"Service With a Smile" October 2017 Athlete of the Month
John White, 66, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
John White takes his sports seriously, make no mistake about it. But we’ve noticed that even in the heat of a triathlon, he’s always the one who waves and manages to beam a smile as he makes his way by spectators.
The more you learn about the lifelong Milwaukee resident, the more you appreciate that he wants nothing more than for others to join him in an active lifestyle.
“Wherever I go, I push the agenda to promote the Games,” the eight-time National Senior Games athlete says. “Of course, I’ve found many people who did not play sports in high school and have never competed at anything. They’re sedentary. I have learned to take each person for where they’re at and promote not only senior sports, but also to get involved in any physical activity because it will be good for their health.”
John developed his people skills from participating in high school and college athletics, continuing through a 30+ year educational career with Milwaukee Public Schools as a teacher, coach, counselor, director of athletics and administrator.
Now 66, John recalls that he always loved to swim competitively, but let the activity lapse after college. “When you’re married with kids and working long hours, you really don’t have a lot of time for training and sports,” he explains. He eventually entered masters swimming, and says he was “reborn as an athlete” when introduced to triathlon in 1990. He didn’t know anything about cycling, and had never excelled as a runner. “But I do know swimming, and I liked the challenge. I just tried it and I liked it.”
He must have loved it, because he made the USA Triathlon Century Club with his 100th event in 2013, a feat that contributed to his induction into the WSO Hall of Fame that same year.
Longtime Wisconsin Senior Olympics (WSO) athlete Agnes Reinhard made John aware of Senior Games before he was 50. He agreed to be their triathlon coordinator and helped recruit others of age to enter The Games. He started competing in WSO’s triathlon and other sports as soon as he became eligible. He notes that his wife Mary also took up the sport.
With his larger-than-life personality and success with recruiting, John was asked to serve on the WSO Board of Directors in 2009. When the president’s position suddenly became open in 2012, John agreed to step up, and he still serves in that capacity. Then, NSGA asked him to be coordinator for Member Games in the Great Lakes Region, and in 2014 he was elected to the NSGA Board of Directors.
John’s accomplishments and volunteer efforts did not escape notice by the NSGA family, as he was nominated for and awarded the Harris Frank Distinguished Service Award at the Celebration of Athletes program during the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana. “It was a great honor,” he says. “There are a lot of great people doing the same things I am, with my Games and around the country. So, it’s humbling to be identified as one of them.
“Here in Wisconsin, there are many people on our board who are doing super-fantastic things in the community,” he adds. “It’s a team effort, and they deserve credit for some of the recognition I’ve received.”
What makes John smile most is when someone follows his lead and gets into The Games. “A great moment for me was when a guy walked up at the triathlon at Cleveland in 2013 and reminded me that I had told him he should join in with his wife and do the tri. It made me happy when he thanked me for helping to get him going.”