With five UCI World Championship titles in the Willoughby family, BMX plays a big role in their life. Since Sam's unfortunate crash in September 2016 he has picked up the role of BMX coach, giving back to the sport that he did so well in. One of his athletes is his wife Alise, 2017 UCI BMX Elite Women World Champion, and the couple have been preparing hard for the upcoming UCI World Champs in Baku, Azerbaijan. We checked in with Sam on his new position.
First things first, how are you doing?
Sam: I am doing well, thanks. Just going along day by day doing my therapy, going to the gym and training Alise.
Was there a specific moment when you decided to step into the coaching role?
Sam: It was something that always interested me, and obviously being so close to Alise it was a perfect fit, and it's been a good thing to distract my mind throughout my rehab process. It keeps my mind active & competitive juices flowing seeing her doing her best.
Did you ever have very personal secrets on the track that you are now sharing with your athletes?
Sam: Yes... :-)
Who are you working with today?
Sam: I am pretty involved in the day to day of Alise, Lauren Reynolds and Sean Gaian. I have a few other buddies like Justin Posey that I help as much as I can from afar as well.
How much in BMX is physical, how much is bike control, and how much is mental strength? Does experience count for much too?
Sam: I always feel if you're close to 100% physically it's going to go a long way increasing your mental capacity, so they really play into each other's hands. Experience can be valuable if used in the right way but also understanding that every day is a new day is important so you can keep evolving.
How important is it to have fun while training/racing?
Sam: You should absolutely enjoy the process and it shouldn't feel like a chore, but you have to be comfortable knowing it's going to be uncomfortable at times.
Whose training programme do you admire/respect?
Sam: The British Track Cycling Team.
Goals for Baku?
Sam: Address challenges as they arise and have two girls racing for rainbows in the final come Saturday!
As she puts the final touches to her preparation for the 2018 UCI BMX World Championships, the reigning title-holder Alise Willoughby has paid tribute to her husband and coach on social media:
"I am grateful for Sam's daily inspiration and desire to continue with the sport in a coaching role for me, an opportunity that sprung from unfortunate circumstances. I believe his strength of mind is a true sign of his character, and it makes me proud of the man he has grown into every single day. He has always been smart in this role & I have always admired his tenacity, perseverance, dedication, work ethic and really everything about his riding and training regimen, but now being involved more intimately in this setting and learning hands-on from the best truly gives me an even greater respect for everything he accomplished and ultimately gives me the greatest advantage of my racing career. He is constantly thinking, learning, updating and applying his vast knowledge of our sport to the ever-changing game, and I feel privileged to be his guinea pig and reap the rewards of this new endeavour. US Olympic sports always refer to the “team behind the team” and I’ve never felt a greater sense of “we” when I hit the track as I do these days."