Q&A: Fabio Minozzo, Wolves Head Coach, Cross Country Running and Indoor Track
Coach Brings International Experience
Bill Corcoran and Rick Scott retired as Wolves Cross Country running coaches after 29 and 28 years respectively.
They've passed the baton to Kinesiology instructor Fabio Minozzo, a one-time competitive triathlete and coach from Brazil who also participated in numerous endurance events such as Iron Man, Half Iron-Man, marathons and open water swimming events.
He's an author of several scientific publications and book chapters.
We caught up to Fabio to learn more about his background and plans for his new role.
Tell us a bit about your background
I was born in Brazil and attended university initially to pursue architecture with the goal of taking over my father's construction company. I liked drawing and physics, but didn't enjoy working in construction so decided to do something I love. That was when I got involved with sports again - I had started swimming at six-months and ran long distances in university.
I started doing triathlons. At that time, it was not an Olympic sport so there were no varsity teams dedicated to it. It was new; it was radical. Not as radical as skateboarding or parachuting, but it appealed to me.
I became my own coach. I was kind of a nerd. I was dedicated to sports and studying. I became the coach I am because I studied, and I keep studying.
After completing a specialization course in Applied Exercise Physiology at Universidade Federal de São Paulo in Brazil, I pursued my PhD and post-doctorate degrees at McGill University in Montreal, operated an online coaching business and then joined this institution two years ago.
What was the process of getting into triathlons?
I started doing a lot of weightlifting but that doesn't suit my body type. I was getting stronger and increased my fitness level but I was still skinny.
I'm keen on aerobic exercises, doing cardiovascular activity. I maxed out the treadmill running 30 minutes at ten miles per hour and swimming two kilometres. Someone saw me and said, "You know, you should do triathlon you're so obsessed." And I was like, "What is triathlon (swimming, biking and running)?"
It's something I still love, but I'm slower than I used to be. Plus, Canada, I'm sorry to break it to you, is not an ideal country for triathlons. Triathlons, for me, is beaches, swimming in open water, and fighting against the heat.
What did you take in university?
I did a specialization in exercise-physiology in Brazil. You have to do an internship for a year and I became an Exercise Physiologist. I then attended McGill University for a PhD in skeletal muscle biophysics as well as two post doctorates.
You had a modern-day romance?
Yeah! I got married to a Brazilian girl. We met online. But I think this is a reality right now. You can connect with people everywhere! High school friends appear again.
The Internet connects the world. I have Whatsapp and there are coaches in Brazil, the US, Europe, all in one group, all discussing techniques.
You operated your own company?
Yes, WheelPower Inc. is an online company focused on optimizing endurance training through sports science, data analysis, and technology to deliver a state-of-the-art training system to endurance athletes of all levels.
It's a coaching business. They're still open. There were clients in B.C., the U.S. and as far away as Spain and a Facebook following of two thousand people.
How did the job at our institution come about?
I was applying for jobs across Canada and I saw the opportunity here. At first I wasn't sure where Grande Prairie is. I thought maybe it was in Quebec because there are communities with Anglophone names. I Googled when I got the call for my interview and realized how far it was and that it would be the smallest community I'd ever lived in.
I started as a sessional, then I became full-time, and this year I got tenure. And I love it here!
What courses are you teaching?
Exercise Physiology, Anatomy, Cardiovascular Training, Biomechanics, and Physiology.
How did you get involved with coaching The Wolves?
I wanted to run. I got involved with (former head coaches) Rick (Scott) and Bill (Corcoran). They had been doing a great job. They're traditional coaches, but they're open-minded as well. When I got to meet them, I realized, they were about to retire. I accept their opinions. I'm not going to change anything right now because my changes would affect their training, their style. Slowly, I will apply a few changes. I mentioned to the team that I want them to maintain a diary.
It's going to be a challenge for me. However, I'm really pumped! Really motivated. When I get motivated, I know. My wife knows. She's like, "you've been waiting for this." Yeah, I've been waiting for this.
As a new head coach, what kinds of things do you want your athletes to know about you going into the season? How do you want them to know that you're in their corner?
If you're committed, you're my best athlete. I've met so many athletes who were really good, but I wasn't able to work with them. I'd rather have somebody slower who's committed. I don't want the star unless he or she is committed. The slower ones have more room for improvement. They're coachable. One thing I learned from (retired head coach) Bill Corcoran, he said, "You cannot want more than them." Awesome. I loved hearing this. This is what I want from them: commitment, dedication, be open, talk to me, reach out, be open-minded.
I'm really understanding when people are struggling. If someone comes in and says, "I'm feeling weak." I will never push them. But I'm not patient when people are lazy.
I welcome questions and ideas from my athletes but I expect them to follow the plan I've set out for them. If we see they're not achieving optimal results, we'll make changes together to support improved performance.
What are you most looking forward to about kicking off the season?
Well, the first is scheduling an IN-PERSON meeting, to discuss our schedule for next season (the first post-COVID-19). I also want to run a few field/physical tests with them.
From your experience as both a coach and athlete, what are some things a coach should be aware of?
Every individual is different. But it's more than that. They should think they know nothing, actually. They should be open-minded for the rest of their lives. The reason I did the PhD is, the more I learned, the more I learned we know nothing.
Every coach should be humble and open-minded to new things and that can be hard.
What are you up to when you're not teaching, researching or coaching? What are some of your hobbies?
I love eating - pizza, pasta and burgers. I enjoy exercising a lot and then getting a chance to relax with chicken wings and a beer. It's also nice to take it easy and watch Netflix. Beyond that, my hobbies are cooking and staying in with my kids. It is difficult to find time for myself especially with a 4-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl running around. I love staying at home and playing with them.
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