Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Is Triathlon Leaving Young Triathletes in the Dust?

"Triathletes Leave Slowing Economy in the Dust." So states Don Norcross of in an article published on the 12th. It seems coaching companies, tri producers, bike shops et al. are not hurting at all this year.

Why is that? Because triathletes, Triathlete publisher John Duke believes, aren't "the people getting laid off. They're the people laying off.” To use the readers of Triathlete as representatives of the triathlon community as a whole, he points out that the average household income of Triathlete subscribers is $177,000.

The average reader of Triathlete is a 41 year-old male. The average Triathlete reader also owns an average of 2.6 bikes. Fair enough. A bike without its wheels on could be called 0.6 of a bike.

In all the industry's glee at getting bigger and making big bucks, even during the recession, it seems they're doing so at the cost of a very important audience: young triathletes. You know, the ones who will grow up to be the future of the sport. Even pros, most of whom don't make much money at all competing in the sport, seem to be getting the short end of the stick.

Many of these young triathletes and young pros work in jobs that do not require the full use of their cerebral talent so they may have enough time to train, and hopefully make enough money for the large amounts of food they need to keep training.

Unless they work in a booming tri shop, apparently, they are getting laid off.

Tri Funny

Perhaps a more plausible reason for the ability of triathlon to weather the current economic climate: it's an addiction. Not a bad addiction, in all cases, but certainly one for which every addict--regardless of reported house hold income --will find a way to get the cash to compete.

And NAmerica Sports (who puts on US Ironman races), among other companies, is cashing in. It's $525 for an Ironman entry right now, up front, a year before the race. And if you want to get in, you practically have to go to the race site--a huge expense if you're not from the area. Why? Because sometimes, as in the case of IM USA this year, the race sells out on site and never goes online.

Triathlon, in an effort to keep itself very well in the black, is catering now more than ever to it's cherished demographic of the people who are doing the laying off-- 41-year old males with 2.6 bikes who make a great living.


In a way, the sport can't be blamed for the desire to milk this demographic for everything they've got. They pay the bills. It's good business--for now. Why would anyone lower race costs when the demand is there?


It is a shame that all this catering to wealth is at the expense of the sport's youth. Eager to compete--addicted--they try to press on, in spite of the incredible tri-hierarchy that has been created in recent years, where coaching services prey on the uninitiated, bike shops don't have affordable bikes, and the price to compete is going up exponentially.

Wasn't triathlon founded on the principle that anyone could do it? Anyone can swim, bike, and run, right? Sure. Just not competitively, anymore. Even movie theatres have student discounts. Not so at most big races.


Perhaps, if the sport stays this course, triathlon will leave the slowing economy, young age-groupers and young pros in the dust together.

...Unless we rebel! :)

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