Today my wife and I volunteered at the Davis Aquatic Masters (DAM) Lake Berryessa Open Water Swim. This is the biggest event of the year for our US Masters Swimming team. While we had initially planned on racing in addition to volunteering, but the race schedule fit poorly with our volunteer tasks. Since we just did Ironman Texas two weeks ago, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. Besides, helping our team put on the race was more important than racing in the race event. As I stood in the water ushering swimmers towards the finishing arch, I thought about the importance of giving back to your sport.
Triathlon helped me develop as an athlete, it introduced me to a whole new community and, finally, it was also the vehicle through which I met my wonderful wife. Through the Chico Triathlon Club, however, I brought new people into the sport. Many of the athletes I encouraged to join the club have become great athletes and encouraged others. In addition, after volunteering at the Tour de Ed in 2010, local non-profits started knocking on our door, asking us to volunteer and support their events. I quickly realized that the triathlon club went beyond just triathlon; it could also be a vehicle for social change in our community.
If you have been an athlete for many years, don’t just train and compete. Support your running club or cycling team. Volunteer at races. Volunteer for your sports organization. Support charities associated with your sport, like the Aids Lifecycle Ride, Team Red, White, and Blue, or others. Share your knowledge and experience with new athletes through mentoring, coaching, and positive support. Donate your old stuff to the new guy (or girl) or, better yet, to the poor struggling collegiate triathlete. Don’t discount that new person or that old person, who could grow into a great athlete and inspire others. Pay it forward and, most important of all, encourage others to do the same. It is the best thing you can do for yourself. It is the best thing you can do for your sport.