Scott Tinley: Children in the Street

author : Scott Tinley
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by Scott Tinley

  
Ironman World Champion, 1982 & 1985
Ironman Hall of Famer; Triathlon Hall of Famer

                  “But they never kept score. They never picked sides…it was like a dream game.”

- Scottie Smalls, Sandlot

          In 2014 there are roughly 300 triathlons scheduled that cater to kids. Florida, California, Texas, and North Carolina—warm weather states all—lead the way with nearly 125 in those locales. According to Trifind.com, Iowa, Alaska, Kentucky and Nevada have but one.

          Not sure why. Perhaps too much corn, snow, moonshine, and blackjack.

          There are few things more uplifting in the vast world of sport than the deep smile of a child-athlete as they move across their chosen field of play. Those half-moon lips cradling innocent white teeth remind us of the joy we used to feel, the times that we too would smile just for the thought of our arms and legs moving at speed. But kids, more so than other and earlier minority groups are our new under-represented class.

          The future of physical culture and because they don’t have the purchasing power-yet-are rep’d by those that think they know kids. But who really knows kids but other kids?

          Of the many ironies inherent to youth participation in multisport, the fact that it’s tougher for them than it is for adults might be the most suggestive. Tough as in not enough events; tough as in too many helicopter-parents hovering and smothering; tough as in rising costs, receding open space, increasing rules and a declining focus on the ludic notion of play for the sake of itself.

          But not as tough as it is in mainstream sports: Tough as in if you ain’t good; I won’t pick you for my team. Go design a website or find the cure for cancer. Geeky things.

          It can’t be easy growing up in a post-millennium world when each time a subculture of creative kids develops a new form of physical expression; it is soon enough watered down and re-sold to the masses. Surf wear on the streets of Salt Lake, the language of skateboarding appropriated by CNN talking heads and everywhere, alternative or non-mainstream sports have their style stolen, their creeks paved over and their individuality re-packaged and sold at Walmart on the Extreme aisle. It’s enough to stir both anomie and angst within the most stable of youthful minds.

          Still, the youth of America are mostly un-phased. They still build their BMX tracks between high rises, epoxy-fasten river rock to concrete tunnel sides in the shape of climbing walls and they now embrace running and swimming and triathlon events for kids as if they might be the last, which they might just be. In Kentucky, Nevada, or Alaska.

          Youth endurance sports have historically been, for the most part, value-added events tacked on to adult weekends. Ironkids as a viable stand-alone product seemed unsustainable. And future-looking groups such as Tri-Cal Kids, Kids of Steele, Squamish Youth Tri, and Longmont Kids Only struggle to keep the young dreams alive. Yeah, it’s about the sponsorship money but what does that say about our sport’s values when we only support demographic sections based on target markets? At least some organizers are trying.

          The deal with kids is that if you get out of their way--maybe give them a few tools to work with--they’ll show you how it’s done. There are now kids in Florida who will swim after-hours in golf course lakes, race their bikes along cart paths and run a fairway-homestretch while claiming to be the next Dave Molina or Scott Allen. There are kids in Chicago who race their bikes against the outside world in modem-equipped cyberspace. There are kids outside of Sydney and Rio and Munich who can find an unused backyard pool better than Canadian geese. They can tune a police-auction single speed better than a le Tour techy and they will run with reclaimed shoes or thickened skin with an intent and purpose that would rival a Julie Moss rerun.

          They do it simply. They do it substantively. And they do it while sporting that universal code of the crescent smile. They know that if it ain’t fun, it ain’t worth doing.

          Endurance sport and triathlon in particular, has battled and lost the forces claiming the need for homogenization. We now exist in the post-standardization war that ITU waged polemically and waged well. We drank from the purple Kool-Aid that put us on the Olympic program. We have safe and sane transition areas devoid of nudity, personal foot baths and hip hop music. Long dead is the “what-is-a-fair-distance” rhetoric. But if we are to retain any semblance of the rebellious origins upon which the sport was founded, we must turn to the only group who cares nothing about Fiesta Island, the origin of aero bars and John (or was it Tom?) Collins.

          I am suggesting here that the most subjugated of groups in multisport--the youth—are perhaps our best leaders for getting back all that might’ve been lost while we were so damn serious about ourselves. Remember that what pulled the running movement from its first wave doldrums were kids realizing that they didn’t need to be on the high school track team and make four left turns the rest of their lives to reap the joy of running. What rescued swimming from being sunk along with other Olympic-only sports was something called open water events populated with age groups.

          And what saved cycling from a certain Euro-death was BMX, mountain biking and bike companies realizing that there are real cyclists under six feet tall and less than twenty five years old. And what might save triathlon from its own narcissistic plunder will be kids that realize we all produce and consume in the same breath, we all negotiate with ourselves, and we all need to create like kids.

ST

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date: January 28, 2014

Author


Scott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

Author

avatarScott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

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