When I jumped head first into triathlon I craved knowledge. I sought it down every avenue and would talk with anybody about it. My quest for becoming enlightened landed me with Sunrise Tri. Sunrise Tri, I believe, is the largest triathlon team on Long Island and is based out off West Babylon. I joined the team seconds after a bike fitting. I was extremely excited and proud to now be a part of and rep this team. Because of ST I have meet countless individuals that eat, sleep and breath triathlon like I do. This team has given me a wealth of information about the sport, introduced me to new friends and training partners and has elevated my commitment and passion for triathlon.
As a direct result of the booming population and popularity of this sport there are teams popping up all over the place. Between Long Island and New York City there has to be close to 10 teams with a few being, Runner's Edge, Full Throttle, Asphalt Green, and Long Island Triathlon Club. All of these teams have athletes ranging from noobs to Kona competitors so, what sets them apart from each other?
Obviously geographic location is the main factor. Most people join the team that is closest to them. Other people pledge their allegiance to teams based on their perks.
I joined Sunrise Tri by paying money. This small fee entitled me to a Sunrise Tri race kit, access to their online forum, and discounts on gear, accessories, and clothing. It seems that this is how most teams operate. For the past few years I have had a very positive experience with the team and speak only positively of them. The problem lies in what I now am looking for in a team as I once again raise the level of my commitment to the sport.
If I were to create a team to suit my needs, ideals and expectations of a triathlon it would definitely include the following;
1.TEAM, TEAM, TEAM. The team philosophy must be ever present and expanding to fit the needs of the athlete. This can begin with consistently scheduled group activities ranging from rides, runs and swims to social outings to exclusive team only events or functions.
2. There must be an online forum for athletes to communicate with each other. This forum cannot be a simple Google group. This forum must be legit and look professional. The forum should include team colors and logos as well as a plethora of sub forums allowing for discussions, debates and insight into every aspect of triathlon. There also needs to be a picture/media section. I for one love to look at pictures, videos etc of my friends and fellow athletes. The media section will also allow people to put names to faces and create a stronger sense of team.
3. Team members must always be recognized for their successes within the sport no matter how small or trivial. Triathlon can be intimidating especially for a noob. More times than not it is the lesser caliber athlete that deserves more praise for their accomplishments than a seasoned ironman. Nothing is more encouraging and motivating than receiving public recognition from your peers. Recognition could be given via email, Facebook, Twitter, group gatherings etc
4. A team's home base or shop, if they are lucky, should be a representation of the team. There should be pictures of athletes, record/leader boards, a place to hang out and socialize, awards etc
5. There should always be a team tent at events where there are more than 2 athletes racing. The team tent should be a welcoming environment with last minute needs, team shwag, drinks, food, chairs etc. At events that are sponsored by the team or there are a large number of athletes racing there should be a team house or facilities for the race weekend.
A lot of these ideas could be taken care of by the athletes but that is not conducive to a team environment. The founder of the team should act as a leader and manager. A happy team is a successful and winning team.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years to teams as the sport grows. Will teams begin to pay their athletes? Will teams have a more selective process on who they want on their team? Will teams split up? Will there be team only races? Will teams fuel the growth of the sport? Will teams pick up sponsorships and endorsements? We will see.