Going to University is a life-changing experience. As well as being a time for you to progress academically, it is a place to meet new people, expand your mindset, and try new things.
On fresher’s week, you will be bombarded with opportunities to join a myriad of clubs and teams, but maybe you already have in your mind that it is the triathlon team that you will be signing up to straight away.
While it is not the most popular sport at the university level there are a lot of universities that have triathlon teams, and many of those teams have dedicated trainers and training regimes. It is relatively easy to find out if your chosen university has a triathlon team.
In this article, we will cover some of the top universities for triathlon from around the world, and what to consider when choosing a university.
Which Universities Have Triathlon Teams?
Depending on where you are looking to head off to for your university journey there are various options for you. These lists are not exhaustive, so if you do not find your chosen university below then contact them to find out what clubs or facilities they have for triathlon. If the university has a sport’s department then this would be the place to start.
The following universities offer triathlon clubs with weekly coaching. While some also offer sports scholarships through the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), keep in mind that this is not available for international students.
- University of Bristol
- Exeter University
- Newcastle University
- Nottingham Trent University
- Oxford University
- Sheffield Hallam University
- University of St Andrews
- University of Edinburgh
Universities in the US have a long history of supporting a variety of sports and, with 147 collegiate triathlon clubs across the country, there are plenty of choices. Below are the top ten universities for triathlon in the US based on a 2018 poll (source).
- University of Colorado at Boulder
- United States Naval Academy
- University of California, Berkeley
- Queens University of Charlotte
- Colorado State University
- Texas A&M University
- United States Military Academy
- Arizona State University
- University of California, Los Angeles
- Stanford University
Is Triathlon An NCAA Sport?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) organizes athletic programs of colleges and universities in the United States. This is the sports body that offers scholarships for top athletes in a variety of sports.
Triathlon is an NCAA sport for females, but not for male athletes as of the time of writing. NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 have 4.5 scholarships available to distribute among female triathletes and they may distribute partial scholarships as they see fit. This means that you may receive a full scholarship or, more likely, a partial scholarship from these universities.
|Division||Number of Teams||Total Athletes||Scholarship Limit|
Data taken from scholarshipstats.com
There is a lot of competition for these scholarships, given that of the 62 competing women for NCAA I only 4.5 scholarships are available.
You really do need to be an exceptional athlete to even be considered to be awarded a partial scholarship.
For male athletes the future does not look positive for triathlon becoming an NCAA sport due to the popularity and associated revenue brought in by American Football (source), which offers 85 scholarships.
American Football is highly unlikely to make way for smaller sports such as triathlon, so as a male athlete there is little chance of financial aid.
Can You Get A University Scholarship For Triathlon?
As shown, there are not many opportunities to get scholarships for triathlon, especially for men. Additionally, it is important to note that competition for sports scholarships is seriously intense.
So, if you are looking at this route then be sure to see how you measure up against the athletes in your age group from events across the world to see what chance you stand.
UK – The UK offers bursaries through the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), but this is not available for international students. If you are looking to study and train in the UK and you are an international student, then you will not be eligible for a TASS scholarship.
USA – The US do offer triathlon scholarships, but for the moment they are for women only because triathlon is not a NCAA sport for men as of yet. Your best bet here is to email directly those universities that you are interested in and give them a full idea of your results as a triathlete to date. Watch the video below from Bethan Hinett to give you an idea of the process and the considerations when choosing where to study.
Canada – While Canada may border the US, their approaches to sports scholarships are very different. The focus is more on education first and sports second.
As such, Athletic Financial Awards can only cover the costs of tuition fees and books and are often lower than those given in the US (source). As with the UK, these scholarships are not available for international students. While there are scholarships available for international students, they tend to be awarded for academic purposes and are mostly awarded at the post-graduate level (source).
Europe – The requirements for scholarships vary from country to country, so it is best to find out the processes and options in your chosen country before you make any decisions.
While it would seem that the best choice for a scholarship for international students would be to study in the US, remember to balance this against tuition fees.
|USA||$30,000 / year|
|UK||$13,130 / year|
|Canada||$22,500 / year|
European fees can vary drastically from as little as $1,000 per year in Italy, up to $13,130 in the UK. Check out this report on the cost of studying in European universities for more details on fees in order to make a more informed decision.
Even without a scholarship, you may find it more cost-effective to study in Europe and use those savings to support your development as a triathlete.
How Long Is A University Triathlon And What Are The Average Times?
NCAA triathlons are held at sprint distance. That is, swim 750m, bike 20km, run 5km. Each university has 7 members in the team, and the top 5 competitors earn points for the team as a whole (source).
The winning time for the NCAA female event of 2021 in Clermont came from Sam McInnes with a time of 01:03:56. See how you would have fared against the top ten finishers are in the table below:
|3||Zoe VAN DIJK||00:12:41||00:33:03||00:19:41||01:07:15.1|
Data taken from www.sportstats.us
For a detailed analysis of the average times for all triathlon distances by age group check out his article ‘Triathlon Distances & Average Timings Analysis (Infographic); Pick Your Right Fight!’
Triathlon is a sport that creates fanatics and, once you are hooked, it can become a huge part of your life. That said, we as a community, have to accept that it is not a mainstream sport and so will not have the same level of access or financial support as many other sports such as basketball, football, or baseball. This is particularly true at the university level.
If your reason for selecting a university is influenced by the access to triathlon teams then keep in mind that, while there are options out there, this will significantly reduce your list of potential universities.
An alternative choice may be to look for universities that offer great athletic clubs and search for triathlon-specific clubs outside of the university itself. This would widen your choice of universities, as well as increasing your chances of a sports scholarship if you can show excellence in your chosen discipline.