Jeff Symonds drew motivation from each of the 42 sets of eyes on him belonging to kids from the TriPower Triathlon Club.
Symonds, the Challenge Penticton champion, is a coach with the camp that took place in Summerland last Wednesday to Friday to help prepare triathletes ages six to 15 for the Summerland ORCA KOS race held Sept. 1, a fundraiser for the Summerland swim club.
Symonds said speaking to the kids and working with them is inspiring and motivating.
“They have so much energy,” said Symonds, who captured the inaugural Challenge Penticton in eight hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds on Aug. 25. “They do it because they love it. I’m honoured to be able to coach them. Feed that passion and excitement they have for the sport.”
While some of the kids picked his brain with questions, Symonds said they mostly just take it all in.
Quinten Pearson, 10, is one of the participants who paid attention to what Symonds had to say. One of the things that Pearson learned was about mental toughness when getting hurt while out on the course.
“Never give up. To dig deep and get ugly out there,” said Pearson.
The youngster enjoyed the camp because it proved to be a good warm-up to Sunday’s event, sponsored by Best Canadian Motor Inns and Dirty Laundry Vineyard, which he placed seventh in. With Symonds help, Pearson has become a better triathlete.
“He is really spiritual,” said Pearson, adding that he and Symonds support each other.
Among the things that Symonds did with the kids was help them understand the basics of the sport. The focus, however, is on having fun.
“The big thing for me is trying to get them excited,” said Symonds. “Break down any fears they might have about racing (such as lake weed, which the kids don’t like).”
Melissa Berrisford, one of the coaches for the TriPower Triathlon Club, described Symonds as an inspiring coach to the kids.
“He’s a humble hero,” she said. “They just really enjoy hearing all his stories. He has a way of connecting with them and is so positive. He is funny. They love the expression, “Get ugly out there.’”