Updated: Apr 26, 2022
Many of those reading this have been involved in the endurance community for a long time. Your involvement has likely been in a solo participant capacity, but this is not the only way to participate in endurance training and competition. For those of you that feel your endurance motivation has gotten stale or you just want to try something new, I strongly encourage looking into the possibility of guiding a blind/visually impaired individual.
Although this may seem like a daring or scary proposal, it's really not, and most often, people find that guiding is kind of like Pringles, "Once you pop, you can't stop." Once people begin guiding, they often lose interest in doing events solo.
Guides frequently tell me that being a guide brings them fulfillment that they didn't get from participating solo. They also say that it really taught them to understand how blind/VI individuals live and interact in the world. Lastly, guides frequently say that it has taught them to utilize their other senses and not always rely solely on their vision.
With the above said, the big question is, how do I get started? The answer is multi-dimensional. I wanted to give some guidance and resources. Here are some possible ways to find a blind/VI athlete around your area, as well as tips for guiding.
Remember, you don't have to be the fastest or most talented athlete in the world to guide. Like the sighted community, there are all levels of ability and experience in the blind/VI community.
United In Stride: United in Stride is a tool for uniting visually impaired runners and sighted guides. Blind/VI individuals or those interested in being a sighted guide should create an account. You can be connected to all the guides or blind athletes in your area. United in Stride also has several tools and tutorials, including the "How to" guide. Click this link to create your account: https://www.unitedinstride.com
USA Triathlon Webinar: Visually Impaired and Guiding Techniques: To feel more prepared and confident, I recommend purchasing and watching this webinar in which I review all aspects of guiding and competing as a blind/VI athlete. This includes considerations and techniques for swimming, biking, running, transition, and communication. Get webinar HERE
Get Connected in the Community: Many organizations work with blind/VI individuals and may be good resources and connect with a guide opportunity. Some of these organizations include Team Catapult, Dare2Tri , Challenged Athletes Foundation, USABA, and Team With a Vision. One Facebook group that may be a good resource is Visually Impaired and Blind Athletes, Runners, and Guides
Guide Focused Coaching: Once you have found a blind athlete to work with, there may be interest in guide-focused coaching. Training and preparation should look a little different when you are guiding. Many considerations and modifications should be made to the training program to maximize the guide's ability to assist the athlete and simulate guiding scenarios. This is one area that I am very passionate about. I recommend anyone reach out if there is any interest in receiving guide-focused coaching. Contact Coach Aaron
I hope the above resources have put a tiny spark in your head to venture out and try guiding. With this said, guiding is not for everyone. By knowing about this option, we can all broaden the reach of opportunity for the blind/VI community. Feel free to reach out to me anytime with questions, as this is an area of passion and experience for me.
Aaron Scheidies is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and licensed Physical Therapist. A graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Exercise Physiology, Aaron has coached World Champion Paratriathletes as well as Ironman World Championship qualifiers. Aaron is an 11 time World Paratriatlhon Champion and has set the World’s fastest time for anyone with a disability at both the Olympic (1:57:24) and Ironman 70.3 distances. (4:09:54).