Coach Sara coaching a group of youth triathletes

Submitted by Kevin Grogan.

Former Pro Triathlete and Clermont resident Sara McLarty had a plan as her professional career wound down.  The upbeat and enthusiastic swim specialist teamed up with Coach Misty Becerra and began putting together triathlon training groups around south Lake County. What started out as just a few athletes have now turned into the biggest
triathlon training group in the area. The Tablet got together with McLarty and Becerra to discuss the training group that has certainly taken off!

Tablet: What was your background growing up, through college, as a
professional triathlete, and now?

Coach Sara: I ran my first triathlon at age 7.  I was a student-athlete swimmer at the   University of Florida and a professional triathlete for 11 years. I am now working for USA Triathlon with the Olympic/National teams, as well as the co-head coach of the SLAP Tri

Coach Misty: I was a youth swimmer, played rugby at Florida Atlantic University, did my first triathlon in 1999, and I am now a massage therapist as well as co-head coach of the SLAP Tri Team.

Tablet: Talk a little bit about the training group and what you offer?

Coach Sara: Swim Like a Pro (SLAP) is a swimming and triathlon coaching business based in Clermont. We offer 10-15+ group training sessions in Clermont and Central Florida each week. Our goal is to provide organized and coached group training for athletes of all levels and abilities. Group training holds people accountable, provides motivation, and creates a team atmosphere. Having a knowledgeable and experienced coach at training sessions can help you train smarter, correct mistakes, and provide answers and advice.

Liesl Begnaud, Misty, Sara

Tablet:  What do you enjoy most about leading the Swim-Like-A-Pro (SLAP) group?

Coach Sara: After I finished my professional career while living in Clermont, I fell in love with the diverse and active community. There was no organized triathlon team or coaching organization in place when I retired so the SLAP Tri Team was born. Coach Misty was also an active triathlon participant and knowledgeable resource with a background in personal training and massage therapy. Together, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with local triathletes of all levels.

Tablet: You’ve had many swimming and triathlon coaches over the years, what are some of the positives you’ve taken away from those experiences to make you the Coach you are

Coach Sara: The takeaway from my amazing coaches is to create a fun and a healthy training environment to promote longevity and enjoyment.  My youth club swimming coach was Steve Lochte, father of Ryan Lochte. The reason I was able to stay motivated through 4 years of college swimming and then 10+ years as a professional is that I was allowed, and encouraged, to have fun during development years. The same applies to an adult who is just getting into the sport of triathlon. Our goal is to keep it fun, fresh, and creative so that they stay in the sport for many years.

Tablet:   Most of your training sessions are around Clermont.  What do you like most about this area for you and your athletes?

Libba Ripa, Coach Misty, Lauren Goss, Coach Sara

Coach Sara: Clermont is one of the top triathlon training towns in the country! Our SLAPPERS love being able to train outside, year-round, in the mild winter temperatures. We also enjoy the diversity of training locations from the open-water swimming beach at Waterfront Park, to the off-road trails around Lake Apopka, to the 40+ mile bike/multi-use trail that rolls through Lake & Orange counties, and the infamous Clay Trail 10-mile run loop. There are also other groups of active people that put on training and racing events like the LLSP Sprint Tri, the parkrun, group rides from the Winter Garden Wheel
Works bike shop…every day you can pick something different for your training.

Tablet: Talk a bit about the differences between being an athlete and now a coach.  Obviously different, but both still rewarding.

Coach Sara:  I enjoyed pushing my limits as an athlete and seeing what I could accomplish. But that was always with the help of a support team of coaches, therapists, trainers, and family & friends. Now, I am honored to be a small part of other people’s journeys by helping to coach them to their goals. It is a refreshing change of pace not to be nervous while the races are starting, not because I’m not on the starting line but because I know that my athletes are as prepared as they possibly can be. I have full confidence in their abilities.

Coach Misty: I still jump on the starting line these days and there is still something to be learned at every race. Knowing that you can race for 18+ years and still make rookie mistakes shows my athletes that there is never going to be a “perfect” race. By relaxing and accepting the chaos as it happens, your race will go smoother and

Tablet: Sara, you are surrounded by other great coaches and people; in particular,
Coach Misty Becerra.  Talk a little bit about how the two of you work together to make SLAP the successful program it is?

Coach Sara: We met while working at the NTC facility in 2008. Misty wasn’t sure if she wanted or needed another coach to help her on the pool deck, but after a few days of working together, and realizing that we both loved adventures and being outdoors, it immediately became a great coaching partnership and friendship. We have very different
backgrounds and experiences in sport so we are able to complement each other in the business. We also have very different personalities which allow the business to run smoothly. Coach Misty does all the manual labor and Coach Sara does all the computer work!

Tablet:  A lot of your program involves beginners.  What do you tell your South Lake neighbor that is thinking about making the leap into the sport of triathlon or joining your group?

Coach Sara: Oh wow! We are so excited to have two new SLAP coaches on board in 2018 that are excellent at working with beginner triathletes. Coach Liesl Begnaud and Lea Politowicz are running multiple 8-week “Couch to Triathlon” beginner programs as part of our goal to bring triathlon to new areas of the community this year! We provide all the
coaching, education, training, and skills training to help anyone complete a sprint triathlon. Joining a group of similar new or novice athletes to complete a previously daunting event is quite a challenge, but we encourage ANY locals to come check it out.

Tablet: As an athlete, you hopped into the St. Anthony’s Triathlon after taking a few years off racing and walked away with a nice paycheck for your efforts. To your athletes that you coach, this has to be impressive. Talk a bit about this.

Coach Sara: Yes, after 2.5 years in retirement, I realized that I still qualified to race as a professional until the end of the year. And over the last 5 months, I’d been doing a couple training sessions each week with the SLAPPERS to keep them motivated. It was refreshing
to finish the race. I realized that I did not miss the racing aspect but I was more interested in seeing how my athletes performed.

Coach Misty also hopped into an Xterra last month in Alabama and had a decent performance. We believe that coaches can’t just be on the sidelines and tell you what you should be doing. We like to get out there and show you!

Tablet: What do you see in the future for your Swim-Like-A-Pro program?

Coach Sara: The Swim Like a Pro coaching business and SLAP Tri Team has grown phenomenally thanks to community support! We will continue to provide high-quality training sessions, events, and coaching services. We are working on some big plans for next year, including hiring a youth/junior coach to build a stronger kid’s
triathlon presence in Clermont and Central Florida. We know that American kids are getting less active each year. Our plan is to have the kids watch their parents complete an event and hope that motivation will inspire our future Olympians.

More information can be found here on the SLAP group:

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