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The USA Triathlon Strategic Plan: How We Can Help

By Dr. Steve Jonas | July 06, 2018, 12:23 p.m. (ET)

Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 53, 2018/06)   

In May 2017, the USA Triathlon Board of Directors issued a Strategic Plan. A year since its original implementation, I decided to take a look at it — especially to see how we, as individual members, might be able to help in its execution.

As an organization, USA Triathlon’s mission is stated “To grow, inspire and support the triathlon community.” Indeed, the organization, the Board and the staff have a major role to play in realizing that mission, but each of us has a role to play as well. Of course, we support the organization with our dues, but also we can do USAT-sponsored races ourselves. 
We can talk to single-day license folks we might meet about the advantages of being a USAT member and the importance of supporting our sport for the long-term by doing so. This is in no way intended to denigrate non-USAT races, and there are great ones to be sure. However, there are many advantages for race directors in signing up with USAT, and in my view, we should talk that up.

A particular arena in which I think that we as individual members can help to implement the plan is under “Strategies: Participation and Membership Growth”. The first focus is on youth — we can encourage our own children to try the sport, as well as children of our friends.  A second focus of the plan is on women. I completed my first race on Sept. 17, 1983 (Mighty Hamptons Triathlon at Sag Harbor, New York), and I’ve personally noticed how our sport has attracted more women over the years. The leadership in that regard was ordinally provided by my old friend, the great Sally Edwards. 
Reaching out to friends who are runners, cyclists or swimmers can be productive. Many of us (certainly myself, who started out as a runner) are attracted to triathlon due to its inherent variety. For those who do not swim, there is the ever-growing variant, duathlon. In talking up triathlon or duathlon to potential newbies, it is important to disabuse folks of the popular concept that triathlon means IRONMAN, and even moreso the thought one is not a real triathlete unless one has done an IRONMAN. I dealt with this topic very early on in this series, here

Looking back at that column, I came across a message you could use to communicate with potential future triathletes. 

“So let’s see. Is there some absolute standard for what qualifies a particular race as "real?" Well as of this writing, I’ve been racing for 31 years and have done 234 triathlons and duathlons. And I don’t think so. If for the person who told the letter-writer that the only "real" triathlon is an IRONMAN, all that means is that the only “real” triathlon, for him or for her, is an IRONMAN. For what does the word “real” really mean, in personal — not scientific — terms? It means something that you experience objectively, something that you can see or taste or hear or feel, that has an actual existence for you, not necessarily to anybody else. So whether the race is long, short or in between; on a hot, cold, windy, calm, or in between day; hilly, flat, or in between; was it real for you? Was getting to the start line and then crossing the finish line whether you went fast, or slow, or in between, real for you? That’s all that matters. Then for you it was a real race, a real experience.”

And I think that I shall leave it there.

This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, “101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at and

Steve’s most recent multisport book is “Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at and

His first book on multisport racing, “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®,” 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Jonas has also been featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.