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Wingman launch speech

6 August - 2015 - by Dave Sullivan

Welcome to you all and thanks for coming. I appreciate some of you making the loooong 28km trek out here. We used Durbanville Race Course as a venue because, as of next week, these fields will be exclusively ours to use and set up base for the season! I’ve already seen an epic Time Trial route, and apparently I can use a horse crop to improve speed!

I am David Sullivan, neither a sport star nor an academic. Growing up, I based all my future hopes on a modeling career but the words ‘overweight’ and ‘weird looking’ seemed to hamper my career in that. But maybe that was for the best, since I now stand at the start of something I am truly passionate about. I stumbled into the coaching field after living in town and training with the ATC crowd. I moved to the Northern Suburbs to further my afrikaans learnings, as well as refine my braai’ing skills. I asked the owners of Embark if they would be willing to let me start a second branch of Embark, and I was told ‘if I can make it work, I can do it’. Night 1 started with 2 chaps, growing to 70.3 number 1, where I started with 6 beautiful peeps. Fast forward to year 4, after 3 successful 70.3 and IMSA campaigns, with 156 finish line crossings, I needed growth for myself as well as for the athletes who support me. It was time for the next step.

And that is where Stephan Weyers came into the picture. Stephan is the perfect example of the model I tried to create. Couch rugby player with beer in hand, he set himself the goal of full Ironman and came to me and said ‘I will do what it takes’. 2 Ironmans later, he is now coaching athletes himself and he had 2 amazing results at Durban 70.3! In May 2014, Stephan sent me a mail saying I need to grow and take risks. This was no ordinary e-mail. It contained more words than Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, yet funnily enough, had the same trend to it. Not that I was in a jail, but he wanted to see me start to find value in myself and build a business for myself. So when he came with a proposal to invest in my new company, I didn’t hesitate to welcome him!

The dynamics of group training is really something exceptional and those who have experienced it will agree how special the support and motivation from a group can be. There is also something about wanting to have a group identity, and this was evident in the way the athletes embraced and grew the SupaDaveRacing brand, which many of you may have seen at events the past year. I have been asked why I didn’t just use the name SupaDaveRacing, but for me that will always remain a personal relationship name with that group of athletes at that point in time of this journey. It is very special, but a name that refers only to me does not represent all the awesomeness that I believe this business can offer. Plus, if you knew how SUPADAVE was actually used to mock me growing up, you could maybe understand my hesitation a little better. Stephan and his business partner have a company called Wingman Sports Solutions. His proposal to me involved giving me a Trademarked name and Logo; hence why we are called Wingman. When you think about the name, it really works in terms of what we do and what we are about, but it was really when Guinivere said the line, ‘with you every step of the way’ that I was convinced it is the name for us. That line doesn’t just pertain to the beginner. I want even the most elite athlete to feel like we are there for them, for anything.

Each coach has a different way of doing things and as I recently learned, no coach is ever wrong. What sets us apart is what we look to achieve and the systems we want to implement. From within the confines of a franchise model, I wanted to create personal relationships with all my athletes. Whether you run a 1:00 400m or a 3:00 400m, you get the same level of enthusiasm and mocking. I wanted to create personal programs so that you train to what you can do, with a degree of what I want you to do. I was asked recently what I base success on, and my answer revolved around balance, happiness and contentment. If you want to win your age group or you want to beat cut off, I will gauge our success on if we were able to achieve that while keeping your life, career, family and training balanced, so that you can look back and be happy and content with your season/race/training session.

Our philosophy – slowest to fastest, biggest to smallest, richest to poorest, there is a program for you, and we want it to be in a team atmosphere, for what is a very individual sport.

How we plan to implement all of that is by using TrainingPeaks, group sessions, whatsapp and, of course, you buying me many coffees and lunches. Stephan and I have just returned from Boulder, Colorado where we attended the TrainingPeaks University. This doesn’t mean we are better coaches, but we feel we know how to use the TrainingPeaks system a little better. We will be distributing a ‘how-to’ on TrainingPeaks, with constant tips on the system being sent out to all our athletes.

Wingman is going to be strict this year. We will be sending out a detailed questionnaire where you will list your goals for the season. We are going to hold you accountable for these goals, just as you can hold us accountable. We will offer a money-back guarantee (terms and conditions apply, of course) because it's in the best interest of our business to make sure we stay true to our philosophy. We are going to implement an accountability system where we give you a certain amount of days off (sick, birthdays, children's school, holiday etc., still to be finalised) as well as realistic mid-season goals. If you aren't hitting your goals, yet are within the boundaries of the agreement, then you hold us responsible and we ensure you hit the next ones. If you aren't hitting the goals, and are operating outside the boundaries of our agreement, then we start with the hard truths. This isn't to add pressure, but you are signing up for a reason and expect a service, and we want to ensure we are performing to the expectations we have set for ourselves. That being said, this journey will remain first and foremost about having fun and giving me the right to mock you. I will still be promoting the consumption of bacon, as well as confiscating razors so that full thick beards can be grown!

Safety is our primary concern for all sessions. What we can control, we will control. Cycling is where the uncontrollables outweigh the controllables. I commit to make sure there is a backup car for every weekend ride. The vehicle will always have some nutrition, water, spares and tools onboard. We will be having every athlete sign a form saying they understand the risks involved in cycling in South Africa, but I promise this won't exempt us from staying on top of things. Routes will always be along the safest routes possible, with weather conditions, traffic and deviant behaviour being factored in. In the questionnaire, there will be place for you to say you don’t want to cycle the roads, and this is where I will design programs to use indoor cycling options.

Training will follow along our previous patterns of run Tues and Thurs at 6pm – track, hills, tempo and time trials. Weekend mornings for long runs and long rides. Swims will be in the warmth of the gym pools until Bellville 50m is warm enough again! Once numbers are confirmed, I will investigate the possibility of hosting a morning track session. I want to encourage people using our many channels to get together for their ‘solo’ sessions. I will be starting mid-morning housewife runs soon!

The focus is mainly triathlon, 70.3 and Ironman, but catering for individual goals is where we want to set ourselves apart. Personal programs for the events, with athletes having the option to make use of the group sessions.

Wingman is about the athletes. Euan and his company have designed us an amazing website and we want to make use of it. We want to encourage blog posts, athlete profiles, and awesome images for the gallery. We also have a FB page to reach the public, and we now have a private FB group where you guys can post whatever. The customary whatsapp group will be running, but I will be sure to police this a lot more closely!!!

I am very excited.

The day I quit my day job, I stopped shaving. This beard is going to be my daily reminder of the best decision I ever made.

I thank you.