Andrew Yoder knows very well what it means to feel grateful. Has known it for quite some time, in fact.
Yet for all the gratitude in his heart, there's also a place where regret lives. Which, of course, only makes him human. But it doesn't mean he's going to waste time living in that place.
“I see this as giving back to a sport that has given me so much,” Yoder said last week, as he discussed his plan to build a triathlon program for younger athletes in Lancaster County.
Yoder, a Hempfield graduate and veteran pro triathlete, has loved the sport since he began racing at age 14. He's 30 now, and for the last five years has coached adults of all ages while still competing on his own. That changed last year, when he decided to retire from competition and devote more time to helping grow the sport at the junior (ages 16-19) and youth (ages 12-15) levels.
“I really want to create a pipeline for these kids to (reach) higher levels,” he said. “My goal is to give them support.
“It's a hard sport. I've been through the wringer with it, and I've had a lot of trouble with the pressure of it. I know these kids are going to experience that.”
This is where the regret comes in. Yoder says he could have done more to help other prospective triathletes in the past. He turned pro at 17, competing around the country, but he was, by his own admission, “isolated and selfish. I had a platform to help juniors and youth athletes, and I didn't do that.”
His new initiative, only a couple of weeks old, is focused on younger athletes in Lancaster and Chester counties with swimming and running backgrounds. But he wants them and their coaches to know this is not a battleground.
“There's a lot of ideas about it that aren't true, and there's an either/or mindset,” he said. “I'm saying you can do both, and I'm willing to work with your coaches and your schedule.”
It helps that the triathlon season runs from May through August, with several races around the country where athletes can qualify for nationals. Also, each age group has its own distances for the three phases of the race — swimming, biking and running — allowing a natural progression to the adult level.
Yoder has several corporate sponsors on board to help with expenses for things like equipment and competition fees. He says there will be a fee for his coaching services, which he is “still working out.”
His experience, as detailed at YoderPerformance.com, has helped produce 13 USA Triathlon All-Americans. What he wants most, however, is just to give others a chance to see the beauty of the sport.
“You don't need to be a super stud in one individual sport,” he said. “You just need to have a work ethic, a drive … and the right coach.”
Having success is one thing, of course. But helping someone else have it is another level of satisfaction. That's what Andrew Yoder is chasing these days.
• Connect with Jeff Young, a former LNP sports editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.