General Discussion Triathlon Talk » How can we as triathletes encourage athletes of color in our sport? Rss Feed  
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2020-06-30 9:22 PM

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Subject: How can we as triathletes encourage athletes of color in our sport?
USAT has been working on this for awhile, with not a lot of success, and we've had threads on BT in the past discussing barriers to triathlon, growing up disadvantages with swimming access, etc.

I'm committed to having the conversation here, even if it is uncomfortable.

So let's open a discussion here to see what ideas bubble up.

I know for me, as a kid I had an older teen encourage me as a runner. That was a big deal and set me off on that course. So, encouraging youth we see in our neighborhoods and schools is something concrete to do. ("Hey, you look pretty fast on that bike. Have you ever thought about doing a triathlon?") In high school I saw plenty of students of color running track, but hardly any running cross country or running in the neighborhood, even though there are plenty of competitive distance runners who are people of color. I have seen more black joggers lately, since people have taken up running to Run for Ahmaud Arbery. This is happening to show solidarity, but also to normalize the sight of black and brown people running and jogging along the streets. (This is similar to Black Birders, etc. There are very normal activities I take for granted doing, like peering into the bushes at a park looking at wildlife, that people would call the police on me for if I weren't white.)

I also had an easy way paved for me into the sport of triathlon. The biggest barrier to entry is a decent bike, and someone on my YMCA masters swim team upgraded and sold me his very nice Bianchi road bike with aero bars for $300. That's something many of us could do for an aspiring triathlete coming who could use a hand up. Don't forget about the free section in our Classifieds here if you have items you aren't using anymore.

In addition, when I participated in my very first triathlon, although I felt really alone and unsure of myself, I didn't have the experience of also being in a situation where few people looked like me. One thing that's easy to do is smile and greet other athletes while setting up transition, and making sure new athletes feel welcome and that they can ask anyone else for questions about what to do. I'm planning to make an extra effort to do this with athletes of color when we have races again. Not in a condescending way, but because I have to assume in the past I may have been less friendly to athletes of color due to implicit bias. (I've taken some implicit bias training, and it's opened my eyes. I thought I was pretty unbiased. Nope.)

Even if all of the white triathletes (including me) are hypothetically completely unbiased personally, we've had an easier road since we are more likely to be friends or relatives with someone else who has done a triathlon. If I didn't have any friends or family who had ever done a triathlon or heard of one, I doubt I would have tried. Most people's friend groups and families (not ALL) are populated by people with the same skin color. So that means it's just not as weird, and easier to take the leap and sign up. I imagine if I pondered triathlon and Googled it and all the pictures were of people of a difference skin color than mine, I might think I just wouldn't belong.

Other thoughts and ideas?


2020-07-01 11:19 PM
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Subject: RE: How can we as triathletes encourage athletes of color in our sport?
Well, you and USAT can start by just asking the current black triathletes what they'd like to see. I've asked two, both national caliber AG'ers....nobody has asked them anything. This is not that hard. It damn sure shouldn't take diversity training to figure it out.

Edited by Left Brain 2020-07-01 11:23 PM
2020-07-02 11:07 AM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: How can we as triathletes encourage athletes of color in our sport?
I think there are a number of different issues. I think a main barrier is not strictly racial but economic. Triathlon is a pretty expensive sport and I think the expense, or at least the perception of it, keeps a lot of people from entering the sport, and young people from considering getting started in it. Our family struggled at times financially when I was growing up, and definitely the inability to purchase a good bike was a big factor that kept me from getting a much earlier start in the sport. It just wasn't a priority, especially for a growing kid, and for recreation when bills needed to be paid. I was specifically told, "You can't do a tri, because we're not going to go buy an expensive bike." Our bikes were from police auctions. Marginally good enough to ride to school/work, but you'd be laughed out of a triathlon on them.

Then there's the issue of pool access and access to swim instruction. This often depends on neighborhood recreation centers which tend to be less well funded in minority and lower SES neighborhoods. Not just a barrier to sports entry (swimming, tri) but also a safety issue, as this increases the risk of drowning for kids and adults.

In SE Asia, many run, bike, and multi-sport events donate some of their funds to programs that help get kids pool access, swim lessons, bikes, etc. Not necessarily to get them involved in triathlon in the future, but just to improve their safety and quality of life. This could also be done to fund "try a tri" program for kids and adults in disadvantaged neghborhoods with loaner bikes, beginner instruction and events, etc.

There are certainly more issues at play here, like not feeling safe when running or cycling, not having many role models or feeling like "no one here looks like me"--probably a person of color would be more qualified to advise on that. But I think we definitely can't deny that economics is a huge barrier to entry into our sport.

2020-07-02 2:15 PM
in reply to: Left Brain

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Subject: RE: How can we as triathletes encourage athletes of color in our sport?
Originally posted by Left Brain

Well, you and USAT can start by just asking the current black triathletes what they'd like to see. I've asked two, both national caliber AG'ers....nobody has asked them anything. This is not that hard. It damn sure shouldn't take diversity training to figure it out.


Thank you. May I ask you?
What would you like to see? (I'm going to assume you are a black triathlete from your profile image. Please correct me if I'm wrong.)
Also please PM me the contact information of the two you spoke with.
2020-07-02 3:07 PM
in reply to: alicefoeller

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Subject: RE: How can we as triathletes encourage athletes of color in our sport?

No, Alice, I'm not black.  I like that guy's hair style and have been using it as an avatar forever, on multiple boards.

I just think asking a bunch of white people what they think can be done for black people is kind of silly.....especially after you went to such lengths to show you weren't a racist. (I'm sure you aren't)

SOMEBODY should just go ask black folks who enjoy triathlon how to attract more black people to the sport.  It's not hard.

2020-07-10 1:52 PM
in reply to: #5271220

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Subject: RE: How can we as triathletes encourage athletes of color in our sport?
Firstly you can't assume that every black person lives in a ghetto and therefore doesn't have access to the necessary resources to compete in triathlons . There are plenty of black people who could easily go out and buy all the best gear. If you are really interested in seeing more black people compete in triathlons then you have to find out if they are even interested. It is the role of every triathlete to ensure anyone who comes to the sport is greeted enthusiastically and made welcome.


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