Support the smaller events for the sport of TRI to survive.

Right now the sport of Triathlon is going through a bit of a rough patch in South Africa. Some may not see it but there is a vast decrease in race numbers across all events country-wide. Yes we are even talking about the big boy in the house IM. This past weekend saw just over 600 athletes complete the FULL – a few years back they used to sell out at 2000+ athletes. They had decent numbers with the half being offered on the same day but they were still calling for late entries with less than 2 weeks out to race day. If the big guys are seeing declining numbers imagine what is happening to the smaller race organizers and their so-called “filler” events.

Make no mistake – money is tight – even at the top end. Triathlon is an LSM 8-12 so its a higher income bracket that support the sport. Besides entries that can range from 5k up to 9k for some events, the cost of equipment, travel and coaching adds up to be a very expensive sport for some. What we are seeing right now is that athletes have certainly buckled down and are counting their pennies. Instead of entering 2-3 filler events in the lead up to their bigger races (normally an IM branded event) they are now only entering the A-Race and opting to rather train “through” instead of enter the filler events. Pure Economics in some cases but in other cases, perhaps a lack of understanding from some athletes and coaches.

For a sport to be successful – you need the small guys at the bottom and then you have the big guy at the top. If the small guy (smaller race events) falls away, you are only left with the big guy (bigger race organizer) and that is not healthy for a sport to grow in numbers and popularity.

How do we fix this?

We need the athletes and coaches to start supporting the smaller events, keep them strong and the sport will grow. Yes we acknowledge the fact that money is tight but a budget that is more managed can perhaps yield more money available to enter an extra race or two in the build up to the A-Race. For example, a night out at a restaurant – easily R400-R1000 spend and that is being conservative. 1 less visit and you can then enter one of the smaller events and keep the numbers at these events ticking over.

Coaches also have a HUGE role to play. Athletes will take direction from the coach, especially if they are totally new to the sport. If a coach were to suggest athletes enter a few more local events instead by-passing them for a training brick, training camp or supporting a cycle or run event, we will see these novices enter more local smaller triathlon based events – simply because the coach has suggested it. numbers will grow – the coach then benefits because his or her athletes are now training regularly to compete in events (not saving themselves for just 1- 2 a year). The Smaller Event Organizer benefits as they see more numbers at their events. The Bigger Event Organizer also benefits as they see a more “balanced and experienced triathlete” line up for their events (you know why the swim is sometimes shortened or cancelled? The average back-marker cannot swim – they lack race and practical experience – they sign up for the big race – train and then pitch up on race day with minimal open water race experience. This puts huge pressure on the EO as they know – even the slightest ripple and these athletes are going to battle to get in and out the water safely.

We have not even touched sides on the industry that supports Triathlon. The more events there are – the more triathletes will spend on bikes – suits – tri-gear – nutrition. We all form a chain and if all the links are not strong enough – eventually that chain will break (its close I promise you)

So – enough moaning – together (athletes – coaches – race organizers) we can keep the sport of triathlon strong and growing in numbers. It might be slow going for a while but to keep that chain in sync, we need everyone to chip in and realize that if we are in the sport of Triathlon, we must support the sport of Triathlon.