For the Love of Triathlon

Oct
6

Posted by Coach Mark Turner

One of the things that has always heavily influenced my love and passion for triathlon is that for the most part I have found the triathlon community to be one of the most supportive, encouraging, and gracious groups of people on the planet. Brought together by a common bond and love for triathlon and the myriad of reasons that cause people to pursue the sport we love, transition becomes a family reunion with friends and soon-to-be friends. And yet like any other group activity there can be those that simply don't share the values of community and sportsmanship. Which brings to mind the question, what is sportsmanship? I believe it is far more than playing by the rules. True sportsmanship is born out of an internal commitment to something more than the governing rules: I believe that it is a passionate commitment to the integrity of the sport in question.

In the past I served as a golf rules official, a middle school boys lacrosse coach, and currently I have the privilege of serving as both a USAT and WTC rules official. The one thing that I have observed that is consistent throughout all of these experiences is that commitment to the integrity of the sport reveals the character of the athlete more than skill or ability. When an athlete competes within the scope of the rules that define the sport, including their conduct toward their fellow competitors, they are truly competing in that sport. When they blur the lines through intentionally breaking the rules or engaging in conduct that is detrimental to the spirit of the rules or their fellow athletes, they have not just strayed from the rules, they have strayed outside the boundaries of the sport itself.

Of course this is not to say that any triathlete who has ever received a penalty was somehow disrespecting the spirit of the sport. No, infractions of the rules do happen, however, how an athlete responds to the citation of a penalty, can reveal their respect for the integrity of the sport.

There is a commercial running on the radio about aggressive driving. The tagline at the end of the commercial is, "Don't be that guy." When it comes to the competitive rules, including conduct, the same thing holds, "Don't be that guy!" Instead let's all embrace the spirit of the sport we love, the sport born out of the bonds of friendship and mutual encouragement at Mission Bay.

So love the sport, learn the rules, compete within them, and show respect and support for one another from the opening of transition to the last finisher crossing the line. These are the hallmarks of sportsmanship that drew me into the triathlon community and these, far more than PRs, will most truly define us as triathletes.

~ Coach Mark Turner

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