John Hendricks realized early on that his family needed a special kind of sport.
“We have seven kids and one more on the way,” said Hendricks. “And we are adopting a child from Haiti later this year.”
For a while, his oldest two played baseball, but Hendricks quickly realized that three practices a week plus games was taking too much time. “Will was playing on one field and Sam was on another. I was running back and forth watching them, but they were just standing there in the outfield. I was burning more calories than they were.”
Hendricks had just begun training for triathlons, so instead of going to baseball practice, he started working out with his kids.
“We homeschool so are flexible during the day. I can take them on a mountain bike ride or go for a run. Soon, I was telling them, ‘Hey, there’s a kids’ race, do you want to sign up?’ For us, it’s not about being first. It’s about my kids having an active lifestyle. As an adult, it’s a lot easier to fit in a run than organize a baseball game.”
As Will and Sam began entering races, Hendricks’ younger children followed. “Two of them did a race when they were three. They did a small swim, rode on a strider bike, and then ran 400 yards. Of course, there was also ice cream afterwards.”
Sam is now into martial arts and making his way towards a black belt. But Will – who is going to be 15 – has become an XTERRA competitor like his dad.
“Will legitimately trains,” said Hendricks. “I got him a mountain bike for his birthday and he saved up for a road bike. He swims with a masters group every Tuesday and we do trail runs on our farm.”
At XTERRA ATX in April, Will competed in his first XTERRA triathlon with his dad. John was 9th in his 40-44 age group and Will was 4th in the 15-19 age group, completing the 800m swim, 13 mile mountain bike ride, 6k trail run in 3:20:21.
“If we are going to establish XTERRA as a sport for the next generation, we need to include them,” said John Hendricks, “And XTERRA does that. I love that XTERRA doesn’t just cater to today’s racers, but also caters to tomorrow’s athletes. My kids can meet a World Champ and shake hands with Josiah Middaugh. You can’t say the same thing about Lebron James.”
Hendricks’ advice to other parents is not to push. “We’ve all seen that parent at the ball games and on the soccer field. Sam has crazy talent but he doesn’t want to ride with Will and I. That’s fine. Karate is his thing.”
Hendricks adds that sometimes, it’s a balancing act to train, work, and spend time with his growing family.
“I have to be very intentional. But that’s fine. That’s what it’s about. I don’t know of any mother or father who said, ‘I wish I spent less time with my kids.’”