For young teammates, the Mini Cow Tri Club of Mount Airy, Maryland, is about hard work, having fun and building a close bond with other athletes in the herd.
For Christy Lausch, the team’s coach and the 2018 USA Triathlon Developmental Coach of the Year, the club is a chance to teach lessons her athletes can use their entire lives.
“It’s about learning how to be a part of a team even though triathlon is an individual sport,” Lausch said. “It’s about learning how to be accountable, how to be a good sportsman. It’s about dealing with adversity and being able to adapt to different things. If you boil it all down, it is about life skills that are being learned through sport. The sport we are teaching that through happens to be triathlon.”
The Mini Cow Tri Club became the first youth-oriented USA Triathlon club in Maryland in 2010. A year later, Lausch and her husband, Brian, a USA Triathlon-certified race director, launched the Nottingham Kids Triathlon to give their children, Anna and Ben, a taste of the sport that Lausch’s mom first raced during the 1980s.
Six years ago, Abigail White, 18, was a swimmer suffering early burnout from eight practices a week. Racing at the Nottingham event and meeting Lausch reenergized her.
“Triathlon is so diverse. It keeps me going with all the cross-training. It keeps my mind and body well-rounded,” White said.
White, who will join Anna Lausch on the varsity women’s triathlon team at Colorado Mesa University this fall, loves how Christy Lausch promotes a bond among athletes that goes far deeper than mere teammates.
“We’re one entity. Whenever we race, we’re going as a team and we are going in as a family,” she said. “Christy makes us feel so much so.”
The Mini Cow Tri Club, a nod to the young cows playing in pastures the athletes see during their bike workouts, offers three levels of training. The development team serves new or recreational athletes ages seven to 13. The competition team includes athletes ages 11-17. The MC Elite high performance team is by invitation for ages 13-19.
The Mini Cow chemistry is magnetic. Josh and Leona Brandwene drive their daughter, Sophie, 15, an hour and 40 minutes one way from their home in Pennsylvania to attend one team workout per week in early season and two per week as the race season nears.
“It is a combination of the great training and the community and family element Christy has created in the program,“ Josh Brandwene said. “Sophie has truly flourished. Mini Cow is really a gift in our lives.”
“Christy creates a culture where teammates work at their best in service to themselves as well as to their teammates,” added Leona Brandwene. “The older girls do a great job of mentoring the younger girls. It has inspired Sophie to mentor her younger teammates, and that is special.”
One of those younger teammates is Addie Pax, 10, who has been a Mini Cow member for two seasons. She has ranked third and second in the USA Triathlon Mideast Region the last two years. Her brother, Colton, 8, joined Mini Cow after seeing how much fun his sister was having. And their father, Bryan Pax, has also started racing triathlon after his exposure to Mini Cow.
“I really enjoy the team atmosphere. Everybody is super kind, supportive, as well as competitive,” Addie said. “Coach Lausch is amazing! She is super kind and she helps to make workouts extra fun. She is the type of person I really enjoy being around.“
“I think all the coaches are great. They all help me get better and help me do more.”
“They are learning the value of disciplined consistent training, goal setting, sportsmanship,” Bryan Pax said. “They are also developing a healthy mindset toward competition. Christy and her team strike a great balance of having fun and working hard.”
“We’ve been really fortunate to have a phenomenal group of kids who have come through the team, and parents have been so supportive,” Lausch said. “To put on an event takes a village. One person doesn’t make a team.”
Or a herd.
Scott Richardson is a USAT L1 coach and founder of New Freedom Fitness in Normal, Ill.