June 17, 2022
Tips for Finding Your Team in Triathlon
How to give it a “tri” when finding a triathlon squad that best fits your individual needs.
Last month I ventured into personal uncharted triathlon territory – I showed up to a full Ironman miles away from the comforts and support of my teams. I knowingly made this decision, aware that my local squad couldn’t just pick up and travel to Utah. I also knew that only a few Feisty teammates would be on the course and that our team kits wouldn’t arrive before the race. What I didn’t know was how much I would miss the camaraderie of racing alongside teammates.
At the race start, I longingly watched women in matching kits laugh, zip each other’s wetsuits, and give pre-race high fives and hugs. I honed in on spectators representing their team in coordinating gear, following and loudly supporting their athletes. I yearned to recognize Feisties out on the course. I dreamed of the Ironman WI vibe when our Zone Racing blue cannot be ignored.
With the exception of relays, triathlon is technically not a team sport. But chances are at every race you go to, you also see throngs of competitors in matching kits, laughing and cheering each other on. Well, that’s because while athletes are still very much competing on their own, they’ve made the jump to being part of a team. And here are some ways that you can too.
Teams/clubs are valuable in our sport. Check out these tips for finding your tri squad:
Seek out an inclusive team.
You may not feel like there’s a team for you in a sport that traditionally lacks diversity in race, color, gender, and age. Thankfully, there is an exciting movement for this to change. In addition to those by USA triathlon, individual event and race directors, and other brands in the sport – local and global triathlon team leaders are also focusing diversity, equity and inclusion. These efforts are not only focused on gender or race. Team leaders are also intent on making their communities more inclusive for women of every body size and age. Before joining, consider what you need to feel accepted in a group atmosphere. Research teams online and ask for a call or in-person meeting with the leader, or coach. Ask about the demographics of the team. Also inquire about the group’s commitment to DEIA practices and note your specific needs and desires (if known).
Find a team that fits with your goals.
Each team has its own vibe, or culture. Some are more focused on crushing watts and other aspects of next level racing. Others are mainly for camaraderie, friendship, and mentorship. And many are a combination of both. In most thriving communities, each member is an important contributor, irregardless of race stats. Before joining, ask the group coach or leader about the culture of the team, and when applicable, the format and expectations of group training sessions. Then share your celebrations with your teammates – a good culture nurtures all goals and accomplishments, from Kona qualifications to first time 5K finishes (and more!).
Consider joining a team even if you call yourself a “lone wolf”.
You may prefer training alone, or you might be intimidated by the idea of hitting the water or pavement with others. Either way, you can still benefit from joining a team. Teams do not only serve the needs of the easily extroverted, but can be an amazing resource for those who don’t need as much human connection in training and racing. They often offer access to coaches for questions; give out training and racing tips via email lists or private social media groups; and/or offer significant discounts on gear or race entries. New to an area? Teams can also be great places to find new bike and run routes, or learn the secrets to nabbing the best swim lanes.
If you are more uncomfortable with the potential vulnerability of joining a team, keep in mind that all triathletes start somewhere, and most of the members were, or are, as nervous as you are now. You can find how you fit in amongst the group by communicating your pacing capabilities, workout details, and expectations clearly in order to find the best training partner connections in your team.
Consider the benefits of wearing the same attire as your teammates.
There are more benefits to wearing “matchy-matchy” tri kits than Instagram worthy photo opps. Wearing the same race attire allows others to easily recognize you while training and racing. On race day, you might receive more cheers from spectators who recognize your kit. Also, other teammates offer waves, high fives, and words of encouragement when passing by. While it is fun to partake in the visual identity of your team, it is often not required. When joining, ask the team leader about the apparel expectations. If you don’t receive a free kit with your membership fee, ask about how and when you can purchase one, and if there is a team discount. Also inquire about potential options to purchase used apparel from veteran members. Athletes who love their team often want to help connect you to the visual identity, and some will likely give gently used team gear away for free!
Give it a “tri,” but know that it doesn’t have to be forever.
Communities bring together all types of humans, and tri teams are great places to make friendships that often far extend the pools, lakes, road, and trails. But, it is also likely that you won’t want to be best friends with everyone on a team – whether it is a specific, like-minded group, or one for the general triathlon population. But you won’t know if it is a good fit unless you try, so if no one is reaching out to you– reach out to them! Overall, be kind and try to not unnecessarily take things personally.
That being said, don’t tolerate any kind of inappropriate or misguided treatment. Speak up and leave if you don’t feel “at home” in your team. There doesn’t have to be a catastrophic event or a falling out to cause you to want something different – people, needs, and circumstances change. Trust your intuition and bid adieu if it isn’t working for you.
Joining a team can really add an exciting component of belonging to the individual sport of triathlon. Whether you haven’t yet, or have tried and had a not so great experience, I encourage you to give it a “tri” and find your team in triathlon.
Listen to the latest Ironwomen episode here, to learn more about the team dynamic in sport and a unique relationship between athlete and coach.
Miranda Bush is the Head Coach and Educator at Feisty Triathlon. She is USA Triathlon and Training Peaks certified, as well as a certified Health Coach. She is also a graduate of Dr. Stacy Sim’s Women Are Not Small Men and Menopause for Athletes courses. As a longtime coach specializing in training women, her passion lies in using lessons from training and racing to teach athletes to evolve physically, mentally, and emotionally through sport. Miranda is also a longtime athlete and multiple Ironman and 70.3 distance podium finisher, maintaining a consistent racing career while working and raising her kids. She resides in Wisconsin with her three teenagers and husband who all love to race triathlon.