7 Ways Triathlon Races Prepare Our Kids For The Real World - Part 2

Lisa Campisi  |  Cherry Hill, NJ  |  March 11, 2016

As a triathlon coach, teacher (regular and special education) and now the Athletic Services Coordinator and Coach for KidzTri3 Youth Triathlon Series, I have worked with or observed kids for most of my life.   Through these observations and interactions, I have found that kids learn several lessons through their involvement in sports, such as a triathlon, that will help prepare them for life, aka the real world.  

Our athletes, as well as, other athletes can tell you that while participating in a sport, anxiety, stress and challenges can occur.  Some of these stressors come from their parents; while others come from pressure they put on themselves to be successful.  The mind is a powerful tool.  It can push us to succeed or hold us back through fears.  It’s up to us to choose which path we will allow our minds to lead us.

Through these challenges our triathlete kids learn how to be responsible, can learn from role models triathletes that demonstrate how to play by the rules, while gaining confidence and developing a solid work ethic.  They will make mistakes along the way but they will learn from their mistakes and find a love for the sport.  

Here are a few life lessons your kids can learn from triathlon races:

1. Responsibility

No matter what age, a triathlete learns how to be responsible.  If you racing in a triathlon that means you have a lot of gear that you need to remember on race day.  In every triathlete’s career at some point, you will forget something, whether it is your goggles, sneakers, or nutrition.  It is the athlete’s responsibility to check their race day checklist twice and make sure they have what they need for their race.

Responsibility doesn’t only mean that you have to remember all your gear.  It also means that you have to make time to prepare for your race through training, knowing the course and the rules as well as getting to the race on time.  These are not easy tasks at all.  We have to plan and prepare!

As a triathlete, you have to plan out your schedules for both training, and racing.  It also means that sometimes you need to go to bed early, so you are able to get up early for race day.  Racing and training for a triathlon takes time away from other activities in our lives.  Whether you are an adult or a kid you have to be responsible enough to balance your schedule, so that you are able to train, race and still be able to participate in other activities or obligations.  

Being Responsible isn’t always easy!

2. Role Models

Role models are all over this sport.  Whether your role model is a pro that you are following, a fellow triathlete or maybe even your coach, it is important that you choose someone that exhibits similar values and shows you the kind of athlete you want to be.

It can be easy to get caught up with the competition, the cool gear, and the social aspect of the sport.  Sometimes we choose people to be our role model because they have gear that you may want.  That might not be the best way to choose your role model.  One I look for in a role model is how they act when they win and when they lose.  Someone I look up to has grace whether they win or they lose.  What do I mean by having grace… I mean that they handle themselves with poise and kindness; this doesn’t mean that they aren’t excited by a win or disappointed by a loss.  They are able to say congratulation to who ever did well on the course.  The final thing I look for in a role model is how they treat others.  Whether its words of encouragement as they pass each other on the course or checking on a fellow racer if they are having an issue; true role models push each other to be the best they can be!  That is what you should strive for in being a role model or look for in a role model!

3. Playing by the Rules

As in all aspects of life, triathlons have rules that need to be followed.  If the rules aren’t followed you run the chance of getting a penalty or even being disqualified.  As an athlete, it is your job to know the rules!  At every triathlon the race directors hold meetings, where they talk about the course and the rules.  During this meeting, it is your time to ask questions about the course or a rule you do not understand.  There is nothing worse then being disqualified from a race for not following a rule simply because you did not know it was a rule.  My advice to you is to take the time to learn the rules, so that come race day, you have nothing to worry about. 

4.  Confidence

Confidence is something that everyone needs in life, however, it does not always come easy to some of us.  I often project that I am a very confident person, but in truth, I am not always that confident person I am told I project.  For example, on the racecourse, I tend to second-guess how much I am able to push myself.  This lack of confidence can affect how well I do on a course and during the race.  When racing it all comes down to confidence and knowing what your body is able to do that day.   

Confidence is something that can be gained through participation in the sport of triathlon.  The confidence you gain through racing triathlons is something that can be used in all the different aspects of our lives, including home, school or workplace.  In my experience, students that are involved in sports, such as triathlons, are more confident in the classroom and are more willing to try new things with their schoolwork and take risks. Confidence can do amazing things for kids and adults alike!

5.  Learning From Your Mistakes

In all sports and aspects of life, we make mistakes and if we are lucky…we learn from them.  This is one of the most effective ways to learn lessons.  Triathlon is no exception to the rule.  Mistakes can be made during the swim, bike, or run but most often nutrition is the hardest part for kids and adults.  Many kids enjoy foods and drinks that do not fuel your body in the best way possible.  Which is why we spend time at camp teaching our athletes about nutrition.  It is easier to learn proper nutrition choices from an early age, and it also gives them a head start in learning what fuels their body best for a triathlon or other sports.  

In triathlon it is not all about nutritional mistakes, there can be mistakes in any of the other parts of a triathlon.  During the swim you could forget your goggles or panic in the water.  The bike is most complicated part of a triathlon and the area that the most things can go wrong.  Some possible consequences for not checking your bike prior to the race, could be as simple as your chain falling off at the beginning of your ride, your tire going flat, or a bigger mechanical issue.  While the run is simpler, with equipment, you could have issues if your pace is wrong or if you don’t hydrate.

The positive side of making these mistakes is that you will learn from them and most likely they won’t happen again to you.  Triathlon is a giant learning experience for everyone that participates.

6. Work Ethic

It is not easy to be a triathlete!  Triathletes need to be able to swim, bike and run.  Some athletes love the water, while others struggle to swim in it.  This is where hard work comes in.  Those that love the water don’t have to work as hard to learn to swim, however, those that struggle will need to spend hours in the water to try to become a more confident swimmer. This also applies to biking and running.  Those that work hard will reap the benefits of their hard work and achieve their goals.

7. Love of the Sport

Participation in sports provides kids an outlet to relieve stress from school and life.  Triathlon is one sport that helps kids find focus and balance in their lives.  Triathlon is a great sport that allows kids and adults to enjoy doing an activity outside.    This time outside and away from the stress of the classroom can help them learn valuable traits like confidence, work ethic, learning from mistakes, and playing by the rules.  

In what other ways do you envision triathlon races helping your kids in their lives?