The 6th Annual NICA National Conference brought 77 leaders from 18 of the 19 NICA leagues across the country together to share lessons learned over the past year and to strategize on how to strengthen interscholastic cycling in America. The conference empowered NICA League Directors to better serve their growing membership and equipped NICA licensed coaches with a holistic approach to working with adolescents. Conference attendees enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together in Eagle, Colorado where the trails are incredible and the locals have embraced mountain biking as an economic driver for their community.
The annual conference serves many purposes, including unifying and aligning NICA’s vision and work for the upcoming year, as well as equipping and inspiring league’s leadership and coach supporters in their respective roles. This is a combined effort and sharing of knowledge across the entire organization is paramount. The conference offered both a Leadership track and Coach Supporter track, with 22 sessions spread across 4 days. For the coach supporters, some of these sessions included on the bike skills instructions.
Keynote speaker, Kristen D. Dieffenbach, PH.D, Associate Professor, West Virginia University shared “Off The Front.” Elaborating on why NICA’s revolutionary model is set apart from United States youth sports organizations, and how NICA will be the cutting edge organization for change. “I was so pleased to hear all of Kristen’s information and research, and how NICA is leading the way in improving how coaching is done,” said one attendee.
Additional guest presenters and instructors included: Stuart WIllick, M.D., University of Utah; Harlan Price, TakeAim Cycling; Ben Tufford, Cognition Endurance Sports Coaching; Bill Welsh, NICA Coach Resource Website developer; Aimee Ross, IMBA-Teen Trail Corp; Bonnie McDonald & George Flynn, Backcountry Lifeline; as well as NICA National Office staff and League Directors.
Each day began the right way…with a 7:30 AM trail ride! Attendees gathered, self selected ride level groups and hit the beautiful trails surrounding Eagle, Colorado. The only challenge was curbing the temptation to ride all day. For an account of one ride, check GU Energy’s blog here.
This benchmark event would not take place without the following sponsors springing into action: Town of Eagle, Eagle Outside, People for Bikes, GU Energy, Clif Bar, Podiumwear, TeamSnap, Athletic Event Supply, Bike Flights, The Dusty Boot, simpatiCOWORKING, and Bonfire Brewing
Observations from attendees:
Mike Kuhn, Pennsylvania League
“The direction we are headed on so many fronts: the focus in our program on developing youth athleticism rather than sport specialization, the build out of an outdoor recreation advocacy and trail care component, the further development and refinement of character building initiatives are at the leading edge of youth sport. We are incredibly excited and proud to be part of this nationwide effort that is revolutionizing interscholastic sport and to bring these opportunities to Pennsylvania middle and high school students for the first time this fall.”
Susan Helm-Murtagh, North Carolina League
“This was my first NICA annual conference, and I found it incredibly inspirational to interact with the many impassioned people from across the US that make up NICA. Each one brings so much wisdom, experience and knowledge, made even greater by the spirit of collaboration and strong sense of mission and purpose that pervade this organization.”
Matt Gunnell, SoCal League
“The NICA Conference has become the premier way for leadership in the interscholastic mountain biking movement to make quantum leaps forward in their program development.”
Dylan Gradhandt, Idaho League
“The NICA Conference is a fantastic opportunity for the Idaho League to stay at the cutting edge of youth development. 4 days of interactive lectures and workshops from experts in their field super charges our local state efforts towards simply getting more kids on bikes. A huge thank you to all participants, contributors and organizers for another great NICA event.”
Andrea Dvorak, Virginia League
“As a first-time attendee, I can definitely say that I’m leaving super motivated and with a much greater appreciation for NICA and all those involved.”