COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today recognized seven influential and impactful coaches as 2021 Coaches of the Year, presented by Zone3. The honorees were selected for their contributions during the 2021 triathlon season. The awards for 2021 focused on athlete development, community impact, coaching education, collegiate performance, and achievement during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympics Games.
Erin Carson (Boulder, Colo.), Cliff English (Tempe, Ariz.), Wesley Johnson (Sandy, Utah), Ian O’Brien (Boulder, Colo.), Chris Palmquist (Geneva, Ill.), Dave Sheanin (Boulder, Colo.) and Derick Williamson (Colorado Springs, Colo.) received Coach of the Year honors across seven categories. Nominations were open to the public, and category winners were determined by a selection panel of coaching and sport education professionals, including the USA Triathlon National Coaching Committee and USA Triathlon education and high performance staff.
“Every leader should read the nomination letters for these coaches – whether you are a coach who is leading athletes or a business leader at the helm of a company. They are truly leading by example,” said Earl Walton, USA Triathlon Director of Education. “Congratulations to these coaches for providing a road map to success and an exciting glimpse of the future of both our sport and USA Triathlon.”
Olympic Coach of the Year: Ian O’Brien
Boulder’s Ian O’Brien, a USA Triathlon National Team Coach, was named the Olympic Coach of the Year, given to the coach of a national-level team, or the coach of an elite athlete who competes at the highest level of his/her sport.
O’Brien is a USA Triathlon Level III Elite Coach and founder of Ian O’Brien Coaching with Origin Performance Group. He was awarded the Elite National Coach of the Year in 2018 and 2019. His coaching style was formative to the success of Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, including the success of one of his athletes, USA Triathlon National Team Member Taylor Knibb, earning the silver medal as a member of the Team USA Mixed Relay event. Knibb also won the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) Finals in Edmonton on her way to second overall in the 2021 WTCS.
O’Brien’s elite roster also includes Kirsten Kasper, who he helped comeback from an injury in 2020 to earn multiple World Triathlon Cup podiums in 2021, as well as Matthew McElroy, one of only three U.S. men to medal in a WTCS race. He also played a vital coaching role to Olympic silver medalists Kevin McDowell and Morgan Pearson during Team USA training camps. O’Brien’s science-based approach to training and his ability to create meaningful relationships with his athletes is what makes him standout as a phenomenal coach. He is also praised as being able to stay emotionally stable during races, which helps his athletes stay calm and focus on performing at their best.
Community Impact Award: Dave Sheanin
Boulder’s Dave Sheanin earned the Community Impact Award, which is given to a coach who has demonstrated significant impact in their community and epitomizes the USA Triathlon mission of growing and inspiring the triathlon community. Sheanin, a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, is a coach for D3 Multisport and has positively influenced and profoundly impacted triathletes who have a wide range of abilities and age. He also has guided, shaped, influenced, mentored and supported hundreds of athletes through the organizations he is involved with, including D3 Multisport, the University of Colorado Boulder Triathlon Team and the YMCA of Northern Colorado. Beyond his coaching role, Sheanin has set an example for what it means to give back to the community through his involvement with Athletes in Tandem.
Sheanin is an ambassador for the sport of triathlon as he promotes the benefits of camaraderie, sportsmanship and inclusion. One of his many strengths is his love for the sport of triathlon and encouraging not only those he coaches at D3 Multisport and the University of Colorado Boulder but also those he competes against and alongside.
Service Provider of the Year: Erin Carson
Boulder’s Erin Carson earned the Service Provider Coach of the Year, given to an individual who is a National Governing Body (NGB)/High Performance Management Organization (HPMO) affiliated service provider such as a strength and conditioning coach, physical therapist, sport psychologist, dietician, or other that has made an impact in your NGB.
Carson is the co-owner and operator of RallySport, a Boulder, Colorado training facility and health club, and provides strength training programs for endurance athletes as the head coach for ECFIT. As a strength coach, Carson works with athletes of all different ages, sports and ability levels, including O’Brien’s National Team athletes and multiple current and past IRONMAN and World Triathlon champions.
Her greatest strength is her respect and understanding for the training that is necessary for each discipline and will modify workouts according to how an athlete is performing on a given day. She takes pride in collaborating with others for the good of the athlete, community and sport.
Paralympic Coach of the Year: Derick Williamson
Colorado Springs’ Derick Williamson earned the Paralympic Coach of the Year, given to a coach of a national-level team, or the coach of an elite athlete who competes at the highest level of his/her sport.
Williamson, a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach, is the head coach of the Toyota Elite Paratriathlon National Team and Toyota Resident Team Program, and this past August helped the U.S. lead all nations with five total medals, including three golds at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Williamson’s athletes contributed to that tally by bringing home two gold medals (Kendall Gretsch, Allysa Seely), one silver medal (Hailey Danz) and three top-ten finishes (Melissa Stockwell, Kyle Coon, Jamie Brown).
Williamson’s impact goes beyond the on-course achievements as he helped the elite paratriathlon team bond as a team leading up to the games and is described as a calm, measured, analytical and caring coach and truly has an “athlete first” mentality. He also is an advocate for elite paratriathletes to be recognized on the same level as able-bodied athletes.