Creating the next generation of triathletes

Dr Andy Martin at the I Tri'd the Tri event in Palmerston North.

New research shows a growing number of Manawatū children are engaging in triathlon events, since the I Tri’d the Tri Series, launched there 13 years ago.

Associate Professor Andy Martin of Massey’s School of Sport and Exercise created the summer-time event for kids in Palmerston North in 2004. He says it has grown from 120 children taking part each week in 2004, to 660 children each week last year. And he is researching the long-term participation and engagement of children aged 2 to 12.

Dr Martin says the study builds on his previous findings, published in the Journal of Applied Sport Management in 2014. “The previous research told us the Manawatū Triathlon Club development of initiatives involving new events targeting different groups and periodically reviewing its organisational infrastructure assisted in increasing sport participation of both adults and children.”

His current research indicates the majority of children have been participating in the triathlon events for up to 7 years. “They do it for enjoyment and fun, friends, competition, challenge and fitness. The research also tells us the children’s sport participation is strongly influenced by family and peer involvement.

“It’s hoped that these findings can be reviewed to develop future actions, which can then be implemented to sustain triathlon participation growth and accessibility to this successful kids’ triathlon event in Manawatū.”

Dr Martin says the club should also learn from events such as the Wellington Sevens rugby tournament. “While we have seen a lot of growth in the number of children participating, event organisers need to have contingency plans in place to ensure its ongoing popularity and sustainability, through rejuvenation initiatives.”

Dr Martin has been involved in triathlon as both a participant and event manager in New Zealand for the past 25 years. In 1991 he completed Olympic distance, half and full Ironmans, and just last year he competed in the age group World Champs triathlon with his son in Chicago.

He says creating the next generation of triathletes is his focus. “The current kids’ triathlon series is once again attracting great numbers. We've tried to make it better every year, so the kids keep coming back and that's key. We also have a great group of volunteers and very generous community sponsors, which help make the event ‘magic’ for the kids.”

The research also involved international collaboration with University of Pittsburg Professor Petr Pancoska, Prague School of Economics PhD student Robert Kucher, as well as Massey’s School of Sport and Exercise Dr Ashleigh Thompson and Dr Rachel Batty.

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