Your Child’s First Large Race


A large kids’ race like the Lifetime Kids Tri Chicago offers a special type of experience. When compared to a small, local event, a big event may seem stressful for both kids and parents. If you and your child know what to expect, a big race can be a season highlight for the family.


Large destination race logistics are more complex. Planning for the challenges can ensure a much more smooth and enjoyable experience. Read the race information carefully ahead of time. Consider going to packet pick up a day early to lessen the race morning tasks. Understand the traffic and parking restrictions to avoid late arrival to the race. No matter how early race morning may already be, try to arrive extra early to get settled. Pack plenty of good food and water. When you and your child decide to sign up for the race, talk about these things so that they know what to expect.

Fear Factor

Kids and parents will be more nervous and excited at a big event. If you are nervous, your kids will perceive it and that will escalate their fears. Parents should focus on controlling their own emotions. If needed, go somewhere away from your child to release your own fears or frustrations.

It is normal for a young athlete to be more quiet or grouchy before a race. This is not the time to worry about character development. Understand that after the race is over, your normal bubbly, happy kid will be back.

But Cost!

Kids view a big race as more important. For parents, it often represents a much larger investment in training and travel costs. As a result, both the parents and the kids may lose sight of the fact that it really is just another race in a lifetime of many. Try to avoid saying something like, “We have spent a lot of money to get here this weekend, so don’t blow it!” Leave the cost out of the conversation – it simply increases the negative pressure to perform for the parent rather for themselves and their own goals.

Role of Parent

Well meaning parents often overstep their responsibilities with their young athletes. The parent is responsible for transportation, food and water supply, monitoring that bikes are well-maintained and showing a positive spirit. Keep them cool and shaded. Stay calm. Be grateful that you and your kids have the good fortune to participate in the event.

What to Say

Try to limit what you say to phrases such as: “I love to watch you race” and “I am proud of you.” Ask your child, “How do you want me to be a good spectator?” and heed her/his requests. Celebrate every good effort – while downplaying race-time and place. These races will soon be distant, fun memories no matter how well or poorly they compete. Try to relax and enjoy them for what they are – a wonderful way to promote healthy and fun life-long activity for your kids.

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Chris Palmquist is an USA Triathlon Elite Coach, USA Cycling Elite Coach and Youth/Junior Coach with 19 years of coaching experience. She has written for Chicago Athlete Magazine for more than 20 years. As a Team MPI Head Coach, she has coached athletes to regional, national and world class success. She is a USA Paratriathlon National Team Coach and Team USA Coach at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, ITU World Paratriathlon Series and High Performance Camps at the Olympic Training Centers. Chris coaches youth and junior triathletes as Head Coach for the MMTT Youth Triathlon Team and for USAT at national Junior Skills Camps. In 33 years as an athlete, she has raced several sports including triathlon (13 Ironman), collegiate rowing (Cornell 83-87), canoe/kayak, cross country skiing (20 Birkebeiner) and road bike racing. Chris is married with two kids. Favorite Quote: “Do Simple Better” ~Joe Maddon


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