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How to ID (and Support) The Potential Next Great Triathlete

You can find would-be-triathletes all around.

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We, as triathletes, love our sport. And we’re not afraid to get out there and preach about how great it is. When you love doing something, you typically want everyone else to love it too—and to wrangle all of your friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers into joining you. But how do you know who’s a likely convert?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that triathletes all come from one background or body type. In reality, they more closely resemble the rag-tag stars of the 1980s movie The Breakfast Club. You can find the next great triathlete anywhere—you just have to know how to look. Keep an eye for these potential triathletes and if you spot one be sure to bring them over to the best sport there is.

RELATED – Tri 101: How to Get Started in Triathlon

The Past or Present Athlete

Statistically, the bulk of the triathlete population is made up of past or present swimmers, cyclists, or runners. But, while having an understanding and background in one of the three sports is very helpful, triathletes can be found in retired or current participants in all sports. From your dad’s friend on the recreational softball team to your favorite golf or tennis partner, competitors often make committed triathletes.

The General Exerciser

Most of us have taken a group fitness class or spent some time in a gym. Look around. Those gym-goers have a strong commitment to an exercise routine and/or a hustler’s work ethic; that’s an excellent potential triathlete. Whether you look in the water aerobics or spin class, at the treadmills, ellipticals, bootcamps, or in the weight room, you can find someone who would love to take on a new physical challenge. Just remember: Don’t judge by appearance or body type—it’s the dedicated, not the six-pack, that will make someone a great triathlete.

The Stay-at-Home Parent

As a past stay-at-home-mom-turned-triathlete (and eventual coach), I can attest to the importance of having identities and communities outside of the home. Stay-at-home parents have a full load juggling kids and responsibilities, but they’re often looking for hobbies to offset home time and to provide some independence and socialization. Triathlon is an excellent tool to find some goal-oriented “me time,” with many added physical, mental, and emotional perks that’ll benefit the entire family.

The One on the Fringe

Many triathletes have an entourage of supporters. Those supports could use some support themselves! Consider asking your aunt who comes to every race, holds up a sign, and cheers all day if she wants to try a triathlon. We have so much appreciation for volunteers and spectators, and it is important to treat them as individuals who have their own simmering passions. They might be ready to try and only waiting for someone to extend the invite.

The Believer

Believers are people who want to set a big goal and go after it (and it helps to have a sincere interest in swim, bike, and run). You can see a believer in their drive for success in other aspects of life—whether it’s running a successful business with gusto; juggling work/family/hobbies/friends with a spirit of gratitude and positivity; or bagging groceries with urgency and a smile. Believers are the people who want to up their game and their lives. Believers are everywhere, often right in front of you.

RELATED: How to Be a Great Mentor

How to Encourage and Mentor the Next Triathlete

Once you identify someone who might make a great triathlete, how do you convince them to try this awesome sport?

  • Share your own story, especially how you got started. You can do this in person or through social media. Show off your finisher medals, age group trophies, and wear those race shirts. Stay curious and courteous when asked about your training and upcoming races—the interest might not be about you.
  • Be an encouraging mentor. Give kudos on Strava, advice when needed, and a high-five when out and about. Learn more about these potential triathletes as individuals. Try to understand their physical, mental, emotional, financial, and societal obstacles to achievement. Tell them often that you believe in them—it can go a long way.
  • Bring them to your club, clinics, or Master’s swim groups. There are so many free opportunities to connect.
  • Introduce them to other positive athletes. We don’t have to do our sport, we get to. Surround wannabes and new triathletes with grateful mentors and competitors.
  • Offer to ride or run with them to help them get started. Let them ask questions when comfortable and don’t push your agenda. They will keep learning with experience. But don’t be afraid to offer immediate tips on the vital things—suggesting the most comfortable gear, the importance of eating throughout workouts, and getting a good pair of bike shorts.
  • Triathletes-in-the-making are everywhere. Keep looking for and encouraging people to join the trend of being driven, excited, and weird enough to want to conquer three sports back to back.

Keep in mind:

“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better hiding it; that’s all.” -Andrew Clark, The Breakfast Club

Miranda Bush is a USAT Level I coach and ACE certified Health Coach. She is the owner and head coach of MB Coaching and the Zone Racing Team. You can follow Coach Miranda on Facebook and @zonecoachm on Instagram.