I was five when Janet Jackson broke through to global superstardom with the single “What have you done for me lately?”
Oooo oo oooo yeah
At five, I wasn’t doing much for others. In fact, I was just learning how to do a lot of things for myself – make my bed, clean the fish bowl, put away my bat and ball, stand up on my own two skis.
So…I didn’t really understand the song.
But today, with many more years of life on earth, I get it.
And I hear it--or slight variations of this sentiment–all too often.
What’s in it for me?
What will I get out of it?
Will that look good on my resume?
The sport of triathlon does a lot for its participants.
In the three years I have been a triathlete, swim-bike-run has enriched my life with friends and goals and confidence and opportunity. When triathlon asks what I have done in return, I want to make sure my answer is as rich as the community and experiences my sport has given me.
This post contains some of the small ways I have found to give back to the sport. It’s not an exhaustive list; it’s designed to jump start your own thinking about ways that you can do the same and to encourage you to share in the comments below ways that you already have.
1. Lending a hand at youth triathlons.
Or any triathlons. Or swim meets. Or bike events. Or running races. Kids (and newbies in general) are the future of triathlon. Even if you are just filling water cups or directing course traffic, you are doing a lot for them – and for our sport.
2. Supporting your local non-profit triathlon club.
Many cities have triathlon clubs that operate on a not-for-profit basis (as a 501 c 7) with a volunteer board of directors. As a result, they have very low annual fees. More importantly, they offer specialized programs to equip newbies with the knowledge/skills/support they need to finish their first tri. In the case of DC Tri Club, members pay just $50 a year (yes, per year!). With your dues, DC Tri Club creates a community of triathletes of all performance levels in which newbies can gain the practice, tools and knowledge they need to become first-time (and life-time) triathletes.
3. Mentoring a newbie triathlete.
It is easy to forget how much intimidation I faced in becoming a triathlete. Until I start thinking about it. And then I want to curl up into fetal position.
I was afraid of my clipping into pedals – or actually, of not being able to clip out. I was terrified to put my face into the water and breathe. And buying a bike was perhaps the scariest part of all. But a handful of people along the way clued me in on everything from chamois cream to changing a flat…and even peeing while racing.
You don’t have to know everything to mentor someone. If you have ever raced a triathlon, you know heaps more than a newbie. Just be open, exercise a bit of patience and share your love for the sport.
4. Gifting last year’s gear to newbie triathletes.
We all know the financial barriers to triathlon entry are high. In addition to race fees, triathlon and cycling gear are expensive. And if you are like most triathletes, you have upgraded something (or everything?) since you began in the sport. Instead of collecting dust in your closet or making you a few dollars on eBay, find a dedicated newbie who could really use that old bike computer, or last year’s tri kit, or your first heart rate monitor. My rule: If I haven’t used in in the past 6 months, then it deserves a better home. Avoid triathlete hoarding. Share the love with a newbie.
Surely, our 35th president would agree, “Ask not what your sport can do for you, but what you can do for your sport.”