Kids Who Tri: Transforming Youth and Youth Sports Culture

By William Marsiglio | Jan. 17, 2020, 1:46 p.m. (ET)

kid in bike transition

Enjoy this excerpt of "Kids Who Tri: Transforming Youth and Youth Sports Culture." This is an excerpt from Chapter 5: Tips for Parents. Interested in purchasing Kids Who Tri? Visit here.

Although parenting books vary widely, with some emphasizing parental involvement in youth sports culture specifically and others focusing on children’s lives more generally, a unifying message is that parents can and should make a positive difference in their children’s lives. However, too often the message is limited to helping the parent reframe how he or she perceives and interacts with his or her child. The logic and tricks target the exchanges the parent and child share with one another. What is often lost in this psychologically driven calculus is a full appreciation for the larger social context that affects parent-child relations and child development specifically. In addition to being immersed in a pool of family circumstances, institutions related to school, faith, work, health care, and recreation influence how a parent and child manage their relationship with one another.

Thus, understanding how a parent can make a difference in a child’s life demands that we appreciate the broader web of partnerships that ultimately affect a child’s personal development and the role a parent can play in cultivating those partnerships. 

If the ultimate parental goal is to help kids have fun and acquire the types of life lessons and interpersonal skills outlined in Chapter 4, mothers and fathers alike have a crucial responsibility to build social capital for their children. Furthermore, parents must empower their children to be proactive in developing their own human and social capital as they develop. Depending on their individual interests, children can benefit from the social capital already present and nurtured in various areas of their lives, including school, faith, work, health, and fitness.

In the sports world, parents can nurture numerous partnerships that will allow them to contribute to their kids’ having fun and experiencing personal success and satisfaction. Youth sports provide opportunities for parents to home in on key life lessons. Youth triathlon, in particular, provides a distinct setting for parents to encourage their kids to parlay the perspectives, skills, and self-confidence they derive from their productive partnerships into personal growth in other areas of their lives beyond sports. 

Over the past several years I’ve cobbled together loads of advice from the USA Triathlon staff, race directors, coaches, parents, and young athletes who represent the face of youth triathlon. I’ve also learned a great deal through trial and error as a dad-coach in the sundry youth racing world. I’ve navigated all types of races, including events in low-key, small community settings as well as the most intense and official regional and national championships.

My main message to parents wanting to support their children’s tri life is to be mindful and deliberative in cultivating your relationships with your kids, other parents, coaches, and race directors. For simplicity, I share most of my ideas about how to nurture each of these relationships by presenting them separately. In reality, however, parents must simultaneously manage a web of relations to maximize the time and effort they devote to supporting their kids in youth triathlon. I highlight practical ideas for parenting productively while taking into account different relationships essential to youth triathlon. A parent’s supportive communication with a child can be reinforced, for instance, if the parent builds relationships with the child’s coach or the parents of training parents and tri team members. Similar types of interpersonal connections can be nurtured with those involved in ancillary swim, cycling, and running clubs. 

In addition to sharing commonsense ideas that can help parents support their children, I challenge parents to think in fresh ways about promoting their children’s triathlon experience. Although my suggestions are likely to resonate with most parents, no list of pointers will appeal equally to all parents.

Depending on their personal circumstances, including their child’s age, level of experience, and commitment to triathlon, parents can pick and choose as they experiment with what they believe might work best for them in terms of “growing” their children.

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Praise for Kids Who Tri

Kids Who Tri invites you in with a firsthand look at the youth experience in the lifelong sport of triathlon and how it can transform our kids. Kids Who Tri provides our nation’s youth a roadmap to a sport that gives kids a sense of accomplishment from finishing their very first triathlon all the way to the pride they feel from being the best in the U.S. I wish my parents had a resource like this to lean on when I was just starting out in youth triathlons.  This book is a must read for any parent looking to dive deeper into the sport of kids triathlon.”
Hunter Kemper (4x Olympic Triathlete, USA Triathlon Hall of Famer)

“Written with both head and heart, Kids Who Tri serves as a primer for youth in triathlon. Marsiglio effectively blends science and passion as he shares a reservoir of knowledge, invaluable insights, and personal anecdotes from his vast experience. This book is both launching pad and didactic tool for any parent or race director involved in the introduction to, and support of, young athletes in the fast growing multisport.”
Alicia DiFabio, Psy. D. (Best-Selling Author of Women Who Tri: A Reluctant Athlete’s Journey Into the Heart of America’s Greatest Obsession)
Kids Who Tri provides an engaging and intimate overview of the exciting sport of youth triathlon. As a scholar who focuses on family health, William Marsiglio makes a compelling case that adult advocates for young people need to do more to promote youth triathlon for boys and girls from all backgrounds and abilities. This book is a ‘must-read’ for any parent or person who simply wants to help kids to a better life.”
Cherie Gruenfeld (13x Ironman Age Group World Champion, Founder & Director of Exceeding Expectations—a non-profit foundation for at-risk kids in San Bernardino, CA)

Kids Who Tri provides a great roadmap or ‘State of the Union’ to understanding kids triathlon. Marsiglio’s reflections on how to grow the sport are valuable insights for not just kid's triathlon, but our sport as a whole. The lessons portrayed in this book mirror what took us countless hours, days, months and years to figure out. Kids Who Tri lays the groundwork to inform the unknown, tackle the challenges that the sport faces, and suggests solutions for how to develop kid's triathlon so that we can more effectively share the sport that I, and so many others, love and grew up loving.”
Ben Kanute (Olympian, Mixed Relay World Champion, 70.3 Champion, Triathlete)                                                    

Kids Who Tri dives into the emerging culture of youth triathlon and its journey toward the mainstream. It explores how partnerships at the local, regional, and national levels are essential to growing triathlon for youth, while giving voice to the diverse perspectives in the multisport community. It is a fantastic resource not only for current triathlon enthusiasts, but also for aspiring youth and their families to jump into the world of swim, bike and run!”
Rocky Harris (USA Triathlon CEO)                                                                                                                                                             

Kids Who Tri is an important contribution to the current conversation on youth sports. Dr. Marsiglio explains, using first-hand examples and research-backed insights, how triathlon uniquely equips kids with the physical and mental tools they’ll need to thrive in tomorrow’s world. This book is for the parent who wants to gift his/her child with a life-long love of sport, challenge, and fitness.”
Joe Maloy (Olympian and World Champion Triathlete)  

“Although I didn't start triathlon until age 24, I believe triathlon is a great sport to start as a youth. I believe the best outcome for youth is to find health and happiness through sport. Triathlon is three sports in one. A child doesn't become overworked, due to time constraints when trying to balance swimming, biking, and running.  William Marsiglio's book is about youth triathletes, how to get involved, and how to grow in the community of triathlon.” 
Gwen Jorgensen (2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, 2x ITU World Champion)  

If you’re interested in purchasing Kids Who Tri, visit here.   

William Marsiglio is professor of sociology at the University of Florida and the author of 11 books including Dads, Kids & Fitness: A Father’s Guide to Family Health.