8 x Boston Marathon Qualifier
3 x Ironman Hawaii World Championship Finisher
4 x 70.3 Ironman World Championship Qualifier
U.S. Masters Swimming 2019 Kerry O'Brien Coaches Award
'Why' interview with Multi-Sport Coach Eric Neilsen
Why do you do what you do? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
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 me 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 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.