JaxSports brings kids triathlon to EverBank Field

JaxSports brings kids triathlon to EverBank Field

Incredible vibe creating momentum

If Peter Pan had spent more time swinging a bat, shooting a hoop or passing the pigskin, he may have finally grown up. Perhaps what the boy with the never-ending childhood needed was a kick start such as the First Coast Kids Triathlon.

The triathlon, now in its seventh year, gets boys and girls age 5 to 15 off the couch and into a healthy, positive lifestyle. In an effort to retain the title of World’s Largest Kids Triathlon, this year the goal is for 3,000 finishers.

To meet the finish-line goal that is 50 percent greater than last year’s, JaxSports (the Jacksonville Sports Council) is partnering with the YMCA, the Jacksonville Jaguars, venue management company SMG and the City of Jacksonville, to hold the first kids triathlon ever to finish inside of an NFL stadium.

In conjunction with the First Coast Kids Triathlon, May 2-3, 7:30-11 a.m., Gator Bowl Charities and YMCA of First Coast will present Healthy Kids Day on May 2, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Part of a national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids and families, Healthy Kids Day features activities such as the Guinness World Record attempt for World’s Largest Family Boot Camp, swim testing sign-ups, youth sports skills/drills clinics, art contests, petting zoo, inflatables, face painting and other family activities. The Y will also launch Wellness Passport for kids to earn a ticket to the 2016 Taxslayer Bowl.

Subhead: Off the couch, on the turf

If youth now – regardless of socioeconomic status – would spend more time exercising their lungs, instead of exercising their thumbs, they will probably grow up to be healthy adults, surmises JaxSports Executive Director Alan Verlander.

“The natural inclination is to think it’s the underprivileged child who needs [to do] that, but in reality the ‘privileged’ kids who have access to video games and computer are not exercising,” said Verlander. “The goal of the triathlon is to get any child away from their screens and gadgets and get them to exercise.”

He believes the draw to get kids in the triathlon will be the finish at EverBank Field, where every finisher will be featured on the largest video boards in the world.

An eye for opportunity

Verlander didn’t spend much time on the couch, participating in sports at The Bolles School and playing college baseball at Samford University, where he majored in speech communication. While he didn’t consider a future as a professional athlete, what he did was parlay a love for sports into a fulfilling career.

For nearly two decades Verlander has kept his “eye on the ball” – first landing a job as director of marketing and operations with the Gator Bowl Association, then heading back to Samford University as associate director of athletics, which ultimately positioned him to be hired as Jacksonville University’s athletic director.

Three years ago this month Mayor Alvin Brown tapped Verlander for the position of the city’s executive director of sports and entertainment, where Verlander’s job was to make the city a destination for sporting events. He left that position 18 months later for Gator Bowl Sports, as its chief operating officer, with similar goals: to bring athletic events to Jacksonville.

Then, a little over a year ago, a public-private partnership was formed to showcase Jacksonville as a sports destination and Verlander was named executive director for the new Jacksonville Sports Council, aka JaxSports. He still serves as COO for Gator Bowl Sports.

Rooting for Jacksonville

Verlander, a Miramar native who even now lives just two streets from where he grew up, is proud of the San Marco area. “That whole area has been my whole life and seeing the changes, and more development, and the resurrection of San Marco Square, is really cool. Being a resident there is very important to me,” he said.

A great ambassador for Jacksonville as well, Verlander is upbeat about JaxSports.

“My business is sports … so many times over the years we’ve fought against each other, but finally we have a leadership group in Jacksonville that is coming together and saying enough is enough and it’s time to elevate our city … it’s a lot of the business leaders, the sports leaders, the Jaguars embracing that culture,” he stated.

JaxSports board of directors has representatives from all the major stakeholders in town, Verlander stated, from the City of Jacksonville to Visit Jacksonville to the JAX Chamber of Commerce, and the Jaguars, all supportive of a unified effort.

“There has always been a decent vibe in this town revolving around sports and culture. However, at this particular time we are experiencing an incredible vibe which is creating serious momentum for sports and culture in our town,” Verlander concluded enthusiastically. “I’ve been in Jacksonville a long time and there is such a positive feeling and vibe for the present and future of our city like nothing that I have seen before.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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