NICA GRiT is a national program that aims to increase female participation in the sport of mountain biking by 10% over the next five years with a focus on recruitment and retention of girls and female coaches in NICA leagues. Currently, girls represent 20% of the NICA national student-athlete participation. Focused efforts are needed to increase teenage female involvement as well as the number of adult female coaches. By providing skills development, promoting positive physical health, confidence and self-esteem and providing coach training, NICA’s goal is to provide a fun, safe and competitive environment for young women to excel.
GRiT Panel at the 2018 National Conference. Photo: Todd Bauer / TMB Images
NICA has been extremely effective at establishing middle and high school cycling programs in 25 state and regional leagues over the last 7 years. 2018 NICA programs are projected to include over 15,000 registered student-athletes and nearly 7,000 licensed coaches. While the number of student-athletes participating in NICA programs has grown nearly 30-40% annually, the overall percentage of female student-athletes participating has remained consistent at 19-20% for the entirety of NICA’s existence.
NICA programs, although successful in retaining females once they join, are not currently reaching as many girls and women as they should. In order to recruit and retain more women and girls into NICA programs, it must change some aspects of its programming and recruiting to invite girls and women to ride mountain bikes. With help from the Walton Family Foundation, a number of other sponsors and NICA leagues across the country, NICA is now making a concentrated effort to increase the number of girls and female coaches in NICA programs. The GRiT Program is NICA’s approach to recruit and retain more girls and female coaches in NICA programs.
GRiT Program Definition:
The GRiT program is a NICA national initiative to recruit and retain more female student-athletes and female coaches in NICA programming.
Why do NICA leagues need a special program to recruit more girls and females if NICA programming is inclusive and equal?
Equality is not synonymous with equity. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equity is giving everyone the respective tools needed to be equally successful. Although NICA has been successful in providing equal opportunities to all once participating in our programs, we can only be truly equal when we address many females need different things to feel welcome and invited into NICA programs.
Girls tend to thrive in NICA programs once they join. Where NICA has to improve is in our recruiting and inviting girls into our programs. NICA must focus on equity - giving girls and females the experiences and opportunities to ensure they feel welcome and invited to participate in NICA programs - if it is to increase our overall female participation.
To address this challenge, the GRiT Program recognizes that girls and women often join sports and activities for different reasons than boys and men, especially in a male-dominated sport like mountain biking. GRiT focuses on both recruitment and retention.
Without GRiT, we are missing a significant opportunity to offer girls and women the amazing experiences and empowerment that mountain biking provides. To empower all our participants to seek inclusivity and equality. To make everyone feel welcome. To make mountain biking equally accessible to all.