We asked Triathlon Ireland to share with us how they adapted to COVID-19, and what a great story to read. Even in these difficult times, with the right attitude great things can be achieved! Below is the full story that was shared with us.
“As an organisation, like others all over the world, 2020 has brought new challenges for Triathlon Ireland.
Before sharing the ways in which Triathlon Ireland has adapted during Covid-19, it is important to put this article into perspective. Triathlon was here long before, and will remain long after, Covid-19 - triathlon isn’t going anywhere. The priority this year as a society is to look out for one another, keep each other safe and to get through this global pandemic. Sharing our experience of the pandemic is by no means intended to belittle the great losses that many have experienced, the added stress for those working on the frontline, the effect this year has had on so many. But our story thus far is one of community, one of hope, one of sport.
The role we play as a National Governing Body is to support our community as they go through this unprecedented time – our high performance athletes, our members, our clubs, our race organisers, our coaches, our officials, our staff. The balance is in supporting our entire community, and in securing the future of our sport once the pandemic has eased.
Darren Coombes, Triathlon Ireland CEO, outlines how the organisation has adapted;
“From an organisational perspective, we adapted very quickly to an unprecedented situation. We understood implicitly that we could still provide a valuable service to support our members both physically and mentally - connecting digitally better than ever before and innovating, learning from others and trying new things. We connected internationally and developed a set of protocols to allow races proceed in a safe, supported fashion.”
“We were supported more than we could have hoped for by our Government, our funding partners in Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland, and our commercial partners led by BMW Ireland. Our staff team has not been together for 9 months now as we continue to work from home - they have risen to the challenge of working in a new way, supporting and connecting with each other in a way that shouldn’t surprise me given the team we have here, but yet somehow manages to on a daily basis.”
“Our community response has been nothing short of phenomenal. Led by our 100 clubs, we have seen every type of ‘virtual’ endurance challenge possible, safe and covid compliant training sessions when allowed and a real community spirit and creative focus as the country continues to work through this pandemic. It has been inspiring to see the commitment of our volunteer club leaders, coaches and officials. We think this bodes well for the future and that we can emerge from this pandemic as a stronger, more resilient community.”
The Plan vs. the Reality
Triathlon Ireland was set to make 2020 one of our biggest seasons yet – our BMW Duathlon and Triathlon National Series, as well as our various multisport National Championships, were mapped out. Our clubs and race organisers had already put hours of work into developing their races, and our members had their seasons planned out. It was all systems go. Until it wasn’t.
In Ireland, as in many places around the world, our first lockdown came in early March. The Triathlon Ireland offices shut in the first week of March (for what we thought was to be two weeks), and the entire team have been safely working from home ever since.
Adjusting the Race Season
Race postponement and cancellation was a necessity as the pandemic unfolded. The Events team worked with our Race Organisers on a set of safety protocols surrounding the safe running of events in line with Government Guidelines. A number of events were able to safely take place in late Summer, paving the way for the upcoming 2021 season and adding to the learning of all involved.
Training Going Virtual
A priority for Triathlon Ireland is to provide support and training sessions for members during a time when training can be somewhat limited, depending on Government Guidelines in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
This time has been an opportunity for us to launch many programmes and classes that we have not run before as we would not usually have the capacity in our small team during a busy race season. Some have proved so successful that we will be continuing them after the pandemic.
In April Triathlon Ireland launched daily online sessions, under a new ‘At-home’ brand extension. These included Turbo Sessions twice a week, Strength Sessions, Core Workouts, Pilates, Cooking Demos and Zwift Social Spins with Elite Athletes. The first Triathlon Ireland Zwift TT League was born and saw over 500 people take part in 10 weeks of racing. In June we launched Run & Ride for Pieta, a duathlon challenge which raised funds for Pieta House, Triathlon Ireland and our official partner BMW’s chosen charity for 2020.
Currently we are running three Zoom turbo sessions a week for members. These have proved immensely popular with triathletes from all over Ireland logging on. We are doing two strength videos a week, and a weekly pilates class for members via Zoom.
Run Your Neighbourhood is a six week running programme with 5k and 10k plans. Launched by Triathlon Ireland four weeks ago, the programme currently has almost 1400 people around Ireland taking part.
The Triathlon Ireland Zwift Autumn League is our nine week league for members and clubs, currently in week 7 with over 500 riders taking part to earn points for their Triathlon Club.
On our social media, we have shared the stories of those who have taken on incredible challenges such as backyard Ironmen for charity, and we are saying ‘thank you’ to the members of our community who are Frontline Workers.
Approaching things a Different Way
Triathlon Ireland was the first sporting body in Ireland to host a Virtual AGM. In mid-April, this year’s AGM had a record attendance, with more than 60 club delegates and board members joining remotely from their homes via Zoom.
For the first time, some of our courses are being run online. The Local Technical Official (LTO) course is being offered online, encouraging more people to take the first step to becoming part of the TO team. The pre-reading for our Level 1 Coaching Course is now also available online.
Our triathlon clubs have responded brilliantly to the challenges this year has brought, providing incredible support for their members and providing their own online resources each week. There has been an incredible amount of knowledge sharing via the newly introduced Slack Channel for club chairs. Here clubs can stay up to date on the latest updates from us, as well as share experiences with each other.
Triathlon Ireland have developed the ‘Return to Training Protocol for Clubs’, this document is updated regularly with up to date Government Information and guidance for our sport around what is permitted for members and clubs in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.
This year we have hosted a number of webinars online that would usually be held in person, and introduced some new ones. The Evolve Club Development webinar is one example, club representatives from all over Ireland logged on for this webinar on ‘Mental Fortitude’.
What the Future Holds
There is lots to come from 2021, as CEO Darren Coombes outlines;
“Globally, there is the first chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Our triathlon community has a deep understanding of working to a finish line, and now at least we know there is a finish line of sorts in sight thanks to a remarkable global scientific effort. We feel ready for any challenge that comes in 2021. At the pinnacle of our sport our elite athletes will compete to qualify and perform at Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Their dreams have been on hold, but they are powerful dreams and we look forward to them being realised in Tokyo, which will be a Games like no other and will captivate the world. Our athletes deserve that stage and we are excited to see them perform.”
“Organisationally, we have seen our race organisers commit to a full calendar in 2021 - this positivity from clubs and race organisers allows us to empower a new member to reach their first finish line, take their first podium or simply to enjoy a training session with their clubmates.”
“We believe the power of sport is perhaps more truly understood today as it has been taken away from us for the first time - and we are excited to introduce triathlon to a whole new audience of sea swimmers, bikers and runners to our community in 2021 and beyond.”
Who knows what the future holds, but we can be sure that 2020 has taught us to be resilient, to adapt, to be flexible. Most of all, 2020 has shown what an incredible community the triathlon community is.
As an organisation, we have discovered different ways of working, and different ways of connecting with our members – and we will certainly be doing some things differently when Covid-19 subsides.
The Team at Triathlon Ireland”