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USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris Year-End Letter

By Rocky Harris | Jan. 04, 2021, 11:31 a.m. (ET)

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Heading into 2020, we felt like the wind was at our back. Our sport was growing, the multisport community was thriving, and our elite athletes were primed and ready to proudly represent the United States at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. 

You know how the rest of the story goes as all of us have faced challenges both personally and professionally this year. I’ve had many sleepless nights worrying about the future of USA Triathlon, our multisport community and our sport. The abrupt shift back in March was so sudden, so dramatic, it felt like a knockout punch. And there were times when I wasn’t sure how we were going to get back up. 

At USA Triathlon, we endured our toughest year financially in the history of the organization. Our revenue decreased by over 40%, our staff is 30% smaller than we started 2020, and we had to liquidate some of our assets, including selling our office building. But despite having to cut all discretionary spending and many of our initiatives, we never reduced our commitment in one area: our community. 

I always kept in the back of my mind the local race director who struggled to pay their bills yet continued to follow their passion of producing races for athletes of all ages and skill level, and so many others in the multisport community who faced adversity during this pandemic. We prioritized race directors and event production companies, coaches, clubs, age-group and elite athletes, officials and volunteers because we know we do not exist without you. Simply put, you are why we do what we do

I want to share a few ways we supported the multisport community this past year that I am particularly proud of:

  • We released our Safe Return to Multisport initiative, our unified approach to safely opening the sport to the public. We worked with race directors, coaches, athletes, clubs, medical professionals and numerous others to put together guidelines, recommendations and resources for the multisport community, and we will continue to develop and update this information in the new year. 
  • We launched our Race Local. Compete Nationally. campaign to support race directors through payment relief and flexibility, promotional support, resources and a COVID-19 Safety Certification. In addition to this support, we will be encouraging athletes around the country to sign up for races in their respective communities. 
  • We raised more than $200,000 through the USA Triathlon Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund and are dispersing those funds to organizations and individuals impacted by the pandemic. This fundraising effort was embraced by everyone across our multisport family, including our paratriathlon resident team, which spearheaded the Operation CO>COVID bike ride.
  • We launched Transition 3, a program for elite triathletes to help them transition into their post-retirement lives through life skills, mentorship, professional development opportunities, mental health resources, and career and academic preparation. 

We are looking forward to 2021, because we feel the tailwind starting to pick up again. Demand for racing is at an all-time high as we all look forward to not only some normalcy, but a return to the sport and community we so desperately need in our daily lives. The conversations I’ve had over the past few months, and continue to have now, accentuate a collective excitement and yearning to get back to doing what we love. To appreciate and celebrate the reasons why we became addicted to this lifestyle. To rediscover the importance of that connective tissue multisport has in each respective community. And people across the country have taken up running and biking at record rates – you better believe together we are going to convert them to multisport athletes! This push for broader participation will also focus on breaking through barriers of entry and increasing gender, ethnic, racial, body, age, and socioeconomic diversity in our sport through our Together We Thrive initiative and in conjunction with the work already being done by individuals and organizations across the country.

As we shift our sights toward 2021, we are prioritizing helping race directors and local communities put on safe races for athletes, encouraging athletes to get back to their training with their coaches and clubs, and celebrating the virtues of our sport like never before. 2021 is sure to bring its own set of trials and tribulations, but I look forward to taking those head-on alongside you. If I have come away with one lesson from these past nine months, it is that together we can rise above anything thrown our way. Our sport will be stronger tomorrow than it is today, and our brightest years are ahead of us.

Thank you for all you do for our community and our sport.

Rocky Harris
USA Triathlon