14% growth rate in 2009 indicates sport is healthy despite sluggish economy
Participation in multisport events continues to skyrocket across the nation despite economic conditions that have other sports struggling.
A chief indicator of the sport's popularity is membership in USA Triathlon, the national governing body for triathlon and other multisport events. USAT annual membership recently surpassed 125,000, marking a 14.2 percent increase since the end of 2008 when membership stood at 107,231.
The fact that the sport is doing well despite the sluggish economy not only points to its physical and psychological benefits, but also to the fact that many Americans may think more about their health than their pocketbook.
"The state of the economy has many Americans not only reevaluating their careers, but also their health, relationships and other areas of their lives," said USAT CEO Skip Gilbert. "Many see this as a great time to get in shape and find an activity that is healthy, personally fulfilling and promotes a sense of community. That's what our sport and our organization are all about. For those already active in the sport, their involvement becomes a relaxing escape during difficult times."
Another area of growth that is bucking the economic trend is in
sanctioned events. USAT provides insurance and assistance for races,
clinics and other multisport activities across the country. The number
of events that USAT supports is well on its way to exceeding last
year's high of 2,800. Current indications are that sanctioned events
will surpass 3,100 by the end of the year, meaning athletes have access
to more opportunities to race. With the current state of the economy
and high gas prices, racing close to home is appealing. And with many
of those races being shorter, sprint distance events, the sport is
becoming more accessible for those with limited time to train.
Racing and training opportunities have also increased for women and
children. This increased attention at the grassroots level has made
these two demographic groups the fastest growing among USAT membership.
This growth is reflective of that experienced over the past decade as
the sport has grown in popularity after the 2000 Olympic Games. At the
end of 1999, annual membership stood at 19,060. Those numbers had more
than doubled to 40,299 by the end of 2002 and doubled again to 84,787
by the end of 2006. The growth during 2007 continued at close to a 16
percent rate, bringing membership to 100,674.
What other factors are playing into the sport's growth?
* Society's interest in fitness and living a healthy lifestyle
* Media attention on the sport
* Growth in the 30-49 age groups who are looking for varied outlets for
fitness and the opportunity to train and race with their growing
* Peer pressure from friends who have tried the sport
* The ego reward of saying you "are a triathlete"
* Increase in clubs, which create a community concept for men and
especially women who enjoy the group training and support atmosphere
* Increase in resources (websites, books, magazines) that provide assistance/education in getting started
* Growth in multisport shops and triathlon specific training and racing gear
* Growth in the number of USAT certified coaches who are able to
provide training plans and individual attention for athletes who need
guidance and motivation