The Fox Cities tri club in Northeastern Wisconsin has a very impressive 793 strong membership. We had a chat with Alan Cherkasky to find out more about this club.
ST: How old is the Fox Cities Tri club?
Alan: The Fox Cities Triathlon Club started in 2002 with 12 people. Dave Scott, the 6 time Ironman World Champion was friends with one of the founding members and asked him to host a triathlon clinic here in Appleton Wisconsin. The spring weekend clinic was so much fun we decided to keep it going. The "Fox Cities" is a collection of cities and towns that follow the Fox River from Oshkosh, WI in the south to Green Bay, WI in the north. Appleton is in the center. Although most members are from this area, we do have legitimate TRI FOXES in Florida, California, Washington, Colorado, and a few other states. We started having monthly meetings and within a short time developed a logo, colors, and ordered jerseys. We held another Dave Scott clinic the next year and the number of members started to grow. Once we outgrew a "living room" the meetings were held at the YMCA. Then through articles in the local paper and media outlets, the club started to grow exponentially.
ST: Over 500 members is impressive for any town or region but Fox Cities Tri club has almost 800. That is impressive.
Alan: We do believe that because we are so welcoming to athletes of all abilities and because we are not "exclusive" our numbers have skyrocketed. Our cool jerseys and obvious visibility at local races and events and the fact that we have had "big names" come here to speak have been factors in our growth as well. In addition we have TRI 101 for newbies. Basically, we are a very inviting group of triathletes.
ST: You apparently do quite a bit to encourage newbies to the sport. Can you tell us more about it?
Alan: The TRI FOXES are ALL about mentoring those new to the sport. We host a TRI 101 clinic each year with tons of info and practical sessions for the newbies. Our weekly bikes rides are "non drop" and we do everything we can to help our members get to the starting line and finish their dreams.
ST: In addition to racing what are some of the activities offered to club members?
Alan: We do many things and I will list them and give a short description of each.
- We have monthly speakers with a wide variety of topics such as nutrition, lactate testing and training, overcoming obstacles in life, running form, stretching, transitions, we even had the strength coach from the Green Bay Packers lead us in stretching drills.
- We have TRI 101 events.
- We have a "run the swim" on the frozen lake where our local triathlon occurs the next summer.
- Ironride for Strongkids where we ride spin bikes at the Y for 6 hours, raising $$ for kids’ programs at the Y
- We hosted and mentored "special needs kids" at our local triathlon where a TRI FOX paired up with each special kid to help them through the race
- We set up our bikes on the roof in subzero weather for a 1 hour spin
- We have "police escorts" to start some of our weekly bike rides. It’s fun and shows great support between the club and our local communities
- We are planning a fundraising 5k and golf outing in 2008
- We do a helmet fitting and giveaway for kids each spring
- Plus we have group swims, ballroom dance lessons, wine tasting and summer picnics
ST: There are no member dues and you have no club sponsors, how does that work?
Alan: We have decided NOT to charge dues because we feel we are more inviting and open to our community if we don’t require an entry fee. We want the feel that we are accessible. As far as SPONSORS, we don’t have any! We will NEVER have any logos on our clothing other than our own. Once you have a sponsor then you are obligated. We do have "Friends of the Foxes" who are businesses, big and small, who offer special services or discounts for our members. They might give us coffee for our meetings, or host a yoga class, or have special pricing and in turn we link them on our website. We do raise funds by selling club t-shirts, and other clothing…we have really neat colorful clothes, including FOX SOX! We raised some money from a bike tour and we gave some of it back to the local
"greenways committee". We carry a bank account of anywhere between $1000-5000, which varies depending on how much we have to front for our jerseys, etc. We spend the money on club meetings, speaker costs, and fun things like swim caps and bumper stickers, and on our end of year DVD.
ST: But you manage to bring in people like Dave Scott to speak to the club. How did you get that done?
Alan: Dave Scott was here twice for tri clinics and each person paid a fee. Other speakers were paid for by us or in conjunction with a generous donor. For example, this past summer we brought in Dick Hoyt to speak at our local tri, The High Cliff Triathlon, and the "special needs kids tri." We brought together 2 local competing medical groups to defray the expenses. Dick’s speech was free to the community and now the 2 medical groups are actually in talks to work together on other projects in the area.
ST: Who else has visited Fox Cities Tri club?
Alan: Dave Scott, Simon Lessing (a tri clinic we hosted in Solvang California), Karen Smyers, Steve Born from Hammer Nutrition, Bob Roll (Tour DE France), Sarah Reinertsen, Dick Hoyt and Heather Gollnick (our members had swim lessons in her endless pool).
We would LOVE to have Robin Williams but I couldn’t get past his secretary!
And of course, LANCE!!!
ST: How old is the oldest and how old is the youngest member of the club?
Alan: The youngest is 6 and the oldest is probably in the 60’s
ST: How far away from Northeastern Wisconsin might we encounter Fox Cities Tri club members?
Alan: We have members in many states, Washington, Texas, California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota and Alabama. Plus our members have raced all over the world. We have FOX FOTOS of our TRI FOXES at races in Germany, Thailand, NZ, Brazil, Australia, France, Italy etc.
ST: Can you tell us the story about the Fuzzy Fox?
Alan: The Fuzzy Fox is a small stuffed Fox which we give to “award winners” at our end of year party as we decided this would be more meaningful than a trophy. Members also take “FOX FOTOS” of FUZZY FOX all over the place. This year FUZZY FOX has been photographed with Matt Lauer, with Brett Favre, in an F-16, with Mickey Mouse, and all over the world. Speaking of awards, we do something a bit different there. We do not give awards for the normal, like who won the most races etc. For example our ROOKIE OF THE YEAR went to a woman who lost 65 pounds, did her first tri, found love and got married, all in her first season as a TRI FOX! Our members are also given the FUZZY FOX award for things like volunteering, leading a club event, doing behind the scenes work etc.
ST: The club is apparently also run in a unique way. Can you tell us about it?
Alan: We do not have elected officials nor do we have a president. We have a series of committees who take charge of different aspects of club business. Communications Committee takes care of our website and the Community Committee serves as a liaison between the club and our local communities, and they advocate safe and drug free sport and participate in local non triathlon events like helmet fitting and giveaways for kids, Cancer fundraising runs, and school talks. The Clothing committee designs, sells and promotes our "outfits", the Volunteer Coordinator finds willing TRI FOXES to volunteer at races and events, and the Leadership Committee is a group of 3 who bring everything together, plan the club meetings, and help host events.
ST: On your website it is quite obvious that the club has a strong stance about doping.
Alan: We are especially proud to have an Anti-doping policy within the club. We promote and believe in drug free competition and as far as we know, we were the first TRI club in the world to actually take a written stance on the subject.
For more info about the Fox Tri club in Northeastern Wisconsin visit their website at foxtriclub.com