Coach Spotlight: Para triathlon’s Carolyn Murray navigates new waters

“I’ve had some great coaching role models and guidance”

It is no secret that national team coaches like to be organized. Para triathlon coach Carolyn Murray, ChPC, is no exception, but she has had to navigate many challenges to keep her athletes, including multiple world champion Stefan Daniel, on course for the Paralympic Games in 2021. 

 

“The uncertainty is such a tough one,” said Murray, who was a triathlete herself, competing in the sport at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She was appointed head coach for Canada’s first-ever Para triathlon squad in 2014. “I really like to plan and it’s tough because I can’t plan too far forward. 

“The athletes understand that, and they trust in the program and what we are doing.” 

The first step in the new COVID-19 reality was to steer aside the huge disappointment of the 2020 Games being postponed. 

“We were so ready, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so prepared,” she said about the Games. At first, she admits there was a brief feeling of ‘what do we do now’ but she is proud of how her athletes reacted. 

“They are all making the most of the situation and right away they each thought, what can I do now to maximize next year and be even better.” 

Murray, who lives in Victoria and leads of group of seven Para triathletes, is in regular contact with her athletes and they also virtually meet as a team and share updates.  

“The athletes are learning more about themselves,” she said. “How they are managing through this is unique for each person and they each have a different challenge in their own life, a different situation. Sharing that has been super helpful.” 

It’s been just another building block for Murray, who says she never stops learning as a coach. 

After she retired as an athlete, Murray was looking for a profession that would involve helping others. She was approached about coaching and before she knew it, it grew from a 10 hour a week hobby to a full-time occupation.

“I’ve had some great coaching role models and guidance,” she said, taking bits and pieces of knowledge from each. 

Her background as an athlete is useful as well, as she says she can relate to her athletes and understand what they are going through with the day-to-day grind. 

Murray said she was at the right place at the right time to move into the Para triathlon sphere. She was coaching at the development level when they announced that Para triathlon would be in the Paralympics in 2016. 

“At the beginning I was a bit afraid because it was an unknown,” she said, as she didn’t really have any experience in Para sport at the time. But she stepped in and developed her approach, and hasn’t looked back. 

“I came with a high-performance mindset and not putting limitations on what the athletes could do. I think they really appreciated that … Right away I felt it was such a great environment to be in. The athletes are so resilient and motivating.”

She says the positive vibe extends to the international Para triathlon family as well.

“One of the biggest differences I noticed is the coaches are a lot more collaborative,” she said, noting that being able to share information will help the sport. ‘’It was really refreshing.” 

For Murray, there should be no hesitation about gaining coaching experience at the Para level.

“Jump in. It’s such an amazing environment, there’s so much to learn. And honestly, I always get more than I give.”