British Triathlon’s (BTF) Head of Participation, Jenny Vincent, is the winner of this year’s ITU Women’s Committee Award of Excellence for her efforts in promoting triathlon in Great Britain through the NF’s exceptional GO TRI programme. The annual prize is awarded to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion and inclusion of women in triathlon, part of ITU’s commitment to equality in the sport, and Jenny’s award reflects her remarkable achievements in the area.
Joining British Triathlon in 2010, Jenny helped launch the GO TRI programme in 2013, designed to encourage beginners to take part in triathlon by providing a friendly and informal setting. A resolutely co-education programme, it nevertheless found particular traction and success among women looking to try the sport. Of the 27,400 participants engaged today in the GO TRI community, 59% are female.
“When I joined BTF, we didn’t have much awareness of the participation in terms of gender across all areas and levels in the sport,” says Jenny. “I had never participated in triathlon myself, and I had a real motivation to ensure that the sport was accessible and attractive to all. I signed up to a couple of tri’s myself to learn what it felt to be a female beginner in our sport.”
“We held some female focus groups in 2013-14 to learn about the barriers females faced when thinking about starting out in triathlon. We talked about imagery, language (don’t use distance – don’t say the swim is 200m but say it’s 8 lengths), inspirational case studies. We took these learnings seriously and built the GO TRI brand around them.”
Two years on from the GO TRI launch, Jenny developed a Women’s Participation Strategy to ensure gender equality was considered in all areas of BTF’s work. She took on the management of the GO TRI programme in 2017 and re-launched it with a new look and an innovative approach to events that has been central to that success since, with no minimum distances to cover and pool as well as open-water swims to help widen their appeal. So far in 2019, 54% of race entrants have been women, while several women-only events have also been launched.
The GO TRI active brand has found great success among women too, with 76% of attendees to the entry level, turn-up-and-take-part sessions being female. Within that, Jenny launched the Tri Something New programme, inspired by the launch of WTS Leeds four years ago to achieve engagement with hard-to-reach communities, including an Absolute Beginners swim course delivered for 15 local Hindu women over the age of 60.
Jenny has been working with the This Girl Can initiative from Sport England as well as launching the brilliant Tri January campaign at the start of 2019 to engage new participants in the sport. The latter’s target of 5,000 registrations was surpassed, with 73% of them women, helped by the participation of GB tri stars like Lauren Steadman.
“Any mention of Tri January instantly brings a smile to my face,” Jenny says. “I absolutely love the campaign and what we achieved. It was a real team effort and we took a lot of time bouncing around ideas, designing content and discussing influencers. We had an inkling that some beginners aren’t ready to enter GO TRI events, that they wanted to try swim, bike and run on their own first, so we decided to trial self-generated activity.”
“By providing a calendar wall chart and stickers to let participants track their journey, the impact was huge! Use of the influencers made the campaign more appealing to the media, and our slot on BBC Breakfast on the campaign launch day saw over 3000 sign ups in a day. We have just released our follow on from the campaign which is Tri Summer and we have tried to apply many of the lessons we have learnt from Tri January to this campaign.”
As an example to everyone working to advance not just women’s participation within it, but the sport of triathlon at large, Jenny Vincent is awarded the 2019 Award of Excellence.