Mersey Tri’s 35th year as a triathlon club has been one of the most challenging in the club’s history due to the pandemic and the need to adapt to a fast-changing environment.
Mersey Tri’s 35th year as a triathlon club has been one of the most challenging in the club’s history due to the pandemic and the need to adapt to a fast-changing environment. Despite this, a strong foundation of club and volunteer members have allowed Mersey Tri to keep active throughout lockdown.
“We were able to build on what we had and make it stronger,” said Peter Heron, Club Chair of Mersey Tri.
“We were lucky in the respect that we had a good structure and willing volunteers and that brought with it the ability to introduce and flex existing processes and make really good use of the tools and technologies we have.”
Heron spoke of the emphasis the club has placed upon its people over the years and how important that focus has been over the period of the pandemic, saying: “We owe a massive debt of thanks to our Club Secretary, Sue Ennis who had no hesitation in putting herself forward for the role of Covid-19 Officer.
“Sue is also a BTF qualified Level 1 triathlon coach, who is soon to complete her Level 2. That mix of club knowledge, combined with coaching skills made Sue the ideal person to fill that role,” added Heron.
“Without her and the support of other club volunteers, coaches, activators and event managers, the list can go on, we wouldn’t be where we are with being able to be flexible enough with our processes to make the changes we needed to make in such a short time scale.”
Heron used Sports England’s initiative, Club Matters, which provides free resources to help organisations develop and applied what he learnt to the club’s structure.
“Club Matters gave me a great insight into what the structure of a committee should look like,” said Heron. “Having that structure in place gave us the right people and the right shape to enable things to happen correctly. I’d say the people we have are the main reason why we could adapt.”
Not only did the club committee take on additional responsibilities, but club members also stepped forward to host virtual sessions, Heron said: “I have to say, all credit to the club’s members, they’ve taken the initiative themselves with a large number of them posting virtual sessions which were really well received.
“It’s given club members a sense of self-empowerment and I think it’s formed a better relationship for the club members. It’s given us some insight into potential volunteers for the future. So, every cloud has a silver lining.”
The club has also been collaborating with other local sports clubs, Heron said: “We’ve strengthened our relationships with other sports clubs and have joined in with their virtual training sessions and those relationships are still in place. We now have a wider audience which is a great thing for the club and for triathlon.
“We’ve invited guests from other sports clubs to our committee meetings over Zoom to cover Covid-19 and talk about how we manage training to bring more people on board in the future.”
Whilst the pandemic caused some disruption for the club at the beginning with an apparent drop-off in membership, those loses have now been recovered and there has been a noticeable increase in cycling and running interest in the area.
“The interest in bike riding has exploded. Many people have taken up cycling because of the joys of being in the open air and the countryside,” said Heron.
“I think at first it was a fascination for some people and thankfully that has stayed with them. I’ve seen people go from wearing denim shorts on rides, to a few weeks later, putting lycra on.”
Club members often embark on social rides and the club’s social media has ran a ‘Club Colours Sunday’ activity that has got Mersey Tri’s colours out in the community.
The club is proud to enable those of any skill level to find the right training for them. Heron said: “We see people who joined the club two years ago, who couldn’t swim, and now they’re sailing past me, which is fantastic.
“It’s great to see those people coming on and pushing the limits of their ability, but also, we have people who joined a GO TRI three years ago and are still at that level because they enjoy it. The club does have that big mix, but the focus is always on community."