Empathy, Reliability, and Humility: Head Coach Thayer Zaeder ’83 Leads His 20th Cycling Season

As a student, Cycling Head Coach Thayer Zaeder ’83 was a part of Andover’s first cycling team, established in 1980. According to Zaeder, his introduction to the sport as a Junior “solidified a lifelong passion for the sport.” Now, Zaeder is in his 20th year coaching cycling at Andover. 

Zaeder elaborated on his coaching style, sharing how he likes to balance success with safety on the bike and roads. He leads the team alongside Assistant Coaches Ben Duclos and Sara Parker. 

“We share the coaching and each of us brings different areas of experience and knowledge to the coaching of student athletes. Personally, I try to model the habits and focus and attention to detail that is crucial to long term success and safety on the bike. As a coaching cohort, we try to create a fun and supportive team dynamic while still pushing our athletes to improve and grow as competitive cyclists,” wrote Zaeder in an email to The Phillipian.

David Porto ’26 shared similar thoughts about Zaeder leading by example. Porto also appreciates Zaeder’s insightful feedback. 

“A lot of times he gives us an example, especially for regular rides because the coach is always going in front. So we all just follow him, but also, in general [he gives] feedback. I remember one time I fell over because I did something wrong, and then he helped me and taught me not to do it again,” said Porto. 

Petra Mrazova ’23 explained how dedicated Zaeder is to his athletes. He also prioritizes safety, whether it’s helping out with a technical issue or making sure everyone is feeling their best on the road.

“He tries to demonstrate everything to his best understanding, tries to dumb it down for us, and any time anyone is confused or has questions, he is more than willing to help you out. On the road, he’s really thorough. He looks after our safety, especially on the intersections and roads where there are a lot of cars, and any time someone has a problem, he’s the first to stop by and try to help you out,” said Mrazova.

Mrazova continued, further highlighting Zaeder’s empathetic and caring personality. 

“We got a flat a few weeks ago and even though he passed us, he turned around and he was the one who helped change the tire. He was the one who stayed behind with the girl, so he’s really attentive. He is also our technical guy, so any time something is wrong you know that he’s going to be the person who will help you fix the equipment [and] he’s going to be the one who’s gonna offer you a snack if you’re feeling unwell,” said Mrazova.

According to Anna Ohm ’24, Zaeder has been supportive throughout the whole season. In the beginning, Zaeder’s efforts revolved around ensuring new riders were comfortable and had access to the right equipment.

“We do preseason meetings where essentially, they have to line up all the bikes for the prospective athletes and get them ready for them because you have to adjust the bike seat. And then as the season kind of progresses, he’s always really encouraging to people at the start, especially new people to the team. He also just has a big wealth of knowledge about cycling, and shares that with the team, whether that’s game strategy or maybe it’s changing a flat,” said Ohm.

Mrazova shared one of Zaeder’s values that he spreads throughout the team. She also mentioned his emphasis on personal care and having a positive attitude.

“You don’t have to be the best, but you have to do your best. He doesn’t expect you to win, but he expects you to do your best, what you can give on that given day. He always makes sure or reminds us to take care of our bodies, take the rest, eat well, sleep well, so he’s looking after us in that sense. As well as have fun. He tries to make practices as fun as possible,” said Mrazova.

Reliability and humility serve as core values of Zaeder’s leadership. He also emphasized the importance of growth in a sport that often has a challenging transition period. 

“Cycling is a very demanding sport that requires not only excellent fitness, but also skill and coordination and good decision making. I try to give student athletes the opportunity to improve and to give them the proper perspective on the arc of their growth as an athlete,” said Zaeder.