Recently, NorCal team Tamalpais High School has seen dramatic growth, especially in the amount of girls participating. In the interview below, Tamalpais High School Coach Christy Allen provides insights on the growth and the overall success of the team this year.
Q: How did you first get involved in coaching?
A: [Christy]: I have been coaching the local middle school cross-country running program for several years. When my son joined the high school mountain bike team as a freshman the coach wanted help recruiting girls onto the team and felt that a female coach would be helpful. His argument was persuasive and I started with the Mountain Bike team at the beginning of the 2012 season.
Q: What attracted you to Mountain Biking?
A: [Christy]: For many years I’ve been riding a mountain bike on our local fire roads. My children encouraged me to try more adventurous single-track trails. They have really helped me build my off road skills.
Q: What has been your coaching experience with your student-athletes?
A: [Christy]: Following the growth of student athletes during the season is the most rewarding experience for me. For some athletes the biggest gains come in building endurance, for others being able to ride sections of trail they previously couldn’t marks their success. Teenagers are enthusiastic, energetic, funny, and they seek new challenges, which makes them a lot fun to be around. Watching these students fix their own flat tires is also an incredible experience!
Q: How has this experience changed you?
A: [Christy]: My off road riding skills have improved, a lot.
Q: This year the Tamalpais HS Team had a significant boost in participation, in particular by the girls on your team. What do you think was attributed to this increased growth and overall interest in High School Mountain biking and the High School Mountain Biking Movement?
A: [Christy]: Yes, with freshman boys and new girls our team size doubled this season. The students did a fantastic job at Club Day last fall promoting the team. The girls had a focused effort to help recruit other girls. Many of the younger boys are siblings of older riders. Some students join in sophomore or junior year when they decide not to return to other spring sports. Several students commute to school on their bicycles. Many of our new riders came to the team with very little experience riding on trails. I think our team environment is welcoming and all-inclusive, from the student captains, riders, coaching staff and parents.
I think part of the growth and success of our girl’s team can be attributed to offering activities specifically for the girls. At the beginning of this season the girls attended a skills clinic and I dedicated time during rides for skill practice. This season we had some girl’s only rides. We had a flat changing clinic and a clinic on basic bike maintenance and cleaning. Another part of the success is directly related to the respectful attitudes our boys and girls have toward each other. All riders are part of the team. The girls and boys encourage each other and celebrate successes in practice rides and race results.
In addition, one of our local business sponsors has put forth a challenge to our team each year to continue to build the girls program. Thus far we have reached the target goals. With this support we have been able to purchase new team equipment, which benefits the whole team. There is a tremendous incentive to share our success with our sponsors.
Q: Do you have high hopes for increased participation in the upcoming season?
A: [Christy]: I do hope we can continue to encourage riders to return and new riders to join the team. We are always trying to boost our team score at the races. However, it will be a huge challenge to grow every year as much as we did this season.
Q: What was your first impression of NICA?
A: [Christy]: At the first race I attended I was very impressed with the number of athletes participating. The organization of the racing events is always a feat to behold.
Q: What has surprised you the most NICA events?
A: [Christy]: The variety of events offered by the NICA community for coaches, including Wilderness First Aid training, the Leaders Summit, Webinars, Rider Camps and Clinics. We coaches have an incredible range of opportunities available from NICA to assist and support us with leadership, organizing, directing and building our teams. I feel that getting together with other coaches at the Leaders Summit contributes immensely to the success of our league by reviewing the Coaching Manual, talking about Risk management, talking about the successes and challenges of the past season.
Q: What would you tell someone who was thinking about volunteering in NICA events or becoming involved in High School Mountain Biking?
A: [Christy]: I would say that this is an experience you will never forget! There is an opportunity for everyone interested in being involved. Volunteer roles can be connected to riding with the athletes, helping out at race venues, or helping with coordination and administration of team tasks.
Q: If you weren’t coaching, what would you be doing instead?
A: [Christy]: Well, I don’t know yet. This is a lot of fun and I look forward to next season.