Top Ten Questions asked by Triathlon Parents

1. How many times should a child train each week?
  • As many as they can recover from
  • As many as their goals determine
  • As many as they enjoy
  • As many as their coach deems necessary

There is no magic number of sessions that determines success in Triathlon.

No Triathlete should ever dramatically increase the amount they are currently doing, nor should they do an amount or type of training just because someone else is doing it!

Key comment – It is an individual thing!

2. When should a child specialize in triathlon?

There is no such thing as a 14 year old champion whatever. This year’s champ is often next year’s chump. As kids grow and develop, their co-ordination, balance and motor control can all change and this can have a considerable impact on their ability to play sport. It is common for a child who demonstrates outstanding potential one year to struggle the following year if they experience a period of rapid growth and development.

It is important for young athletes to develop skills and excellent technique in swimming, cycling and running in their early teens before progressing into triathlon racing and competition. Ultimately success in triathlon will largely be determined by the skills, capacities and techniques developed.

Key comment: LONG TERM ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT is the key to success

3. Do Triathlon kids need a special diet?

No. Unless they have special needs or health issues, e.g. juvenile onset diabetes.

Providing they eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, drink plenty of water, minimize processed foods and take aways and decrease their intake of sugar and salt, generally sporting kids do not need special diets.

The important issue is to encourage young triathletes to develop eating practices which become lifetime healthy lifestyle habits.

Importantly, kids should be educated on the key elements of a healthy, nutritious diet (i.e. low on salt, low on saturated fat and low on processed sugars) as early as possible.

Parents are often tempted to try short cuts like buying muscle building powders, high protein sports drinks and glucose tablets to help their child achieve their Triathlon goals. It must be said that none of these products are likely to make a difference to the child’s Triathlon performance and taking them may even be counter productive.

Key comment: Vitamins and minerals do not make champions.

4. How do kids balance school and Triathlon?

School comes first. NO BRAINER!

TRIATHLON kids usually are high achievers and good students as they learn time management skills, dealing with stress, team building, communication skills and other important skills.

Key comment: School and TRIATHLON DO mix

5. When should my kids start strength training?

Does not matter what age…..depends on what they do.

Body weight exercises and light exercise with perfect technique are ok at most ages. Where young triathletes (and parents) get into trouble is when they start lifting heavy weights too early and with poor technique.

Weight training is a great way to get strong and help develop the power to train fast in senior competition. However, the introduction of weight training should be systematic and done progressively with the development of perfect lifting techniques being the most important part of the process.  It should always be supervised by a qualified strength coach.

Key comment: Technique before tonnes!

6. What types of exercise are best for young (i.e. pre teen) athletes?

It’s the perfect time to learn techniques and skills – the foundations of sporting success in later years.

It is the perfect time for triathlete to learn and master their A – B – C’ S (Agility, Balance, Co-ordination and Speed).

When a child attends school, they learn basic arithmetic, and then progress to equations and eventually to calculus.

The basics of Triathlon – swimming, cycling, running (all with perfect technique) and transitions should all be learnt, refined and mastered by the young triathlete before they start the process of physical maturation.

Key comment: Patience is a true virtue.

7. How do I choose a good coach for my child?

Qualifications, experience and coaching record are all important when selecting a coach for the young triathlete. Younger coaches who may lack coaching experience but who have an infectious enthusiasm for the sport and a passion to succeed may also be a good option.

However, they key question for parents to ask is:

Can the coach provide a safe, ethical, positive, skills based, stimulating training environment?

The reality for most parents is that they will choose the coach who is best situated on their afternoon “drop off circuit”, ie mum drops Julie to Triathlon, Billy to piano and Johnny to football, then goes back to pick up Julie to take her to netball etc etc.

Key comment: Does your child like the coach AND do you have faith in the coach – enough to give them 100% support

8. What are the common characteristics of champion athletes?
  • Confidence / self esteem / self belief
  • The ability to deal with tough times and adversity
  • A love of what they are doing
  • A positive attitude
  • A hunger to improve and a willingness to challenge themselves.
  • Strong core values: courage, discipline, humility, sincerity, honesty – these things make an impact on their playing career and their lives.

Key comment: Champion athletes are champion people first.

9. What can I do to help my child achieve their Triathlon goals?
  • Be patient with progress.
  • Be tolerant of mistakes and poor performances.
  • Be calm and dignified at training sessions and races.
  • Learn to accept wins or losses graciously.
  • Allow (the athletes) plenty of breathing space.
  • Offer praise with success.
  • Encourage involvement in other pursuits.
  • Encourage independence and self-sufficiency
  • Above all, keep Triathlon in perspective.
  • Be supportive rather than intrusive.

Key comment: Love them.

10. How can I tell if my child is doing too much?
  • Tired all the time. Generally lethargic.
  • Irritable, quiet, moody – maybe even sad
  • They don’t WANT to train
  • Little illness or health issue that doesn’t seem to go away.
  • Doesn’t sleep well.
  • Social problems with school, friends and or family.

Key comment: Just like you when you are tired!


In this century, sports like triathlon can provide an opportunity for kids to learn important social and personal skills that they may not be able to learn in any other institution.

Health, fitness, movement and activity are life long habits…..and habits for a long life

Kids don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.

Coaches and parents play a vital role in the development of every triathlete.

The single most important thing parents can give their kids is unconditional love and support AND the single most important thing coaches can give parents is education on how to be a better Triathlon parent.


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