On January 16, the NCAA Division I Legislative Council approved triathlon as an emerging sport for women. This decision will create great opportunities within the Olympic pipeline for athletes, especially swimmers, as another Olympic sport will now be available on the collegiate level.
Being approved as an emerging sport within the NCAA framework has definitely helped other sports such as water polo, bowling, ice hockey and rowing.
Triathlon, the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Olympic Movement, is a multi-sport event that includes different distances of swimming, cycling and running. The sport made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Games, and has continued to grow at an exponential rate.
With several key rules within the International Triathlon Union making every single part of the race of key importance, including rules where if you get lapped you are out, swimmers definitely have an advantage going into the event.
To further explain the lapped rule, if the first triathlete out of the water hops onto their bike and makes it around the first loop before you complete your swim, your race is over. This makes triathlon a great place for athletes whose first sport is swimming. While it takes having a strong bike and run to win triathlons, having a strong swim portion of the race can be a key to winning.
While the NCAA decision is huge for the triathlon community, as schools will now begin to subsidize training costs, the grassroots levels are still going to be the key to growing the sport going forward. One of the people helping triathlon do just that is Tracy Endo. Endo, who also is an amazing photographer who shot Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year Katie Ledecky for our December 2013 issue, is also a triathlon coach. Endo, along with her business partner Sandy Brown, are among less than 200 coaches nationwide that are certified USA Triathlon Youth & Juniors coaches.
Endo and Brown lead Tri Team Xcel, a youth triathlon team in Northern Virginia. TTX is one of the few triathlon travels teams in the nation, and began as a way to motivate youth using the sport of triathlon. Check out their Facebook page for more information. With the new possibilities surrounding the sport with the introduction at the NCAA level, TTX is definitely looking towards helping create the next era of great triathletes.
“The amount of youth involved in the sport of triathlon is greater than it has ever been in the past,” Endo said. “Local youth races are filling quickly and some even have wait lists. This is great for the future of the sport! We want to continue to encourage youth to participate in triathlon and one way to do that is by encouraging them to join a local youth team.”
Endo is particularly concerned with how younger triathletes are currently being trained, with their youth sometimes not entering the training equation.
“We find that not all coaches or parent-coaches understand exactly how youth triathletes need to train,” Endo said. “We can’t think of them as ‘little adults’ or we’ll potentially do damage to their bodies and/or minds over time – some of which is irreversible! Youth triathlon training is very specialized. We want to see these youth succeed and hopefully some may end up being future Olympians or NCAA scholarship recipients!”
Just like in swimming, where club teams continue to build the base for the amazing U.S. Olympic team selected by USA Swimming every four years, it is going to take a similar grassroots approach towards building the best triathlon Olympic teams of the future in the U.S. Youth coaches like Endo are going to be at the forefront of making sure USA Triathlon is also building its base, and with swimmers always looking for new competitive outlets, the sport is sure to continue to spread like wildfire.