Ban: USAT Foundation Introduces Youth, Adaptive Athletes to the Sport
by USA Triathlon Foundation
Stephen Ban is guiding an adaptive athlete, in a race in Chicago. They’re on the final leg, the athlete pushing seven-minute miles while Ban is on his bike helping make sure the other runners are aware there’s an athlete in a wheelchair coming through. But he quickly finds out this isn’t a job solely reserved for him. All the other runners are helping clear the way, too.
Reverence for all athletes regardless of circumstance is one of the cornerstones of the multisport community – a community that Ban describes as “tribal.” And it’s one of the reasons that has kept Ban hooked on the sport for decades across more than 125 races.
“When an athlete finishes a race, they become a part of the community,” Ban says. “No matter where they came from or where they are going, every one of us welcomes and cheers them. That moment never gets old.”
That finish-line feeling, whether it’s the first time or the 50th, epitomizes the USA Triathlon Foundation’s mission. It’s about helping those who never thought they could start a triathlon, let alone finish one, experience that same thrill, Ban says. It’s about growing the tribe.
“Empowering and enabling people to discover, participate and develop in the sport who otherwise may not have the opportunity – that provides a reward that’s not only fulfilling but also personal,” Ban says. “The Foundation gives all of us the chance to bring people into the lifestyle that defines us all as multisport athletes."
Ban is the president of the USA Triathlon Foundation Board of Trustees, a position he has held since early 2021. He provides strategic direction and financial oversight, but the role he really cherishes is his involvement with the Grants Committee. The committee solicits and evaluates grant proposals and provides funding to organizations who align with the Foundation’s pillars around youth participation, adaptive athletes, and Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.
“The Foundation is raising money to invest it back into the community,” Ban says. “These grants are going to individuals and organizations and helping grow and strengthen the sport, but more importantly they are helping individuals transform their lives.”
Ban and the adaptive cross the finish line together, the accomplishment every bit as exciting and rewarding as the two IRONMAN races and two World Championships he’s competed in. Maybe more so when he continues to think about it in the ensuing days.
He has the luxury of choosing where to devote his time and energy and for him that choice often comes back to multisport. It’s transformed every aspect of his life. It’s given him good health, joy and community. It’s brought him the tribe. Who wouldn’t want to bring that to as many people as they can?
The USA Triathlon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the charitable arm of USA Triathlon. With its mission to transform lives through sport by providing opportunities to swim, bike and run, the Foundation serves to generate a greater impact on the multisport community through charitable giveback and grants that advance the Foundation’s three pillars: (1) Encourage youth participation; (2) Inspire adaptive athletes; and (3) Ignite Olympic/Paralympic dreams. Since the Foundation was established in 2014, it has provided millions of dollars in grants to organizations and individuals in pursuit of its mission and pillars to create a healthier United States through triathlon.