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Meet your professor: Kinesiology instructor draws upon background as endurance athlete and coach

Darian Silk

I find that it’s really important to focus in on the experience and joy of participation that exists in sport."

Although it’s been nearly 25 years since University of Guelph-Humber Kinesiology instructor Darian Silk ran his first triathlon, he still vividly remembers how it felt – and how much it hurt.

“I remember it being worse than I thought it was going to be,” he recalls now with a laugh. “I do remember that, but I also really enjoyed it.”

Well, clearly Silk was not daunted by that discomfort. He went on to achieve significant success as a competitive age-group triathlete – with a number of wins and Top 3 finishes to his name – and he remains active now, participating in a handful of endurance events each year.

Early on, Silk made a key discovery that would change the course of his career: he enjoyed the rigours of training as much as actually competing.

That held true whether Silk was personally preparing or he was mentoring another athlete, opening the door to a successful coaching career that saw Silk lead New York’s Columbia University Triathlon Club to six consecutive Ivy League Triathlon Championships, and become accepted into the USATriathlon Elite Coach Mentorship Program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

“Competition as an outgrowth of the training is always been what’s really interesting to me,” said Silk.

Complementary pursuits

The UofGH instructor’s academic and athletic goals have long intertwined. An enthusiastic athlete in high-school, Silk decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from McGill University, where he also joined the triathlon club. He went on to get two MSc degrees from York University and City University of New York in Exercise Physiology and Education respectively while continuing to coach athletes and personally compete.

“The two interests really twinned nicely together,” he reflected, noting that his coaching philosophy has evolved over the years. “When I was younger and in the beginning of my journey as a coach and athlete, I was more interested in the exercise physiology and the academic science part of it, with the idea of enhancing performance. What makes you faster, or better?”

“But now,” he continued, “I find that it’s really important to focus in on the experience and joy of participation that exists in sport. I try to bring that to my athletes, whatever their level.”

At the University of Guelph-Humber, Silk teaches “Fitness Assessment” and “Exercise Prescription” courses. He’s appreciated having the opportunity to get to know his students personally at UofGH.

“I think it’s really nice that it’s a smaller school,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to develop a level of relationship with students that would be hard with a cohort of 800-1,000.

“Here, it’s very feasible for you to know faces and names and have an understanding of who your students are – and just as importantly, they have an understanding of who I am. You can develop a more collegial environment.”