After he graduated from the University of Sherbrooke with a degree in kinesiology, former competitive cyclist Sébastien Travers was attracted to a job posting at the Bromont Cycling Club for a para-cycling coach in 2003. At the time it seemed like an excellent way to launch a professional career, pursue many interests that he studied in school and remain in his hometown.
He submitted an application, got the position and 12 years later, Travers is still heavily immersed in the para-cycling world. The 34–year-old father of two girls is now the Coach, High-Performance Road, Para-cycling for Cycling Canada.
Travers is in charge of the para-cycling road racing team, the high performance development system and the sport-medical science development system. He recruited visually-impaired para-Nordic skier Robbi Weldon in 2010 – after she competed at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Later that year she won the world title and in 2012, she won Paralympic gold with her pilot, Olympic cyclist Lyne Bessette.
‘’I think what attracted me initially was an opportunity to coach at all levels,’’ said Travers.. ‘’I always enjoy being like a conductor of an orchestra and I wanted to have that level of responsibility. There are so many facets into being a coach. It’s teaching, developing tactics, psychology and of course in para-cycling there is the whole side of technology in equipment and adaptation.’’
Travers reinforces that coaching para athletes is no different than coaching able-bodied athletes. He certainly doesn’t want to compartmentalize athletes.
‘’For sure, there are para-cyclists who have experienced something tragic in their lives,’’ said Travers. ‘’So they have a very realistic approach towards training. They are ready to invest themselves and endure the suffering, - because in our sport you suffer – and be fully committed.’’
“As a coach, it’s extremely satisfying to see an athlete who may struggle walking, to reach speeds of 60 kilometres on the bike; they are getting so close to the able bodied speeds. It takes an entire process to reach that point, but whether they are able-bodied or para, an athlete is an athlete.”
At the 2015 Parapan American Games this past August in Toronto, Travers was chosen to read the coach’s oath in the Opening Ceremony.
‘’It was a real honour,’’ he said. ‘’When they told me, I was surprised. It was something that was very special for me.’’
At the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, the Canadian para-cycling riders contributed 14 medals to the record Canadian total under Travers and his coaching colleague with Cycling Canada, Eric Van den Eynde.
Travers is a level 4 certified coach. He gained his coaching and teaching skills from working at the Bromont National Cycling Center in Quebec as well as a contract with the Canadian Mountain bike National Team from 2007 to2008.
Travers has some simple advice for those interested in coaching para-athletes.
“It’s the same advice for any coach: you need to keep an open mind and be resourceful.”