They call it “transformation through triathlon.”
I-tri is a program that targets at-risk girls who struggle with weight, self-image, self-respect and healthy lifestyles. The program first started when Theresa Roden went through her own life-changing experience while training for a triathlon. She wanted to extend the gratification that comes with transformation to younger girls. The first group of girls started training in 2010.
At the end of the training and self-esteem boosting exercises, the girls participate in the Annual Maidstone Park Youth Triathlon.
“Each of the girls are most definitely transformed through process,” Roden said. “We get girls who can’t swim and they’re out there swimming 300 yards.
The program starts in February and runs through July. Guidance counselors at the Montauk School and the Springs School choose girls who do not consider themselves athletes or have low self-esteem. Some who are chosen come from homes of domestic violence and drug abuse. The girls are then offered the opportunity to train with the staff at i-tri.
The staff consists of Athletic Director- Triathlon Coach Sharon McCobb, Swim Coach Amanda Husslein, Swim Coach Annette MacNiven and Run Coach Diane O’Donnell. During the process, Roden visits the girls at school during lunch and recess to talk about the definition of beauty and self-esteem.
“There’s this real synergy between fitness and self esteem and feeling good about yourself,” Roden said.
I-tri is a girls-only program. Although there is no program currently for boys, there have been talks of the idea. Roden feels that there needs to be a man who can serve as a role model for boy participants.
“I know what it feels like to be this girl,” Roden said. “I was this girl. It takes a man that was this boy to come and design program that works for boys.”
I-tri is free for participants. To raise money for girls, i-tri hosts their own triathlon. Turbo-tri, which was held recently, is a triathlon involving a 300-yard swim, a 7-mile bike ride and a 1.5-mile run for adults. This has been a big help for the program considering they had exactly the number of bikes and helmets they needed for the girls during their earlier years.
“As an organization, we are just thrilled at the amount of support from the local community,” Roden said. “It’s a costly program to run and somehow we always find a way.”
Girls who participate in i-tri are invited to come back each year and serve as mentors. Abby Roden, Theresa’s 15-year-old daughter serves as the alumna president. She was a part of the original group of girls.
“When I started the program, I had the mentality of faking it until you make it,” Abby said. “Now I have something real, something that will sustain me for the rest of my life.”
For more information about i-tri, visit their website at itrigirls.org . Registration for The Annual Maidstone Park Youth Triathlon can be done online here or at the East Hampton YMCA, which is located at 2 Gingerbread Lane. Their phone number is (631) 329-6884.