Let’s face it, as parents and coaches, it is our responsibility to make exercise and activity fun for kids. When we were young, we were active out of boredom mostly, what else was there to do? We rode our bikes everywhere, we ran around the neighborhood or the park, and we swam in someone’s pool, the lake or the beach. We made up games like flashlight tag for another reason to run around. We were in essence triathletes, we just never knew it. The challenge today is breaking kids away from the television, the computer games, the tablet, the phone and keeping them active. As a youth triathlon coach, my focus at practice is on teaching the kids the sport, in a safe and fun manner. They have no idea how hard they are training, because the practices are fun, and we rarely hear complaining. Here are a few examples of what I mean.
We all understand that to be a better swimmer we need to get some yardage in, but I don’t know too many kids who just love to grind out laps. But break them up into groups and turn their laps into a relay race and they will swim all afternoon. Have them all start at the same spot and instruct them to take 10 strokes and see who gets the furthest, will get them to focus on a more powerful pull. Grab a few tennis balls and have them race to grab them and swim back to the start, and you will see some explosive power for sure. Buddy swims: pair up a faster and a slower swimmer and tell them they have to stay together. This shows the faster swimmer how to slow down their pace, and makes the slower swimmer work harder to keep up, both are learning a different, but valuable skill, while swimming side by side.
There are so many ways to incorporate fun into the bike portion of training. Ride the line, work on keeping the bike straight by riding a paint line, either that you make, or in an empty parking lot. Riding one handed helps to develop core stabilization which helps when reaching for your water bottle during a longer ride. Follow the leader, divide the group into small packs and put a different kid in the lead for each lap, then have the athlete in the back practice passing. The kids love this one.
Making running fun is pretty easy to do, there are so many games to play that include running. Relays, similar to the swim drills are great; one of our favorites is the 40 yard dash. Have the kids all run individually, then have them find a buddy that has a similar time and race them against each other, it’s amazing how much faster they both go.
Triathlons are pretty structured, and require proper training to keep everyone safe. Turning training into a game helps to keep it fun while teaching the kids a lifelong sport.
See you at the races!!
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Coach Deb Peters, USA Triathlon Florida Region Youth Coordinator, USAT Level 1 & Youth/Junior Coach
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