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Tri for the Club

In Allegan, Mich., the second annual sprint-length Tri Allegan triathlon held on July 24, drew over 200 participants from the community and 10 states. With the help of several sponsors and careful planning, this year's event brought in a profit of $7,700. 

After being roped into training for--and participating in--her first triathlon with friends in 2010, Allegan All-Sports Booster Club member Misty Angle was hooked. "I was the president of the booster club at the time," she says. "And after having such a great experience with my first triathlon, I thought to myself, 'Wouldn't this be great to do in Allegan.'

"Putting on a Triathlon takes a lot of volunteers--and who better to pull from than the coaches, athletes, administration, and booster board," Angle continues. "So I asked the club if it would be interested in holding an event. The group had to be willing to front some of the expenses and risk losing money its first year. But I got the OK and set up a triathlon committee that started planning. It worked out well, and our second year was even better than the first."

The planning process has several details, although Angle notes that it was easier this year with a successful race already in the books. The first step is establishing a committee within the booster club, which should be done nine to 12 months before the event.
   
Next, Angle suggests having the committee decide whether or not the race will be USA Triathlon (USAT) sanctioned. In order to qualify, several stipulations must be met. This includes providing course maps, age groups for race participants, and testing the water prior to the event. "The USAT application is quite time-consuming," Angle says. "So there is a lot to be said about this decision.  But liability must be considered also, since sanctioning can provide insurance coverage for the event."
   
After that decision is made, a timing service must be contracted with, to set the date--either based on the committee's preferences or the service's schedule.  A permit for the race, and the OK to use any parks may also be required, and should be requested at this time.
   
"For the first event, I contacted the park director between September and October, since we had to get a permit to utilize the county park and to ask for the public beach and park to be closed the day of the event," Angle says. "I also contacted the timing service at that point.  Once I got the OK from the park director, I called on several members of the community to join the triathlon committee. That was done in October."
   
In its planning stages, the triathlon committee met monthly, and then increased to bi-weekly meetings for the last two months leading up to the event.  "We found that this timing also varies depending on the committee's communication with the race director and their reliability and experience," Angle notes. "This year, we already had procedures established, so we didn't started planning until January."
   
As with many other fundraisers, volunteers are a key to success. "This year we had about 130 volunteers, 20 committee members, plus our timer, sponsors, and community members who just showed up and asked what they could do to help," Angle says. "But in all honesty, we really didn't ask the booster club members to help with this event.  The committee members pulled in their own volunteers to help for each segment. Then we asked one of the high school's coaches to use his team to help with parking, which worked out great."
   
The event was publicized through a Web site and Facebook page that committee members developed, along with postings on triathlon Web sites--which is how the event drew participants from several states.  "Along with those, last year, we used local advertising, posters, flyers, and postcards that we placed on cars at other local triathlons," Angle says. "But this time, we didn't really need to advertise aside from the Web-based methods. Word got out, and we had to cap our registration, so we didn't need to use other means of publicity."
   
While participants' registration fees help cover some of the expenses, the profit comes through partnering with sponsors. "Last year, we made about $5,000," Angle says. "That was good for our first try, but this year we made $7,700.
   
"Sponsors are key to boosting the profit," she continues. "Watching costs by researching different vendors and getting items donated helps, too. But with expenses including paying the timing service, renting equipment for the triathlon, shirts and swim caps for participants, post-race food, emergency personnel, printing race packets, medals and awards, and USAT fees, they add up. Sponsors help cover those costs."
   
Another key to a successful event lies in the details. From the unique weeknight race--which participants have mentioned favoring, over "wasting" their weekend, or having the chance to use it as a "practice" before big weekend events--to enlisting local athletes for advice, the Tri Allegan committee tries to make sure everything is covered. "Someone once told me that if you're going to do an event like this, you must make it top notch," Angle says. "They were right. Don't do it half-heartedly--research other events, talk to athletes, establish a working committee, and set a budget. Then make sure you think of all the details and make sure everything is covered."



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