As we celebrate ALL our parents this spring - we wanted to give a special shout out to the parents of NICA student-athletes who also volunteer as coaches! Meet Paula, aka "Team Mom" or "Momma Bear." Paula's 13-year old son found a passion for mountain biking last year when he joined the Phoenix Trailblazers with the North Carolina League. We caught up with Paula to find out how her son's passion helped her find her own passion for mountain biking and how she went from sitting in the parking lot during practice to being a NICA Coach!
How did you get involved with NICA?
I became involved with NICA as a parent in 2017 cheering from the sidelines. We had two willing parents from our school (Amy and Greg) that had a desire to get kids on bikes and out on the trails (Thank you both!). Their love of riding overflowed to my son and the rest of the kids on the team. I was the Mom who said "You won't catch me out there - I'm too old and way out of shape!"
The first race I went to was at Fisher Farm, and I walked the first part of the trail and said "heck no, I have got to turn around - I don't want to see the potential danger!" Not to mention I was in tears when each of our kids took off at the start. There was no way I was getting our there! So I continued to cheer our kids on at the races at at practice. I would sit in the parking lot or take a walk while they would practice.
There weren't too many practices where Coach Greg wouldn't say "I have an extra helmet..." and Coach Amy would tell me I could do it and that it isn't scary. My response would always be the same - I'm too old and out of shape!
Once the season was over, Dale wanted to keep riding, so I got on craigslist and found a used Trek. It wasn't anything fancy - but it worked! Dale and I would ride around campgrounds where we would camp and he would teach me how and when to shift gears. When we would go up hills, he would say "Mom! Keep pedaling, the reward is almost here!" Meaning we were almost at the top and then it was all downhill. He kept saying "I don' know why you don't ride with the team - you know you can!"
Then this year came around and the Trailblazers had a family fun ride so I decided to do it with Dale. I still felt old and out of shape - but I managed to make it! I guess you could say I was kind of hooked after that. I enjoyed riding with the kids and working with the other coaches. At first I'd fall behind, but after a few weeks, I was able to keep up with everyone! I was finally getting the hang of it - sorta - I still need to work on my shifting! There is a lot of shifting.
I took my first big fall of the season on February 24th and managed to break my wrist, putting me on the sidelines for part of the season. I was surprised at how much I missed being able to ride!! I have yet to face the "cheese dip and bridge" where I fell, but I am working back up to it and I will do it!
Paula and her son, Dale, at a North Carolina League Race.
What is your favorite aspect of being a NICA Coach?
I enjoy being able to see how much or kids have improved over the season and to see all their hard work and effort pay off. I also enjoy working with a group of adults who are kids at heart and want to share their passion for riding with the kids on our team.
How has being involved with NICA impacted your life?
Being involved with NICA has given me a new activity that I can share with my kiddo! It has opened doors to places that I have never been before an probably wouldn't have gone if Dale hadn't wanted to join the team last year.
Do you have a particular ride or experience from NICA race or event that really stands out?
Each ride I have taken stands out simply because I finished them. From the first one, the one where I broke my wrist, to the first pre-ride I did. I must say that my one and only pre-ride was overwhelming and intimidating. It gave me a whole new respect for the kids racing, especially the first timers.
What is one thing you’ve learned as a new NICA Coach and Parent that you’d like to share with parents?
You shouldn’t ever say the word never! Give it a try. You might surprise yourself. I’m not going to say it want be hard, there were many times on the trail where I said Lord what was I thinking! And He would remind me I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!
The enjoyment that you will get out of seeing the smiles on the kids faces when they accomplish something they thought they couldn’t do outweighs any negative out there.
Not to mention your own accomplishment of getting out there and trying it! You don’t have to be a superstar you just have to have a willing heart to give it a try. Who knows you just might get hooked like I did!
Thanks Paula! NICA wouldn't be NICA without all the support from parents and coaches like you! Thank you to ALL our student-athletes parents, coaches and volunteers!