Greater Waco Sports Commission’s ‘Team Waco’ aims to help more athletes achieve their goals

Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 7:48 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The nonprofit, Greater Waco Sports Commission, is reopening applications for its Team Waco program for training and competing in the Ironman, and the organization hopes to also expand its outreach to help more amateur athletes in the community.

“Our long-term vision is for Team Waco to be a program that really helps enable this entire community, no matter what the athletic adventure is,” Greater Waco Sports Commission Executive Director, Mike Vogelaar, said.

He said the program would reach out to all ages from little league baseball to rowing. If sports groups are struggling with financial hardships, Team Waco hopes to provide resources.

“Whether it’s rowing, whether it’s triathlons, whether it’s volleyball or Little League, we want to be able to help be there and help support this community in athletics,” he said.

Vogelaar said their support would reach the Greater Waco community, especially the East Waco community that may lack some resources to support local athletes.

“We want to be able to serve the entire Greater Waco community,” he said “East Waco is certainly an area that we want to be able to help support, and, so, there are a lot of incredible athletes there that might be lacking some of those resources.”

Vogelaar said the nonprofit hopes to start taking action soon, but they do need the community’s support to get started, including partnerships and donations from local businesses and involvement from residents in Waco.

“We need different local corporations and businesses to be able to...really help us steward the resources that we have here locally,” he said. “We also need just involvement from the residents, and, so, we’re forming committees to be able to help evaluate the different opportunities that lie ahead and then be able to put action steps to be able to help accomplish those.”

In addition to Team Waco expanding their outreach, the program is continuing to sponsor a handful of Waco athletes interested in competing in the Ironman.

Michaela McCown joined Team Waco in training for and completing the Ironman in October. However, she had two reasons for applying for Team Waco.

“I did want to see if this was a new way that I could challenge and grow myself in a way that I didn’t think previously possible, but, also, I really wanted to be a voice and an advocate for the environment in that race setting,” she said.

She wanted to make an impact on Waco’s environment by participating in the race.

“As a person who loves the environment and nature, and, as an athlete, we utilize the environment and environmental resources on a daily basis and specifically as an athlete,” McCown said.

So, she worked with Ironman, Team Waco and Keep Waco Beautiful staff to kickstart initiatives to make the race more environmentally friendly, including more recycling stations, pizza box composting, water monster tanks, solar charging stations and more.

“My main message that I wanted to share was we rely on the environment for everything,” McCown said. “Whether or not you’re, an athlete, all of us rely on the environment, and our actions have an impact on the environment in a negative way. We need to be good stewards of those resources, not just for ourselves as athletes, but for everybody.”

She encourages other Waco residents who may be interested in racing for a reason to apply to the program, it might just change your life like it did hers.

“The whole Ironman journey was just like that moment of, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” McCown said. “This is absolutely incredible. This is life changing, and I’d never had a team experience growing up...so to have this group of people just surround me and cheer me on and encourage me, it was just an absolutely incredible experience.”

She credits Team Waco for the support, mentorship, equipment, coaching and sponsorships to achieve this goal in her life and her teammates’ lives.

She said if anyone is interested in participating but may be hesitant, the program is possible to incorporate into peoples’ schedules, but it is a commitment.

“It’s not overwhelming...It’s given in little bite-sized chunks that makes it manageable and you’re able to really focus on the day and the week ahead,” she said. “But, it is a time commitment, that’s for sure. Any Ironman athlete has to...have great time management and discipline and getting up early and getting to work or to the gym and getting those workouts knocked out to help prepare you for that race.”

Applications for Team Waco are open until Feb. 19 at 11:59 p.m. You can find the application and information here.

The board will select a handful of athletes who apply.