When I was younger, I was athletic but overweight. I wanted to do sports, but being overweight, I was never comfortable. It was a very challenging time in my life, because that’s when your self-esteem is literally forming (or not forming).
In college things changed. Through a mindful balance of exercise and nutrition, my body changed. It wanted to go exercise. And since then I never looked back.
I do what I do—coaching people to be their best—because I remember what it felt like when I wanted to do things, but couldn’t because of my choices. I had low self-esteem. I would have loved to swim on the team, but back then, there were only Speedos—and that was never going to happen.
I chose this career path to empower people to reach their potential. I know, first-hand, what it feels like not to be able to do a sport—and then be able to do it. I thrive on helping people reach their goals. I love the process of goal achievement.
In that way, every day is new and fresh.
When people “get it,” and it clicks—when they have that “aha moment”—they blossom. I love that moment. It’s magical and beautiful—and it can happen at any age.
If you believe it, you can achieve it.
What was your proudest moment?
Well, out of college I went into the corporate world. I was 25. The money was great, but it didn’t make it tick. It was not resonating with me.
In 1991, I shifted to finding a career within sport, to reaching and helping people through sport. It was a full-blown career change.
It was my proudest “moment,” because had I not had the courage to get uncomfortable with change, had I given in to the “status quo,” I would not have been happy. I took a calculated risk and it paid off. That one choice set me on a different trajectory for the second 24 years of my life.
We get lost in things and forget to be present.
What do we really need? We need family, friends and good health. When you realize this and pursue your passion, everything changes.
What one thing do you want people to remember you for? What is your “parting advice?”
I want people to say: “Eric was somebody who took the time to listen.” Sometimes all people want is to be heard. That is very important as a coach. But also for humanity. Take the time to listen to people. Many people say: “Eric, you’re the most patient person I have ever met.”
My parting advice to people is this: be the best version of yourself.
You can’t be anyone else. Just be the best version of yourself.
About Eric: Eric Neilsen is a multi-sport coach and consultant having competed in triathlons since 1986 and has been coaching swimmers & triathletes since 1991. Currently working with athletes of all abilities from novice to professional, by providing personalized services that empower clients to achieve their full athletic potential.
This interview is part of the Vasa Ripple Effect campaign which strikes to the very heart of what gets us out of bed in the morning to do the sports we love. We want the Vasa community to share, connect and live better lives. At Vasa, we believe in “the power of why.” We believe people can achieve the extraordinary when they know and live their why. And, we believe that if people share ‘why’ they do their sport, it will make them better athletes & coaches—and thus, better people—which produces a positive ripple effect on others. With that, we invite you to join the new Vasa community by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Connect with like-minded people, share your Why—and experience the #VasaRippleEffect!