By Sarah Morrison, USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, Cheetah Running & Triathlon
Run through any given park across the Front Range and you’ll see hundreds of kids out playing in soccer leagues and baseball games. Go into any local recreation center on a weeknight and you’ll see dozens of kids playing basketball, doing gymnastics, or practicing for swim team. What you likely won’t find are opportunities for kids and teens to get involved with triathlon – and what many kids and parents don’t know is that youth triathlon is an emerging sport and is providing unique opportunities unavailable in other sports.
Modern triathlon in the United States only dates back to the year of 1974; obtaining governing only in 1982. It is an extremely new sport if you look at its history compared to other popular American sports like soccer (1820s), baseball (1839), and football (1876). This means for most adults competing in triathlon today, it’s likely that triathlons weren’t even taking place in or around our hometowns when we were growing up, so it only follows that there were no youth programs or races to get involved in.
For today’s youth – especially around the Boulder area – triathlon for adults is now highly visible in the community especially since Ironman started holding the Boulder Ironman race in 2014. For all kids under the age of 18, triathlon has also been in view as an Olympic sport for their entire lifetime since its inclusion in the games in 2000. However, despite this there are very few opportunities for youth in the Boulder area to engage with multisport and begin an early track to high performance at the collegiate or even the Olympic level. Many people don’t know that in 2014, the NCAA approved triathlon as an emerging Women’s Division II and Division III sport, which means that scholarship opportunities are now available at the collegiate level and athletes might be significantly more likely to access this financial support than in sports like basketball, soccer, or football.
The introduction and evolution of the sport at a younger age is where we can expect to see the future of triathlon rapidly changing. USA Triathlon is actively promoting and supporting more and more youth development and collegiate programs. In return the sport is gaining momentum at younger ages nationwide. Which brings up the question, where and how can local youth get introduced to and involved with triathlon?
Local youth programs in the Boulder area are still few and far between, but some great programs are starting to emerge and will continue to grow as more youth become engaged. Cheetah Running & Triathlon will host its Cheetah Youth Triathlon Camp at the Louisville Recreation Center June 17-21 to give kids the opportunity to learn more in-depth about the sport and gain the skills and confidence to try a race. In fact, the camp even finishes the week with their own exhibition triathlon race. The Boulder YMCA at Mapleton has also started a recurring 4-week training program for youth that will continue during the months of June, July, and August. These are both great opportunities for youth to experience multisport and for programs to gain momentum to create more triathlon teams, races, and opportunities.
For those in South Denver and Colorado Springs, there are already some great teams and youth training programs happening like Bob Seebohar’s eNRG Performance Triathlon Team out of Littleton and Ken Axford’s Peak Multisport Program out of Colorado Springs. Those areas in turn have more youth race opportunities like Ordinary Mortals (Pueblo, May 11), Tri the Rock (Castle Rock, May 19), Kids TRY-athlon (Parker, July 21), Rocky Mountain State Games (Colorado Springs, July 28), and HRCA Splash, Mash, Dash (Highlands Ranch, August 4).
The Boulder and North Denver areas have less to offer in terms of youth triathlon race opportunities. A few of those are the Longmont Kids Only Tri on June 1, YMCA of Boulder Valley’s Strong Kids Tri on July 27, and Greeley Kid’s Triathlon on August 10. With the Cheetah and Boulder YCMA programs now underway, hopefully we’ll see more race opportunities soon!
Cheetah Youth Triathlon Camp
Boulder YMCA at Mapleton