to improve their economy, and to improve their economy, they have to be able to move efficiently.”
Zucco’s willingness to think long-term might be a product of his own story. He wasn’t much of an athlete as a youngster, recalling the need to shed almost 40 pounds in three weeks leading up to Marines boot camp. He has dropped 70 pounds from his heaviest point, and contends “there is a place for everyone” in the triathlon, which combines bicycling, swimming and running.
Zucco has plenty of help from other coaches at Multisport Madness, but his sophisticated training methods have been instrumental, especially in guiding the program’s teenage athletes.
“Adam is really the one who has brought the expertise to the program as far as coaching,” said Michael Kanute, whose son, Ben, is one of the program’s top triathletes. “There have been some years he’s been more hands-on and some years he’s been less hands-on but all along he’s been the one who has written the plan and balanced the training.”
Zucco has the versatility to train a wide spectrum of ages and abilities. For TrainingBible, he mentors athletes from as far away as Hong Kong and Moscow through online software, but he is just as comfortable overseeing beginners.
“With younger kids, literally some of the speedwork I have them do is play a fun game of soccer or combat frisbee because they’re going to work harder than if I had them doing intervals on the track if they’re chasing their friends around,” Zucco said.
Proud as Zucco is of Multisport Madness’ elite competitors – Geneva’s Kevin McDowell placed fourth at the ITU Junior World Championship in Australia last fall, and Lukas Verzbicas won a competition in North Carolina in September – he also delights in the sport’s overall surge in local popularity.
Zucco said the Tri-Cities is “almost becoming the Boulder of the midwest,” noting large packs of triathletes and their family members who regularly go on evening bicycle rides together.
“It’s really cool,” Zucco said. “It’s becoming a whole new lifestyle for a lot of people in our area.”
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