Women Helping Women Start Tri Clubs and Find Sisterhood

Inspired by her previous club of multisport women, Michelle McGuinness was determined to bring that to her new town—with the guidance of the women who came before her.

Photo: Sam Bowman

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Almost anyone who has moved to a new community has faced the challenge of making new friends. In childhood, BFFs can form just just by asking, “Hey, want to play in the sandbox?” But it’s not always as easy as an adult. Article after article attests to the many adults who report that finding cool people to hang out with is hard. People in their 30s, 40s, and beyond know the challenges of making new friends, especially after a move to a new city.

Triathlete Michelle McGuinness felt this pain firsthand. A move from Pennsylvania to Delaware meant leaving her closest friends in her triathlon club, West Chester Women’s Multisport (WCWMS). “It’s hard to describe the pull of WCWMS,” McGuinness said. “It goes way beyond having a group of peeps to train with. They are a sisterhood of kindred spirits that consistently uplift each other.”

Almost immediately after moving to Delaware, she felt the loss of her WCWMS family. Compounding that sense of loss was the fact that there was no women’s tri club in her area. “I wanted a badass girl gang to share triumphs and challenges with. It’s about having women of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds coming together, supporting each other in both their fitness goals and life in general.”

When she lamented this loss to the founders of WCWMS, Sam Bowman and Melissa Silfer, the two responded with a challenge: Why not make your own? The response was a reflexive one for Bowman and Silfer. Since founding WCWMS in 2016, the two have been all about creating opportunities to support women in triathlon and beyond. Their belief is that triathlon can be a vehicle for strong, supportive friendships that improve the quality of life for women.

From the beginning, WCWMS’s mission has been to empower women to set, work towards and attain their goals,” Bowman said. “We encourage each other to keep moving forward one step, one pedal push, and one swim stroke at a time.”

(Photo: Sam Bowman)

In the case of McGuinness, that meant helping her build a new sisterhood in her new home. Using the principles of of WCWMS, McGuinness formed a new women’s triathlon club in January 2022: the Southern Delaware Women’s Multisport Club (SDWMC).

Sam and Melissa have been extraordinarily helpful to me in starting up SDWMC,” McGuinness said. Navigating the financial and marketing logistics of establishing a new club can be overwhelming, but the legacy founders supported their new counterpart just like they would an athlete preparing for a triathlon: with patience, wisdom, and unwavering support.

The SDWMC officially launched Jan. 1, 2022, and plans to host an official in-person launch in March with speakers, door prizes, and opportunities to mingle with other triathletes. McGuinness also plans to introduce group activities like open-water swims, club races, and social activities to bring women together to train, but more importantly to build friendships. Seeing women support other women is exactly what Bowman and Silfer envisioned when they started WCWMS.

“It makes us so proud watching women achieve goals they never thought possible and seeing the relationships that have developed on and off the race course,” Bowman said. “No matter how many times we’ve been told ‘Thank you for starting this club, it’s changed my life,’ we honestly feel that our lives have been positively impacted 100 times more. The women of WCWMS are the friends we never knew we needed, but now feel blessed to know we have. Our relationships are an invaluable treasure.”

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