In December, Jennifer Garrison made the sort of history Title IX legislation was intended to encourage. TCU had decided to start a women’s triathlon program and named Garrison its first coach. The Horned Frogs became only the second Power 5 athletic department to add what the NCAA has designated an “Emerging Sport for Women.”
This year, Jennifer will start bringing athletes to campus in preparation for the program’s first competitive outings in the fall of 2023. When they arrive, she’ll try to pass on the lessons the sport has taught her.
“Through participating in triathlon I have learned what perseverance means. The human body is amazing both in what you can train it to do mentally and physically. I am in awe of that as a coach and athlete. I was a strong athlete not because of the talent I was born with but because of the work ethic I had and the willingness to dig miserably deep,” she explained via email. “As a coach I would take work ethic any day over an athlete with no drive and talent.”
USA Triathlon has worked in recent years to establish women’s triathlon at the collegiate level, and it is well on its way to becoming a NCAA championship sport by the middle part of the decade. Jennifer, who had coached individual triathletes, benefited from the organization’s push. TCU will be the second program she’s started from scratch.
“The associate AD from my last school was a friend of mine from college. When NCAA Triathlon was added as an emerging sport, my last school was one of the first eight to add the sport. She immediately thought of me to coach,” she said.
The opening she filled came at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She won three NCAA Division III national triathlon championships there and also coached the women’s swimming and diving teams for two seasons.
Jennifer graduated from Benedictine College in 2001. She had started her college career as a varsity rower at Purdue before giving that up to pursue her passion for triathlon. She wound up competing with Team USA in World Championship competition. Jennifer won overall amateur female honors at the 2006 USA Triathalon National Championships and placed third at the 2014 USAT Championships. She’s also twice finished the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. She continues to love her hybrid sport that combines three different endurance disciplines.
“I still swim, bike, and run!!! It's a part of my fiber. As a coach I am immersed in it, but as an athlete it's a part of my life. I can't imagine not heading out for a run to enjoy the weather. I try to fit in races when I can,” she told us.
“As a mother of a 13-year-old daughter, I am excited for her future knowing that she has role models and women that can succeed in a sports career. ”
Though she still enjoys participating in her sport, Jennifer has also adjusted her perspective on it as her life has progressed.
“The number one most important thing in my life that has opened doors for me would be my children. Having kids makes you see everything more clearly. My career focus sharpened and life goals were more realized,” she said. “My daughter competes now in triathlon so that ends up taking my free weekends now. But I enjoy watching more than I enjoy competing.”
She hopes to provide her daughter and the young women she coaches opportunities greater than those she had at their ages.
“Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there weren't that many ‘famous’ female athletes. I started following triathletes around 1999/2000 when it came into the Olympics. Other than that, it didn't play a huge role, which is shocking now with how social media influences our young women so much.”
As a woman at the forefront of establishing another athletic outlet for her gender, Jennifer wants to seize the chance to make a lasting impact on developing athletes.
“As a mother of a 13-year-old daughter, I am excited for her future knowing that she has role models and women that can succeed in a sports career and have equal opportunities for their talents as well.”
Fort Worth Sports has created a series of blog posts in conjunction with the 50th year of Title IX. Each article will profile a woman who has made substantial contributions to the vibrant Fort Worth sports scene.