Aug 25,2014(ISN) – VICTORIA – Two years into his coaching duties, recent University of Victoria Vikes grad and men’s field hockey head coach Kevin Laidman shares his insight on the value of athletics and mental endurance. Find out how Laidman transitioned out of competitive field hockey and into competitive triathlon training, how he handles obstacles and what motivates him to keep going. There is a little extremist in all of us, and Laidman found his.
Q: What were some of your goals heading into this season and what did you learn from your first season as head coach?
KL: Coming into my first season as head coach last year I was looking to build off what I had learned the previous season as assistant coach under Mike Lee. With more than half the squad being rookies I knew that we would need to be patient and build on the foundation for future success. I think the core group of players have improved significantly in their first season and I have no reason to doubt that trend will continue as they gain experience. My first year taught me to be prepared for anything. There are so many uncontrollable variables, from opponents’ tactics to injuries, even extreme weather conditions. Adaptability is an integral part of success and something I will continue to strive for as a coach.
Q: Explain your personal transition away from playing competitive field hockey and now competing in triathlons.
KL: My body was taking a bit of a beating playing field hockey. I had to give up field hockey so I could continue to live an active lifestyle without the risk of doing long-term damage to my body. The lateral movements and quick changes in direction were what ultimately hurt me. So now I do things that involve straight lines, more or less: swimming, cycling, hiking, running. Once my days as a field hockey player were winding down and I started focusing on coaching, I needed something to keep me active. My mom has always been into running and triathlons; in 2004 she competed in Ironman Canada. So I’ve been exposed to the sport for some time now. It wasn’t until my partner Laura decided to try a local triathlon as a fundraiser for a local charity. She convinced me to do it with her and we haven’t looked back. After that race, both Laura and I thoughs, “boy, we could sure do a lot better if we trained differently.” We were hooked! The first race was in June 2012 and we have now completed 16 races each, including the Ironman 70.3 in Victoria earlier this year.
Q: There is quite a contrast between a competitive team environment and a competitive individual environment. How have you handled the transition mentally, physically and what lessons have you learned being an individual sport athlete?
KL: There is a big contrast to the two sports. While I do my best to be competitive in triathlons, every race is really, just a struggle to survive. Ultimately, I’m just out there to have fun and push myself as hard as I can that day. The bigger contrast, I would say, is the switch from a field sport to an endurance sport. I rely on a different energy system, so although I had a really high level of fitness playing field hockey for Canada, I basically had to start from scratch training for triathlons. I have learned that it’s definitely nice to have teammates to rely on! There are no substitutions in triathlons, although at times it would be amazing to have one. It’s a totally different mindset between the two sports. Playing field hockey, you not only have to push yourself to your own limits, while still executing technical skills, but you also have to constantly react and adapt to your opponents. Racing triathlons, you only have to worry about yourself. That thought is transferable to the men’s field hockey program because strong physical conditioning is necessary to compete at the highest level. In order to attain that high level of conditioning you need to work independently and push yourself to your own limits. So, yes, they are very different sports, but there are lessons you can learn from either sport that you can turn around and apply to the other.
Q: What do you enjoy most about triathlons?
KL: The thing I enjoy most is being able to share the experience with Laura. She does not have a field hockey background so I don’t think she ever fully understood my passion for the game. But by doing triathlons we are able to train together, race and talk about triathlons. We are always on the same page and are channeling the same motivation.
Q: What’s next for you and Laura in the racing world? Are there any long term goals laid out?
KL: Laura and I have talked about completing Ironman Canada next July 2015. However, there is a lot of training and commitment if we really want to accomplish that. Ironman Canada consists of a 3.8 km swim, a 180 km bike and 42.2 km run – now that’s a lot of commitment! There is a half Ironman in Victoria in June 2015 that would be a good warm up for us. It’s an Olympic distance race, which means a 1.9 km swim, 90 km bike and 21.1 km run.
Q: What do you look forward to this coming season for the men’s field hockey team?
KL: I am actually really looking forward to this season now that I have one under my belt. I am a very competitive person; results-driven person and I have set a benchmark for myself. I want to improve the team in every way! I know that sounds ambitious and clique, but I am really motivated to shape this team and make them the best they can be. I want to be the best coach possible for each athlete so that my players have every opportunity to maximize their potential.
Q: Are you able to share an insider secret about the men’s field hockey team with us?
KL: This may ruin their reputation, but they are the most humble group of varsity athletes. They are all very polite and kind to community members, each other and developing players. There are no overly macho attitudes that you might stereotypically expect from a men’s university sport team. They are great to work with and are good role models.