Where do you spend the winter months training?
USA Triathlon Annual Membership: An Owner's Manual
Learn more about the benefits of your USA Triathlon annual membership
What do the Olympic Games, your race registration costs, United Airlines and race rules have in common? You might do a Google search for that string, but it would be quicker to check in with USA Triathlon. As the National Governing Body for the sport, USA Triathlon is involved with elite development, providing low-cost insurance for race directors, organizing discounts for USA Triathlon members and ensuring that triathlon rules make the races fair and safe to name a few.
As an annual member of USA Triathlon, you are no doubt familiar with some of the benefits of membership. You know about the insurance you enjoy on race day. You scan the nutrition, training, rules and My Story articles that USA Triathlon emails you via the weekly enewsletter. You probably also read the quarterly USA Triathlon Magazine. Did you know there are still more benefits that your annual membership brings you?
Let’s start with all that happens on race day.
USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach says, “USAT is the enabler of the multisport lifestyle. Without a governing sanction body, there would be no insurance, no certified race directors or coaches, no safety emphasis. If no one’s a member, there is no organizing, no sanctioning, no ranking.”
USA Triathlon is the only race-sanctioning organization in the country. While some triathlons are not sanctioned, those that do are held to a higher standard of quality and safety.
Part of having a sanctioned event is the opportunity to have USA Triathlon Certified Officials. These are the folks who ensure the safety and accuracy of the race course, give the pre-race rules briefing and enforce those rules by monitoring the race and issuing penalties for drafting, blocking, illegal equipment or abandonment (littering, for example) and other infractions. Picture how races might turn out if there we no officials to monitor the event and encourage athletes to abide by the rules.
The rules themselves come from USA Triathlon. A rules committee of the board promulgates and reviews the rules of the sport with an eye toward safety and fairness. Bike rules are probably the ones that you are most familiar with. The drafting rules — the need to keep three bike lengths between you and the triathlete ahead of you, passing only on the left and within a prescribed number of seconds — are pretty well known and race officials on motorcycles monitor. To learn more about the rules, visit www.usatriathlon.org/rules.
Susan Eriksson, who races in the 60-64 age group, appreciates USA Triathlon's role.
“If you didn’t have such an organization, you wouldn’t have anyone overseeing safety, making sure that people’s actions are uniform, that standards are correct," Eriksson said. "The rules are uniform across races. They make it safer for athletes. They [USAT] look out for athletes. If you don’t have those rules in place, people get exploited."
Race rules aim to have sanctioned races conducted in a safe and fair manner to give athletes their best chance for a great day on the racecourse.
USA Triathlon provides annual members with supplemental health insurance in sanctioned races. Peter Anderson knows this very well. Anderson was volunteering at a long-course event in Colorado in 2010 when he suffered a severe cut to his hand. "It was easy to get expenses covered, easy to work with USAT," he said. "I made a few calls, and it just happened. I thought it would be harder but was pleasantly surprised by how easy USAT made the experience.”
Certified Race Directors
Races, of course, get put on by race directors, whom USA Triathlon certifies. To become certified, race directors must have working expertise in volunteer management, course design, permitting, traffic control, aid station and post-race food, awards, timing, business management, safety and medical response and more. You may be getting tired just reading the list. Having a race director certification program helps USA Triathlon ensure high-quality events that are safer, fun and enjoyable for the athletes.
At some point in an athlete's career, he/she engages the services of a triathlon coach. USA Triathlon certifies triathlon coaches as a major part of its program to help athletes stay healthy, pursue their goals and gain fulfillment and enjoyment of the multisport lifestyle. To gain USA Triathlon certification, coaches must complete a 2.5-day training program focusing on an array of topics relevant to triathlon and pass a test written on that material. The test consists of questions about coaching approaches, swim, bike and run techniques, training physiology, sport psychology, youth development and health and safety. A major part of the coaches’ training revolves around ethics, respect in sport and legal issues. Every two years, coaches must complete 15 continuing education credits and demonstrate contributions to the sport of triathlon to renew their coaching certification.
USA Triathlon focuses attention on coaching certification and also on leadership and business opportunities. They are developing more programs for coaches to help them connect to athletes and deliver good business results. “Coaches keep athletes more engaged, help prevent injuries, and keep them in the sport,” Urbach said.
Susan Kelly is a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach in Florida. "The USAT coaching program serves as the sanctioning board of our multisport community," she said. "Standards matter. It’s a way that we can all communicate about levels of expertise in the coaches, expertise that you can expect. Being a certified USAT coach brings you instant credibility.”
National and International Championship Races
USA Triathlon also hosts its own races. The Age Group National Championships are a USAT production where qualifying athletes from around the country convene for Olympic- and sprint-distance triathlons. The organization also hosts duathlon, youth and collegiate events. Athletes also have the opportunity to compete for national championships in other disciplines and distances.
Charles Garabedian, a 15-year member of USA Triathlon, raced nationals in 2013. "I go to nationals and get to race against the best people in the country," he said. "Then there are the ITU [events], a big opportunity to be part of Team USA. I think that’s one of the coolest things anyone can experience. Everyone’s done some unique races, and the ITU world championship, racing not only for yourself but also for your country, is right up there. Triathlon is an individual sport, but at the ITU everyone is wearing the same uniform of their country.”
Those are some of the benefits that USA Triathlon provides on race day. But USA Triathlon does much more.
USA Triathlon maintains a ranking system that tallies triathletes’ race results throughout the year. This ranking system lets you compare your results against other triathletes. USA Triathlon also issues All-American certificates to triathletes in the top 10 percent of their age group. "Most triathletes want to improve year over year, and the rankings are one way to measure that,” Urbach said.
During the winter months, USA Triathlon sponsors a club competition to help motivate triathletes. Clubs across the country participate, encouraging their members to log their swim yards or meters, and bike and run miles, including cross country ski and elliptical trainer miles. Clubs compete against similar-sized clubs. USAT provides an easy-to-navigate website where athletes can log their training results. "The club competition is awesome." Charles Garabedian said. "It encourages people to get up and train over the winter. They have hit something that is fun to be part of.”
USA Triathlon is part of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), as triathlon has been an Olympic sport since 2000. Part of USA Triathlon’s mission is to help U.S. triathletes bring home Olympic medals. To that end, USA Triathlon has an elite athlete development program for Olympic hopefuls with advanced coaching and travel support.
“I just like the idea of my association with the organization," Anderson said. "I read the emails and the magazine and carry my USAT card because I like triathlon. The Olympics are personal to me. I’m aware that USA Triathlon helps put together the Olympic Triathlon Team, and I have this feeling that I have helped make this happen. It makes me feel like I’m part of the U.S. Olympic effort.”
Barrett Brandon, an elite triathlete who also serves on the USA Triathlon Board of Directors says, “For $45 you become [a member] and part of [the team], contributing to the development of current and future Olympians to pursue their medal dreams.”
“You look at elites, and think what could be possible. By having those boundaries broken it helps inspire other people," Brandon said. "A lot of elites are very visible and represent the sport really well by getting people moving and getting kids excited. That gets more TV exposure and the bigger the platform, the more we can draw more people in. We all have a role in moving the sport forward.”
USA Triathlon’s youth development program has a college element as well. USA Triathlon spearheaded a successful effort this year to have triathlon recognized by the NCAA as an Emerging Sport for Women. USA Triathlon also hosts collegiate nationals races held annually.
Member Discounts and Publications
USA Triathlon continually structures relationships with other organizations to provide discounts on essential services and products. Barry Siff, a long-time triathlete, race director and President of the USA Triathlon Board of Directors explains, “USA Triathlon members can take advantage of discounts with United Airlines — 5 percent off any fare. Also they can get discounts on Avis and Budget rental cars and Hilton hotels. There are also specials with gear companies, such as Trisports.com, TYR and Rudy Project among others.”
Visit www.usatriathlon.org/discounts and be sure to log in to see the codes.
Urbach touts the weekly Multisport Zone enewsletter as a source of current information, and points out that USAT’s quarterly magazine, USA Triathlon Magazine, has largest circulation of any triathlete magazine in the world. In addition, www.usatriathlon.org features new content daily to help members get the most out of the multisport lifestyle.
Summing It Up
Siff said, “USA Triathlon members are supporting the entire sport. They bring the passion and love. They support others getting into the sport. USA Triathlon provides an array of benefits to those members, helping them be part of that success in the growth of our sport.”