Jul 06, 2011 04:32AM ● Published by Style
Photos by Dante Fontana
It is ironic that one of the winningest coaches in sports history – the late John Wooden, who led the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team to an unprecedented 10 NCAA championships – made it a point of not saying the word “win”;
opting for the more measurable “character,” “team,” and “cooperation.” Wooden said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” To him, effort was the greatest determinant of success, which he defined as “…knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
This spirit of achievement powers myTeam Triumph, a non-profit organization started in Michigan in 2008 that expanded to include a California chapter in 2011, based in Roseville and presided over by now president Peter Graf. The triathlete was inspired to start the West Coast affiliate after watching a YouTube video that told the story of Dick Hoyt and his son with cerebral palsy, Rick, who together have completed more than 1,000 races. Since arriving on the scene, myTeam Triumph has hit the ground running to further the nonprofit’s mission to “enrich the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities by fostering lasting, authentic relationships through the teamwork environment of endurance athletes.”
Partnering individuals with disabilities called “captains” with able-bodied athletes called “angels,” who push or pull their teammate the duration of the race, which is a 5K or 10K, half- or full-marathon, duathlon or triathlon, helps accomplish this goal. “The general public loves what we are doing,” says Graf, of the community enthusiasm the ride-along has generated. “They are encouraged to see others with limitations compete and be physically active. Our captains might not be able to run a race on their own, but myTeam Triumph involves them in community events.”
Two local races recently involved school-aged autistic children, whose positive racing experiences helped bolster their vulnerable self-confidence. “Just to see fellow runners and fans on the sidelines cheering them on and calling out their name was priceless,” Graf recalls. “Sometimes those with disabilities sit on the sidelines, but our events put them in the forefront; they are cheered, given awards and treated like rock stars.” The ripple effect of such inclusion helps incubate community concern that motivates action for the greatest of possible goods.
Expanding the program to include individuals who are visually impaired in area races; providing captains and angels the opportunity to train together before a race; and inspiring other chapters to sprout are among myTeam Triumph’s future goals.
Immediate aims, notes Graf, are to encourage all local races – including the Buffalo Stampede and the California International Marathon – to accept runners to push a participant with a disability if they wish.
Presently, myTeam Triumph has a group of both participating and potential captains – anyone from children to adult-aged veterans – and 20 listed angels ready to lace up their sneaks on their behalf. The organization also pools support from a group of eager volunteers that, if not directly involved in a race, are welcome to help in other capacities.
For more information, visit myteamtriumph-ca.org.