Lori Harward is the Director of the new Utah High School Cycling League, which will hold it’s first race on September 8th. We caught up with Lori not long after she hosted her first annual Leaders’ Summit, with 82 coaches in attendance.
The Utah League was announced last Fall and held it’s first official event only recently. What have you been doing in that time?
Since we were announced last fall, the most time-consuming and difficult element of being the director has actually been raising the needed funds to make this league happen. I can’t thank our sponsors enough for jumping behind us and supporting this movement here in Utah!
I have also been working hard on team development. Our rules for starting official high school clubs in Utah are quite unique and can be challenging. Because of these rules, some coaches needed support for starting their teams long before the Leaders’ Summit. On top of that, I’ve been finalizing race venues, planning and preparing for both the Leaders’ Summit and Cyclefest, writing newsletters, meeting with coaches, attending team parent meetings, board meetings, radio spots, organizing race equipment from NICA, organizing NICA training for our race staff. . . There’s a lot to do!
With 82 coaches, the Utah League smashed the NICA record for the highest attendance at a Leaders’ Summit. Are you surprised by that?
Not at all. It was exactly what I was expecting. Our strong participation reflected the fact that coaches have been working hard for quite some time to get their teams started due to Utah’s high school club laws. Some coaches were participating in NICA’s education webinars as early as last fall and I have spent one-on-one time with many coaches to help them get starts.
How many teams were represented at the Leaders’ Summit?
Of the 31 teams that are listed on our website, 29 had one or more representatives.
What’s the best thing NICA is doing to help new leagues get started?
It all comes down to “the NICA Way”, which is providing direct support, education, and governance to not only the League, but also coaches, teams, student athletes and families. There isn’t just one thing. As a league director, I receive invaluable help and training. Several of our race staff have been going out to California to receive training at NorCal and SoCal League races. Financially, we couldn’t have made it without a generous NICA Grant. Our kids feel important because of NICA’s emphasis on camaraderie over competition, their 5 core principles, and focus on life-long heath. This is “the NICA Way” and it’s what makes NICA leagues successful.
You’ve seen a tremendous amount of support front the community, from local companies to school districts to land managers. What is it about the Utah League that compels these organizations to get involved?
Utah has a strong cycling community. Utah hosts the largest one-day race in the nation (LotoJa), the largest women’s only ride (Little Red), the Tour of Utah, and world-renown Moab slick rock riding. It’s the individuals within each of those organizations that support the League and bring their companies/institutions along with them.
What is the next step as you prepare for the first race this Fall?
We have Cyclefest with Todd Wells coming up this weekend. I am working on scheduling a Wilderness First Aid clinic for my coaches as well as Rider Camps for the student athletes. And, of course, making preparations for the races themselves.