If you want a child to read and write well one day, hand that child a book.
If you want a child to build things one day, give that child an erector set.
If you want a child to excel at sports one day, toss that child a ball.
If you want a child to respect his or her body, and to grow into a healthy adult, enter that child into a triathlon. Or at least tell that child to get off the couch or out from behind the computer and run around the neighborhood with some friends.
Good — and bad — habits are often formed early, which is why we are excited about the possibilities of the Tri-Warriors Youth Triathlon, the second of which was held this past weekend at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. A total of 108 youths, all between the ages of 6 and 15, began the event, which included swimming, cycling and running, and 108 crossed the finish line, even though at times the headwind was being produced by a hurricane named Irene.
Race Director Mike DeCinti, who waited until he was 35 years old before he trained for and completed his first triathlon, and the Tri-Warriors Triathlon Club hatched the idea, and they and a bunch of volunteer make it happen. This year’s number of 108 participants was slightly higher than last year’s, but it certainly would have been significantly so except for Irene’s visit.
DeCinti, who writes a fitness column for this newspaper, sees the triathlon as a small but significant front on this nation’s battle with childhood obesity — assuming that battle is being waged. If you want to know how bad the problem is, then take a look around. We are a nation of sedentary and overweight adults, and children often do as we do, not as they are told.
The event doubles as a fund-raiser, with the plan being for different beneficiaries each year.
Our strong belief is those 108 children who participated — we like that word better than competed — in Saturday’s event have a step on their peers in the lifelong marathon toward good health.
But the triathlon’s dividends don’t begin and end with fitness. Those children who crossed the finish line on Saturday can now boast that they have completed a triathlon; while we don’t have the numbers to back it up, we are confident that the percentage of Americans who can claim the same is minuscule.
That is the kind of booster shot to a child’s self-esteem that can be parlayed into other achievements, in academics, athletics or the Challenge of the Day. These children have a pretty good head start in the game of life.