Joe Schoeman – The Art Of Creating A Champion

Joe Schoeman is a very knowledgeable man, and not only coach to our 2018/19 second-place finisher Henri Schoeman but also, as you may have guessed, his dad.

Speed is a mindset. You don’t get to the top not doing a lot of training, but it has to be specific. – Joe Schoeman

Joe has been involved in multi-sport coaching his entire life, initially as an athlete on the track, but now as the full-time coaching team behind his son’s success. He started on a part-time basis, but after Henri won Bronze at the 2016 Rio Games, Joe took early retirement and put the entirety of his effort behind his son.

We took time out to have a chat with Joe about the dynamic of coaching Henri, the demands of Super League, and what our series is doing for triathlon as a whole.

So Joe, what is it like coaching your son, how does that work?

It is quite interesting; I think Henri has my personality, and when two people with the same characters work together, it can be challenging. We both always have to have the last word.

It is essential to distinguish between roles. When you’re the coach, you’re the coach, but don’t take that home. We can be quite forceful when training, but that is just the athlete and coach relationship, not the son and father. He knows everything I do is 100% for him.

Now that we’ve had the first full season of Super League, what are your thoughts on the series?

I’ve seen a lot of benefits, you can see throughout the rest of the year those that have raced Super League – they’re quicker through transition and have extra intensity and aggression. It makes you think too; you cannot just race, you have to plan while also being under extreme pressure in a race situation.

What changes has Super League made you make in your training routines with Henri?

We work on a reverse periodisation model, so we don’t do base training. We do a lot of pace work in season and out of season we only work at around 10 seconds per kilometre slower. There is a little bit of base that comes in, but it is not like the base you used to see in the old days.

We don’t need to change our training for Super League – it just fits us, it’s what we do.

So what sort of intensity work do you do with Henri when prepping for a Super League weekend?

When we do a brick set, we’ll focus entirely on the intensity. We try to simulate what you do in the race; we won’t practice transitions within the brick – if he wants to practice that, then do it separately. A brick is there to simulate intensity, not speed from one to the other. We might do an intense swim, then get to the track and do a hard bike before running a kilometre fast, then another hard bike and running another kilometre fast.

You have to train specifically for what you are going to expect on race day. Huge volume doesn’t make sense to me.

What has surprised you about Super League?

The technical demands of Super League are improving the sport as a whole. Anything you can learn to do faster will make doing it slower easier. If you’re a track runner and you can move your legs at 2:30 per kilometre, then running at 2:45 becomes a jog.

Super League is pushing the envelope all the time.