How Do I Get My Kids into Triathlon?
Introducing sport to your kids can provide so many positive aspects to their life. It can provide a positive social group outside of school. I’ve seen a lot of kids who struggle to find their group of friends at school, but when they join a sport where they are with kids of common interests, it allows them a positive social network. A coach can also provide a leadership figure that can have a positive influence in their life. Involvement in sport can develop life skills they can apply in other areas of their life forever, and it’s a fun outlet that happens outside in nature. Sport can teach them to overcome adversity, give them independence, teach them to set goals, and teach them the rewards of discipline. We all want these things for our kids. So how can we get them into sports, and how can we influence them towards the sport we love: triathlon?
I’ll start with what I think are the two most important things for kids in sport. It has to be FUN and it has to be THEIR CHOICE.
If you already belong to a local tri club, consider seeing if they offer a kid’s program so they can meet other kids having fun doing swim, bike, and run. Kids’ races and camps can be a way to introduce them to triathlon and other kids doing it.
If that isn’t available to you and you are a triathlete yourself, invite your kid to some fun sessions you can do together. Perhaps a family swim where you do fun relay races, or have them ride their bike alongside you on your run and do lamp-post sprints against you. You can even create some fun obstacle courses on a grass field where you and your kid can have challenges to see who can get through the obstacles fastest on your bikes. It might be good for your own bike skills too! The great thing about triathlon is there is a lot of variety, and the variety will keep them fresh.
Kids will mirror their closest mentors. You, as the parent, are setting an example of this healthy and fun lifestyle. Your attitude and approach to the sport should give them the sense that it looks fun, and maybe they’ll want to give it a try. If they see you having fun, and they see you proud of your racing goals and creating a life of health and discipline, they will want to follow you. So be very mindful of how you present yourself in your sport day to day. If you are overly serious and mostly grumpy about your sport, it’s likely they aren’t going to want to follow you down that road.
If you do get their interest perked and they take the sport up, I advise keeping it social. Give them breaks, and keep their development with long-term vision. If they are lucky enough to stay in the sport for life, you don’t want to have a case where you have tapped out every training aspect possible during their childhood, and there is nothing left to move up to as they grow.
A very smart swim coach who was responsible for developing kids into the AIS Olympic stream once told me that the single most important thing to him with his kids was making sure that by the time he got them to the AIS level, he hadn’t used them up so much that they wouldn’t keep improving in the Olympic stream. In other words, you don’t want them to hit their lifetime peak performance just to get into the system. You want them to hit their peak once they are headed into the Olympic development years and at the Olympic Games. I saw this with my own eyes as I watched a young backstroker go from teenage school kid to AIS, to eventually Olympic finalist. Pretty impressive to watch.
Triathlon is a great family sport and now, with the college programs, it can even be a long-term vision for college scholarships. Make it fun, get them moving, and we hope to see you and your kiddos at the races soon.