Saturday, January 22, 2011

Washington High School Cycling League - Leadership Summit

Today I did something a little out of the ordinary - attended a seminar or Leader's Summit as titled by the folks running the event. This little shindig was all about launching high school mountain bike racing here in Washington State, as patterned by the successful programs running in California and Colorado - thanks to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association - or NICA for short.

I've been reading about the high school racing scene in California and Colorado for a few years and always thought what a fantastic idea. We need more kids on bikes and this venue is one great way to accomplish this. Where these programs were launched, there's now hundreds of kids racing against each other on a high school level. I vowed to somehow be involved if and when it arrived in Washington. Well, through a few mountain bike contacts, I knew this was heading our way, so attended the event to get more info and see if and where I'd fit in. Lisa Miller is the Executive Director of the Washington chapter of NICA, who I know from her running the Indie Series a few years ago.

Matt Fritzinger who started NICA in Northern California was one of the speakers, as well as a few other folks. They've built an entire high school sports program that just so happens to revolve around mountain bike racing. It's documented and packaged to allow folks to launch it in their own areas under the NICA umbrella. Washington and a few other states are in start up mode. NICA provides the guidance, insurance, and know how to assist in getting the wheels rolling. This summit was the incentive and knowledge transfer to get people out and sell this program to local high schools, then run the show. The first race is scheduled for April, with no schools or kids yet to be involved. An ambitious schedule for sure. With the knowledge and passion of the people attending, I think it will happen. The first year will be more of a "exhibition year" for Washington, with just two events and no state championship. That will come later, I'm sure of it.

Today was really focused and geared towards future coaches - lots of great info advised. In the back of my mind, I considered getting involved on a coaching level - that would be huge fun and really rewarding. I also thought maybe 11 year old Ian, my racer son, could tag along on training rides and be involved a bit. That's not the case, non team members cannot participate - due to many reasons. Seeing what's involved is also an eye opener and involves a lot of time (obviously). I can't see abandoning my own kids during the racing season to focus on this. I want Ian involved somehow, as well as the rest of the family if interested. Still, there's plenty of other opportunities to assist - training ride leaders, assisting running the races, etc. I'll keep in contact and do something to help launch this project, just on a lower time requested set up. In a few years, my kids will be in high school and I'll be psyched to be fully involved.

Break time at the summit. Many passionate bike people involved. Very cool indeed.

This summit is a two day event, tomorrow planned to go over teaching basic mountain bike skills. There's also some riding and social time scheduled. I elected to just participate today and still picked up plenty of knowledge. I act as Ian's race coach and we basically just ride and wing it. I have a pile of documentation from today with great advice on coaching kids. I plan to use some of this to assist Ian with the upcoming race season. Ian elected to skip Little League (after trying it last year) to race more this spring. I also made a contact at the event that may wind up getting Ian on a junior race team.

Plus, I talked to some other folks about another program that gets younger kids together for fun mountain bike rides, not racing. I'd dig getting involved with that as well. I'm all for getting kids riding and always have been, especially since I now have kids myself. So, an informative and fun day for me - even if I probably won't be involved with the high school scene as much as I anticipated. It's all good.

Oh yeah, this event was held at DirtFish Rally School, a pretty cool place that offers rally car training. There's even a pro rally car sitting in the lobby. Nice facility in Snoqualmie, Washington. Interesting setup for (fading) gear head me. That's okay though - I'll stick with bicycles.


  1. That is so absolutely incredible.

  2. @MrDavey - that it is. A really cool program. I'm psyched to see it arrive in Washington.

    To see hundreds of high school kids racing mountain bikes - amazing. It will happen here, I'm sure. This kind of gig attracts all kinds of kids - those who would never sign up for teams sports, team sports kids looking for something new, kids who never do "sports" at all. From the training involved, they all get fitter and outside.

    The program is not geared to find the next world champion - it's about kids getting outside, fit, and having fun - and being part of a team. Awesome stuff.

    As a side benefit, some very fast kids have moved on to higher racing levels from this program. It's grass roots, bottom up, way of developing riders. The right way to do it - not the elite/down top approach of USA cycling.

    Anyway, I'm truly psyched about the whole thing.

  3. There are a lot of cool programs that end up in schools that are not mainstream and this sounds like a cool one. I know some of the schools here have received a grant for bikes at school. It is part of their PE program.

  4. @Bikewright - I checked out the link you sent - awesome.

    We need more programs to get kids on bikes - racing and just riding.