Most people associate the sport of triathlon with vigorous training, intense competition and a sizable mixture of blood, sweat and tears.
Todd Waldner, founder of iCAN Junior Triathlon Club, thinks it offers a whole lot more.
Waldner credits the sport with contributing a lot of great things to his life. He decided to give back to the sport by creating a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowerment and development of fundamental life principles in youth through the triathlon sport.
“God put it in my heart to start this organization,” Waldner said. “We’re not about creating world-class athletes. We’re about creating world-class people.”
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Waldner wanted to introduce youth to a sport that had a whole new concept. His triathletes train to compete in races where they run, bike and swim all in one competition.
“I call it the equal opportunity sport,” Waldner said. “Everybody plays.”
Waldner said the competitive environment with other sports, especially in Clovis Unified, causes many kids to disqualify themselves before even trying when thinking about going out for sports.
“The tough thing about as competitive as sports are in the environment today, is it sends the wrong message to kids. It sends this message of you’re not good enough,” Waldner said. “That is a bad seed to get planted in kids.”
Waldner said kids need to be in an environment where they are encouraged, where they feel they can do anything they want to do.
“Coach Todd really believes in us, which makes us have more confidence,” Gabriel Sigala said. “He tailors our training to meet our goals for the year.”
Sigala, 14, said his favorite thing about competing in triathlons is being able to do three fun sports all in one race.
“I love the flexibility the sport gives me,” Madison Ishigaki said. “Unlike school sports, I can train when it works for me, and I can race independently or with a team.”
Ishigaki, 14, has been a part of iCAN for nearly six years and said the members of the club are practically her second family.
“On my first triathlon ever, I fell and crashed my bike,” Ishigaki said. “I was crying and sobbing, but two other triathletes helped me up and fixed up my bike, not even caring their time was still going. I think that is a great example of the positivity in the sport.”
When it comes to his coaching mechanisms, Waldner said winning isn’t even in the equation.
“I do not train for the win,” Waldner said. “I train for the empowerment of the individual. I train for the fundamentals and skills of the sport and the win will take care of itself. The win is just a result of motivated athletes who are empowered, who have the skill and knowledge to perform.”
Sixteen-year-old Hunter Hofmann said he would not be the triathlete he is without Coach Todd.
“I am very grateful that I have him as a coach,” Hofmann said. “When I am a part of the club I feel like I’m home. I’m in a place where I’m comfortable and I can trust others. I’m included in a family.”
Waldner has over 30 years experience in triathlon competitions and has competed in over 200 triathlons and still trains.
“He is very experienced and he gives me workouts that are specific to me only,” Hofmann said. “He makes me the triathlete I am.”
Waldner coaches and designs workouts for his competitors but that doesn’t stop him from exercising with them.
“I am always training with them,” Waldner said. “They’re kicking my butt, they’re killing me.”
Waldner said the target market for athletes of iCAN is second to sixth graders, but their club has members in middle school and high school as well.
“The cool thing about iCAN is that we do not just have athletes that are 13 to 19, we have the youth that are ages 6 to 12,” Hofmann said. “That is very special. It warms your heart when you see little kids exercising, having fun and staying safe. iCAN is teaching young kids the keys to life through the sport of triathlons.”
iCAN Triathlon Program offers two 10-week training sessions a year or athletes can participate in an individual training plan. Program costs are $395 per athlete with annual membership fees of $25. Details: (559) 905-9473 or www.icantriclub.com