Cora Isaccson recently graduated from Monarch High School. Right before graduation she competed in the World Sprint Triathlon Championships. Listen what its like to be a youth in a sport that is not typical in high school and how much she wants to help other kids get involved in Endurance Sports.
The year was 2009. I had an idea to expose kids to the wonderful sport of triathlon but had no idea what type of response I would have. Back then, triathlon wasn’t too popular with kids so I held my breath and hoped for the best. My first triathlon summer camp, under my non-profit Kids that TRI organization, was a huge success with close to 20 kids attending. I taught them some skills and drills related to swim, bike, run and transitions and everyone had such a blast learning about triathlon. But the kids didn’t really “train”.
From elementary to high school, kids progress through different developmental stages. Some professionals utilize the Tanner Stages while others use age as developmental markers. Regardless of what model is used, what is important to understand is that kids are not mini-adults. When you say “triathlon” to most people, they think Ironman. I cannot begin to tell you how many discussions I have had about this with parents.
You see, because kids are kids and the developmental process is both fragile and extremely variable (think growth spurts), it is extremely important to remember that kids should really begin with the basics and not be thrown into a volume based training program. The proper progression for having kids enter triathlon is to first teach them proper mechanics and how to move their body efficiently. After a young athlete seems to have a bit of coordination in proper movement patterns, add skills and drills. These are extremely important and should never be overlooked for racking up the training miles. Basic skills for the swim can include learning different strokes, how to get used to open water swimming, sighting, breathing, and proper technique. For cycling it includes how to be safe on a bike, learning rules of the road, hand signals, verbal communication, bike handling skills, how to get on and off a bike properly, and grabbing a water bottle from the cage. On the run, skills really should focus on good technique first and foremost and can include things like how coordinate the arm swing with the leg movement, cadence drills, forward lean drills, proper posture, and breathing techniques.
Not once did you hear me mention train a certain amount of yards or miles as that should not be the focus for youth just beginning the sport. If they progress to more of a high performance level and have graduated their technique, then, and only then, should volume be a conversation. However, I will mention that it is important to note that as kids grow and their limbs get longer, they have to re-learn many functional movement patterns again so even though they know how to implement sound biomechanical technique that works for their body, it may not be the same as they continue through their developmental process.
Youth, and parents, should be patient during the developmental stages and emphasize form, skills and drills over volume of training. The great news is that most youth triathlon races are naturally shorter in distance, which supports the developmental process in a more positive manner.
If you ask me today, now 11 years coaching youth and juniors, if I would have done anything different, I would say absolutely not. I have never rushed the developmental process with any of my young athletes and am extremely proud of that. As a coach and parent myself, there is always pressure on youth being the “best” but rushing the very sensitive developmental time of their lives with too much training volume may not only hurt their physical, emotional and behavioral development, but it may also lead to injury.
Be patient, enjoy the process and find a good team and coach who shares similar philosophies as the ones I mentioned in this article. Kids are kids and they want to have fun, even at a high level of performance. Don’t rush them into adulthood and certainly don’t treat them like mini-adults.
Bob Seebohar is a Sport Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist and one of only a handful of USA Triathlon Level III Elite Coaches in the country. He has been a certified USA Triathlon Coach for 21 years. For more information about Coach Bob’s eNRG Performance Youth and Junior Triathlon team and summer program options, visit www.enrgperformance.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out this article with a list of youth triathlon camps and races.
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.
Founder Kris Henderson moved her family to Boulder County from Scotland in 2014. Prior to the move, the Henderson’s were involved in triathlon as a family in a club where as many as 80 KIDS showed up for 6am swim training while parents trained at the same time.
With that as inspiration, Kris did the research and developed the support and facilities to start her own ‘Family Friendly Club’ and the Coal Creek Tri Club was born. Read about their 2016 Kick Off event here. Their programs have been at capacity this season, with the limiting factor being pool space. With mid week running and cycling sessions, members have weekend morning workouts where the kids swim while the adults do a land based training session and then they swap.
The kids participated in the Longmont Kids Triathlon in June and had a great time! Check out the fun on their Facebook page.
Next season the club members will be setting their sights on and training for the Without Limits Productions famed Oktoberfest in September.
With two successful seasons now behind them, the club is looking forward to beginning another fall season. Registration is not happening on their website HERE
In a continued effort to be involved in the community and giving back, Kris and the Coal Creek Tri Club have been instrumental in organizing the Inaugural Superior 5k that will happen on Sunday August 27. Join them in this great event and learn more about their successful program.
With their skilled, accomplished and certified coaching staff, Coal Creek Tri Club offers some of the best coaching around.
USA Triathlon has developed an indoor triathlon program called USATri60 to introduce individuals to the sport of triathlon at a grassroots level. The purpose will be to expose participants to the sport of triathlon in a one hour, non-threatening setting and with a built-in support system built to drive the concept that ‘anyone can be a triathlete’. The YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region and the Rocky Mountain State Games are partnering to offer this event as a part of the 2017 State Games. The YMCA will host qualifying events at two separate YMCA locations (listed above) in April and the top three athletes in each division will advance to the championships to be held during the Rocky Mountain State Games on Sunday, July 23. All athletes will receive a USA Triathlon goodie bag and participation medal and the qualifying athletes who compete in the RMSG Championship in July will compete for Gold, Silver, and Bronze Rocky Mountain State Games medals. A maximum number of athletes will be permitted to each qualifyer due to facility capacities. All participants will be assigned a race number that will be visible on all swim caps as well as marked on the top of each participants hand. All results will be listed on the Rocky Mountain State Games results page and the USATri60 results page after the event.
**Note: An active USA Triathlon membership is required. Athletes can either show proof of an active annual membership or puchase a one-day membership during online registration. Cost of a one-day race licenses for this event is $15 for adults. Annual memberships can also be purchased on-line for adults ($50) and youth ($10). There is no one-day membership option for youth so the annual membership for $10 must be purchased for non-members. Please note: adult one-day licenses are only good for a single event. If you qualify for the championship, you will be required to purchase an additional one-day license for $15 or you can choose to apply the previously purchased one-day license credit toward the purchase of an annual membership. For additional questions on USA Triathlon memberships, please contact Nick Koppin at email@example.com.
FREE First Timer Clinic
New to the sport of triathlon and wondering how it all works? Check out our free first timer clinic hosted by the Rock Tri Club. For more information about the clinic, including date, time, location and registration, click here.
Tri the Rock now competes based on the athlete’s age as of RACE DAY. Be sure to register accordingly.
25-meter swim (one pool length)
1-kilometer bike ride (one lap around Butterfield Park) – course map
Tri the Rock encourages kids to get active and try something new. To that end, a portion of every registration is donated back to each participants school or tri-club. Be sure to indicate your school or club during registration. And remember, the school with the most participants will get the honor of displaying the Tri the Rock trophy for the next year!
Tri the Rock Trophy winner
Clear Sky Elementary School narrowly claimed the victory for the fourth year in the row, with Aspen View Academy running close behind. Through the Give-Back Program, Clear Sky Elementary earned $430 for their physical education program. Can your school claim the 2017 trophy?
Mini Mortals Triathlon (MMT) is a reverse order youth triathlon following the Ordinary Mortals race and distances are based on the age of participant on 12/31 (so children turning 9 at any point during the year will compete in the 9-11 year age group and distance:
5-8 years: 0.5 mile run, 1.6 mile bike, 25 yard (one length) swim. One parent may escort on course.