Story 6 – Oakland Comp/Skyline High

Tom

Photo: Tom Low

Story #6 — On Finding a Ride to the Ride

Two stories in one this week!

Hear from both Jesús (above) and Tom (left), about their experience with Oakland Comp/Skyline High. This is a great example of how–with the help of some amazing volunteer leaders–mountain biking is taking hold in Oakland, CA.

Follow these links for a shortcut to learn more about Oakland Composite and Skyline High.

First off, what is your name?

My name is Tom Low.

What team are you a part of?

I’m a part of Oakland Composite, and I also volunteer with one of their sub-teams, Skyline High School, Oakland. It’s a growing team that spun out of Oakland Comp.

What role do you play with Oakland and Skyline?

I’m a general volunteer, and working on getting my NICA coaching credential.

How long have you been involved with the team?

This will be my third season.

How did you get started with the team?

My daughter was interested in Oakland Composite, so we joined a Fun Ride. The rest is history! She’s now a junior riding with the Bishop O’Dowd team.

Great, so let’s get into it: tell us the story behind this image:

I help the team by driving kids from Oakland to the races. I often volunteered to drive the Skyline kids, and other racers who don’t have the same level of parental support that many kids do. I also help with race logistics – it takes a bit of effort to get the kids and their equipment to the races.

So that particular photo was a rainy and muddy race. I do a number of volunteer jobs at the races, my favorites are sweeper and course marshal. I enjoy taking action photographs. I also photograph around the venue–pre and post-ride shots. And that particular day I thought it was a great day to shoot, because the kids were wet and muddy, and had big smiles on their faces.

I’ve been shooting my kids sporting events for many years, and photography is one of my many hobbies. I’ve served as a team photographer for many, many sports over the years. Mountain biking is a great thing to shoot! I’ve been taking thousands of pictures, once in awhile; I will get the “money shot.”.

I got to know Jesús through the Oakland Composite team, and I think he’s a wonderful person—an awesome student-athlete. I’m one of his many admirers.

You mentioned transportation. Could you talk for a minute about how your team has overcome that as a challenge?

I live in Oakland and have been here for many years, so I have an appreciation of the socio-economic demands of our high school kids, and understand some of the challenges of working in the community*. Knowing Coach Mike Raytis [Skyline High School head coach] is a treat, since he works with so many kids from different backgrounds. He and I just hit it off, so I thought: “If I can help him by getting kids to races, I’d devote my time and energy to that.”

My motivation really is see how kids learn to love the outdoors and love cycling, and have a lot of fun. Who cares what place they come in for the race, frankly. It’s about the outdoors, the cycling, the teamwork–all those positive attributes the league provides. As a sweeper, I get to see the kids in last place, and they get just as many cheers as the leaders. It’s a great vibe.

In your words, how does this image reflect your experience with the riders on the team?

Well with Jesús, it’s really an example of a kid who didn’t even know how to ride a bike, but now he’s getting out there, helping with the team, helping maintain the bike fleet, and he’s had to endure some pretty harsh conditions–strange places, environments… some muddy race course out in the middle of nowhere–with this big smile on his face. That pretty much sums it up. He’s a remarkable young man who endures through these obstacles in order to have a great time and enjoy his sport.

So how did you personally get started in riding bikes?

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, just to date myself. We didn’t have parents driving us around to sports practices or anywhere else, we had to get there on our own. My brothers and I would ride around town. And then I went to UC Davis, which of course is a cycling Heaven, so I rode everyday in college. I continued on through all these decades of riding for fun and exercise. I did a little bit of racing in my youth, but mostly have been a weekend warrior. I just love being outdoors and riding, by myself or with friends, going on adventures. I’m an outdoor adventure nut, and this is just one of the things I do.

My daughter loves many of the same things, so it’s been really great to have her growing up with skiing, camping, riding bikes, fishing… whatever.

Let’s jump to feedback: what can we do as an organization to improve?

Well, in Oakland for example, there are several high schools that do not have teams. I’d love to have a team at Oakland High and Castlemont – where some students face greater challenges to go out and ride a bike. Someday, I’d like to bring NICA to even more high school kids. Really, the cycling community at large could benefit from more diversity and being more inclusive. This could be achieved in part through raising more scholarship funds, and the not so simple things such as getting transportation arranged so kids can get to practices and races.

What is your personal favorite part about being involved with the #morekidsonbikes movement?

The one thing!? Well, I guess it’s really just having the chance to get the kids outdoors and riding bikes, and appreciating those things–it’s really satisfying. Less screen time, less social media… getting out there and being analog, if you will. Getting them outdoors and starting to love the environment!

Thanks for your time, Tom!

*Tom is a nonprofit executive at Playworks, a national organization serving kids at over 1,300 schools across the USA.


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