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Part 4: Austin Politics...Part 1 clubs

Posted Aug 28 2009 8:20pm
Ah, local politics. Two friends of mine, Tahoeeddie and AllBilly, asked what was up in Austin with the triathlon scene and if there was a distinct divide within the community. Well, I've tried to show that there have been divides in triathlon forever...USAT vs ITU vs WTC/GTG...Drafting vs non...Pros vs Age groupers. But, right now among all of those groups just about everyone seems to be getting along on the surface. Can the same be said for my local triathlon community...Austin?

A brief, and I mean brief, history of Austin sport...realize I've only lived here since 1998, but have been a triathlete since 1989. Austin Triathletes was formed years ago...late 80s I believe. They were the only club in town. Early 2000s, triathlon training groups began to appear in Austin and by 2003 were going STRONG. In 2004 the Austin Triathletes begain to suffer. I was a club officer in 2003 and 2004. Our membership was probably nearing 600 the first year. Meetings were at capacity. In 2004 despite trying to have fun and innovative meetings, attendance suffered.

In 2005 there was an entirely new set of board members. Almost all had board member experience sometime in the past, but about 1/2 of the board had very time consuming outside committments. The Austin Triathletes seemed to be operating with 2 active board members. Meeting attendance set a new low, and those members who were active were quite disappointed by at least one of the working board members. Now it's 2006 and we have an all new cast. I've been to one meeting that was relatively well attended. Things might be on the upswing, but it will be challenging and here's why...

Triathlon training groups are flourishing. T3, Texas Iron, Iron Chicks, Rogue Training, Gilbert's Gazelles, Tough Cookies, and others are just a few of the training groups in Austin. At every race you can easily see the jerseys of each of these groups plus those of the Austin Triathletes, Austin Tri-Cyclist, and Jack and Adams. In the past, it was Austin Triathletes and maybe a bike shop jersey or two.

So, is there a divide between triathlon clubs and training groups? TE and AB did not ask this but I'll go ahead. I think that I can say without a doubt that there is a bit of a divide. I don't believe that it is a divide that is detrimental to the sport or community. Simply put, when I raced in Houston (and probably the same early in Austin), triathlon clubs existed for education and socialization and training. Now, the social and training component have been replaced by training groups. The educational aspect of the triahtlon club has been replaced largely by some of the coaches of the various training groups but moreso by the Internet.

There is definitely segregation at events between the various 'jerseys'. It's like any other community. The same jerseys tend to hang together. But, on a whole I think that it just signifies that the community here in Austin is large enough that each of these groups, clubs, or organizations can make it just fine. It signifies that the state of the sport here in Austin is very healthy. Again, for the most part I think that each of the training groups get along just fine.

Now, if you ask me what the owners and proprietors of each of the training groups would say about some of their peers...you might get a different answer, but I don't have the time or desire to go find out. Next up, bike shops...
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