Out There: The Kids Are All Right

Photo: asuctc.com/tri

If these students are the future of the sport, I couldn’t be more excited.

I get a lot of e-mails. Most of them are asking me for something, whether it’s to wear their gear at my next race or to promote their business in my column.

But recently, I got a letter from the Arizona State University Cycling and Triathlon Club that stuck out.

Most people think triathletes are a bunch of elitist pricks with a sense of entitlement, that they’ll throw money around to get the best gear as a substitute for hard work. The same has been said about many collegiate student-athletes – trust-fund babies who are given a college degree in exchange for scoring touchdowns and goals.

Though logic would seem to dictate students involved in college triathlon clubs would create some spectacular brand of super-jerk triathlete, the truth is quite the opposite: These kids don’t meet any of those stereotypes.

In the letter I received from the ASU Triathlon Club’s president, Lindsey, was thoughtful, smart, and articulate. Though I currently work at ASU and have been teaching at the collegiate level for 6 years, I’ve yet to meet a student who made such a great first impression. I’ve met multiple members of the cycling and triathlon club at races in the Phoenix area, and I’m always impressed. They’re amazing ambassadors for the sport.

It’s not just ASU’s Cycling and Triathlon Club. Across the United States, triathlon is thriving on college and university campuses, filled with intelligent and committed students.

Members of college or university triathlon clubs will work two or three jobs each summer to buy a secondhand bike, which they will proudly ride until they graduate (and sometimes, for years beyond graduation).

They give up three or four weekends in a row to volunteer multiple races, in exchange for a free entry to one race.

They write countless letters asking for team sponsors, and receive almost an equal number of rejections, all while reading about their school’s partnership with Nike for new football team uniforms or the basketball team’s training camp in Florida.

These students will pile into a cheap rented van and drive for days to participate in the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Several months later, when Tuscaloosa is destroyed by a large, violent tornado, these students will get back in that same van to help rebuild the community which was so kind and supportive on race day.

When their counterparts are partying into the night, they’re having pasta dinners and going to bed early in preparation for the 5 AM track workout. At breakfast, they tutor each other in math and proofread each research papers to ensure everyone is earning good grades.

These students have absolutely no reason to participate in Triathlon Club during their college career. Most of their future employers, upon seeing this activity on a resume, will scoff and ask, “Triathlon? What’s that?”

These students do triathlon for one simple reason: Because they love to. If these students are the future of the sport, I couldn’t be more excited.

That’s why, when Lindsey e-mailed me to ask if I could help promote their fundraiser for the ASU Cycling and Triathlon Club, I wasted no time in responding with an emphatic yes. If you’re in Phoenix on March 24, there’s a 5K/10K race you simply won’t want to miss. Go register here…you won’t regret it.

If you’re not in the city, please, please, please – check out your local colleges and universities to see if they have a triathlon club. Chances are, the students involved would love your support, whether it’s a donation toward race fees or an invitation to join you and your friends on your next training ride. Trust me – you’ll get just as much out of it as they will.

I recently showed this e-mail to one of my fellow college professors, also a triathlete. Though we both love our jobs, many faculty deal with challenging situations with students, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated on campus. As he read the e-mail, his face began to soften. By the time he got to the signature line, he sighed:

“The kids are all right after all.”

Yes, indeed. The kids are all right.


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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