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Triathlon Kids
TRAINING
By Matt Russ
Compared to traditional sports, triathlon is the new kid on the block.  
Participation in a youth event represents some new and perhaps unique challenges for the youth triathlete and parent alike. There are very few “little league” style programs for youth triathletes, triathlons are not part of most school PE curriculums and parents may not even have a working knowledge of what a triathlon is — as they do for basketball or tennis. To top it off, tri parents may find themselves attempting to manage three sports instead one. Where does a tri mom or dad begin?


First and foremost — relax, junior is still a long way from Kona. It helps to have a parent that participates in triathlon, but if you are being introduced to the sport yourself, take some time to get to know the distances, rules, the flow of the race and equipment needs. Most youth distances are designed for participation with a minimum of preparation involved for the active child. A good place to start is in the pool by determining if your child can complete the distance of the swim leg. If your child cannot swim more than a short distance without difficulty, beginner swim lessons or instruction may be appropriate.


If your child participates in other sports that involve running, do not be overly concerned with physical preparation for the first event. If your child is sedentary, a very gradual progression is warranted. A swim lesson, a bike ride and a run with mom or dad each week is enough to prepare a child for his or her first event. The focus should be on having fun, learning, quality time and building self-esteem.


I often field calls from enthusiastic parents that want to know “where to go from here.” Their child may have participated in a few youth events and now desires either a more formal training program or guidance on how to progress in the sport. At this point it is important to understand what is “age appropriate” preparation or training for triathlon. Some injuries, such as damage to growth plates or cartilage, can result in permanent damage. There has been a dramatic increase in overuse injuries following the rise of participation in organized sport programs. For the developing youth athlete, a “first do no harm” approach is warranted. An overzealous parent or coach, even with good intentions, can quickly sideline a child.


Training three sports simultaneously can be difficult at best for the athlete and parent. Of the three, the swim will take the longest to develop and require the most technical coaching.


Although there are few hard and fast mileage guidelines for youth running and cycling, there are some good common sense approaches. For starters, a child should not be running or cycling much over the distance required to complete their race. Three run sessions per week is enough, and soft surface running is preferred. Safety should be the foremost consideration when getting the bike rolling. Teach your child how to perform a pre-ride safety check, how the bike works and basic maintenance such as tire inflation, chain lubrication and washing their bicycle. Road skills should focus on the rules of triathlon, passing, braking, manners and safe riding.


You may be the parent of the next world champion, but remember that the race is not tomorrow.
Matt Russ holds the highest level of licensing by both USA Triathlon and USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field coach. Visit www.thesportfactory.com or email coachmatt@thesportfactory.com


To read more about training for youth athletes, please visit http://bit.ly/USATMagY110


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