Comrades in arms

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Having been established just before the first lockdown in 2020, Comrades Triathlon Club are doing great work within their swim, bike, run community to create a diverse and welcoming atmosphere to attract established and aspiring triathletes from a range of backgrounds.

Debbie Coyle is the Romford-based club’s membership secretary and joint head coach who, along with club chair Paul Wyatt, is responsible for helping to create the open and adaptable approach at the club.

“We’ve got so many varieties of nationalities and ethnic groups in our group now,” Coyle said. “People are seeing our pictures on Facebook and, because we are so diverse it’s attracting other people. They realise, ‘oh hang on, I fit into that category and look that person’s doing it, I can do it too’.”

Within the club’s membership, 33% are from a non-British background, 27% are female and 7% identify as being part of the LGBT+ community, with the club ensuring that there’s strong female representation on their committee and putting training on in parts of their local area with diverse populations to help ensure equality in decision making and accessibility to sessions.

“We’ve got a black lady in our group called Angéla who’s improved her swim times and is much more comfortable in the water,” Coyle continued.

“She could swim before joining us but her technique let her down so needed a lot of work to be more efficient. We put her in the pool and did video analysis on her and now she's swimming in open water with a lot more confidence and ability. It’s lovely to see.

“Another example is at our swim in a public pool a female approached myself and another female member with regards to how we can help her in her first triathlon. She obviously felt comfortable enough to approach us but not sure if she would have approached our male members. She’s now joined us. We are always out there representing our club.

“I’m putting on a lot of training sessions that aren’t teaching you triathlon, I’m teaching you the basics, I think that is what people need. Let’s break it down, let’s go back to fun and see what we can do to help you.”

As well as taking their training sessions back to the basics to ensure anyone and everyone can join and be supported, Coyle and the club adapt their programme to work with their members to help them access training.

“A couple of our members are Polish and a lot of their kids go to school on a Saturday morning,” Coyle added. “What we decided to do was move it over to the Sunday knowing that they don’t have the school commitment on the Sunday.

“We do that with our Zwift rides as well. We put out a message saying we’re going to be doing a Zwift ride tonight at 7, how does that work for everyone and get a feel as to whether people can or can’t make it and what the reasons and so we adapt to that to include everybody and their other commitments in life.

“We also encourage participation in low cost events so cost of entry is not a deterrent for hard to reach communities e.g. Bridge events. We as a club like to support our local event organisers.” 

The club is very proud of the fact that its membership covers so many backgrounds and promotes the range of diversity that its members are from, as well as encouraging members to do the same to show their networks that triathlon is accessible for all.

“I’ve never been in a club like this before,” Coyle commented. “Every time I get an enquiry I’m like ‘where are you from’ because it’s so diverse and I love it. When we have a Zwift ride, everyone’s got their national flags by their names and it’s really cool.”

A typical week at Comrades for members to get involved with include their club night on a Monday which includes time in the gym and a swim session before going for pizza to celebrate the weekend’s racing.

Tuesday sees a track running session on offers for members, Wednesday and Thursday are Zwift nights, and Friday is a technique night which can include video analysis, transition training and other specific triathlon skills training. The weekend brings bike and run sessions take place across Saturday and Sunday for members to take part in if they’re not racing.

For more information about Comrades Triathlon Club and how to get involved with them, please click here.

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