Triathlon Magazine Canada - - NEWS - BY HE­LEN POW­ERS

In Bri­tish Columbia, the Ab­bots­ford Triathlon Club (ATC) has been rack­ing up new mem­bers at a very quick pace since it was es­tab­lished in fall 2014. A com­mit­ment to in­clu­sive­ness, di­ver­sity and tai­lored sup­port plays a big role in at­tract­ing more and more ath­letes.

“We are the fastest-grow­ing tri club in the prov­ince and we boast one of the high­est coach-to-ath­lete ra­tios,” says Kevin Heinze, a veteran triath­lete and club coach. Their 80 mem­bers vary from teenagers to folks in their sixties, with life­styles rang­ing from univer­sity stu­dents to re­tirees. Each of the seven coaches have train­ing or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the Na­tional Coach­ing Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram.

The club has a strong in­clu­sive pol­icy re­gard­ing sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, en­sur­ing ev­ery­one is in an en­vi­ron­ment free from dis­crim­i­na­tion. Fur­ther­more, their code of con­duct re­quires mem­ber in­ter­ven­tion for any ob­served ha­rass­ment.

The found­ing prin­ci­ple of the ATC was to pro­vide a com­mu­nity where triath­letes of all lev­els could meet fel­low ath­letes to im­prove their skills and de­velop ca­ma­raderie. Mem­bers bring many lev­els of ex­pe­ri­ence and dif­fer­ing goals, too. Some do not aim for triathlon com­pe­ti­tions, but fo­cus on a sin­gle sport in­stead.

The club motto of ‘Swim far­ther, ride harder, run faster’ could im­ply that the ap­proach is pretty se­ri­ous, but there is a bal­ance of work and fun here. Vis­i­tors to their web­site will soon no­tice that the hash­tag #just­for­fun gets equal billing as #com­pete­to­beat.

As the old say­ing goes, those who work hard should also play hard and ATC cov­ers that with many so­cial events through­out the year to build on ev­ery­one’s sense of be­long­ing. The so­cial agenda is helped along by spon­sor­ship from a lo­cal win­ery and sev­eral equip­ment spon­sors of­fer dis­counts for mem­bers’ train­ing equip­ment needs.

Train­ing ses­sions take place in Ab­bots­ford and sev­eral other lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. To round out skill devel­op­ment and ex­pand their knowl­edge fur­ther, mem­bers also at­tend guest speaker events and clin­ics. In the last year, clinic top­ics in­cluded plan­ning your tri sea­son, chang­ing bi­cy­cle tires, off-road triathlons, nutri­tion and bi­cy­cle main­te­nance.

For mem­bers who are new to the sport, there are ad­di­tional less-struc­tured events called Cof­fee with the Coaches. These one-onone dis­cus­sions typ­i­cally cover con­cerns and ques­tions re­lated to equip­ment, swim­ming in a lake and best prac­tices for train­ing.

When asked how the club has helped her, new mem­ber Ju­liane Rail ex­plains, “For me, it’s the in­cred­i­ble amount of sup­port. There’s been many ques­tions start­ing with ‘How do I…’ or ‘Where do I find…’ and there’s some­one to an­swer.”

Another new­bie, Va­lerie Van­der­ploeg, is very happy with her de­ci­sion to sign up.

“The fresh en­ergy, weekly en­cour­age­ment and ex­pe­ri­enced coaches are why I joined ATC,” she says. “Mak­ing this choice re­as­sures me that I will suc­ceed in my first triathlon this year.”

Coach Heinze says that wel­com­ing new­bies is ben­e­fi­cial to the whole group.

“The pos­i­tive en­ergy that our new mem­bers have is in­fec­tious and mo­ti­vat­ing,” he says. “After hav­ing been in this sport for over 20 years and train­ing mainly by my­self, it is re­fresh­ing to have the op­tion of be­ing able to train with other peo­ple.”

The club’s di­ver­sity in mem­ber­ship re­ally showed at the Dy­namic Race Events series in B.C. last year, when mem­bers trav­elled to races in Nanaimo and Oliver. Among their ac­com­plish­ments was an in­ter­est­ing list of firsts that in­cluded: a first-ever triathlon; a first half-iron­man; a new age-group course record; and, for one mem­ber, a re­turn to the sport after be­ing away more than 10 years due to in­jury.

“The fact that ATC dom­i­nated the podium at these events was just a happy by-prod­uct,” de­clares Heinze, adding that 27 mem­bers par­tic­i­pated in the Oliver event alone.

“What’s re­ally spe­cial about our club,” says coach Mikey Ross, “is how mem­bers in­ter­act.” For ex­am­ple, the night be­fore the Nanaimo race, the twenty-some­things gave ad­vice to the new­bies who were in their sixties. “There’s al­ways some­thing that we can learn from each other,” he says. “All have unique per­spec­tives and ways to con­tribute to our com­mu­nity.”

He­len Pow­ers is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Triathlon Magazine Canada. She lives in Dun­das, Ont.

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