Kids in Triathlon

| March 21, 2014

Triathlon is an interesting sport. It attracts so many different people to the sport all doing it for their own personal reasons. However, when it comes to kids in the sport, what drives them?

I started the Get Fit Families Youth Triathlon Team 3 years ago. The team is finally starting to grow and thanks to a partnership with the Cranberry Township YMCA, we are seeing a brand new dynamic of youth athletes participating in the program and on our team.

When we think of triathlon and youth with mental or emotional disabilities, it doesn’t really seem to fit, does it? After all, triathlon takes a great deal of dedication and focus to be able to complete a swim, bike and run.

When I started this program, I never imagined that half of my team would be affected by some type of a disability, but now that’s the case. I’m well aware that I’m now fulfilling a need for these youth. Unfortunately, these kids are not able to make it in a traditional sports setting. They are often disruptive, they get confused with directions and workouts and they often want to give up. With this group, some are overly competitive and struggle with failure, while others have no competitiveness and settle for status quo. Being able to learn how to motivate those who don’t mind status quo is tough. They aren’t motivated by traditional sports methods, so finding what will help them bike that last mile or run that last lap or swim that final 100 yards is a challenge to me every day. For those who are overly competitive, try to explain to them that every time they run they won’t get faster or every time they race they won’t win is a struggle for these kids. They want so badly to succeed and to be perfect. I see this most often with the high functioning autistic kids or those with asperger’s syndrome. These kids want to succeed, they want to please and they want people to accept them.

A few weeks ago, I had an eye opening experience at practice. I have a young girl in the program who was born with part of her cerebellum missing. She’s a great girl and works so hard. Well that day she swam 400 yards in the pool, ran a half mile on the track and then took a 45 minute indoor cycling class. I knew she was exhausted afterwards. I exited the cycle room and I saw this young ladies mom standing by the indoor jungle gym. I know I had a look of shock on my face when I said, is she in there playing? Her mom said yes. Another young girl in our program asked her to play. She was so excited that someone asked her to play that she couldn’t say no. The young girl who asked her to play is another of the kids I coach with a disability and now these two are great friends. The program is bringing kids together and they are finding a place where they can succeed and make friends. It’s incredible.

Furthermore, what I love about triathlon is it’s an individual sport where you set your own personal goals. Yes, we have a team and I work so hard to make sure we have an incredible team atmosphere, but overall, promoting personal goals and putting success in the child’s hands instead of in the hands of a team and acceptance based on skill is what makes this program so successful. There are no try outs, there is no exclusion based on ability, there is only acceptance.

Setting up rewards and incentives when the kids reach goals is working well so far and we will continue to do that as we get further into the program. Summer is almost here, so our triathlon race season will begin.

I’m excited to see how these kids respond to racing, summer camps and being part of our team throughout the summer.

Continue to follow my blogs for more information on how these kids are progressing and new updates on the possibility of a triathlon camp for kids with emotional and mental disabilities.

Category: Blog, Get Fit Kids, Joella's Corner

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