Spring League Director Interview: Vanessa


Vanessa has directed the NorCal League since 2010, and has also served as a volunteer, board member and coach for the organization.

A native Californian, she spent many years as a high school teacher before taking over as League Director, when the NorCal model burgeoned into a national movement. Vanessa is a proud cancer survivor, and Juliana Bicycles ambassador, and uses her role and life experience to eagerly support the growth and development of the sport.

How long have you been a League Director?

Six years.

What led you into this position?

I was the co-founder of a high school mountain bike team in Petaluma, CA, and I loved it! Coaching was so rewarding and wonderful, and I loved what the NorCal League was doing, so I eventually joined the board of directors. I was on the board for a while, eventually becoming the board president. When Matt Fritzinger decided to leave NorCal to found NICA, I decided it was time for me to leave my job as a high school teacher and pursue my other passion…getting teenagers on mountain bikes!

What is your favorite thing you get to do as a League Director?

My favorite thing to do as a League Director is to work directly with teenagers. As a former educator, I still really love working with, teaching, and learning from, teenagers. In this position I get to do this at our camps, clinics, team practices, events, and races. I also really love teaching girls-specific skills courses!

How has being a League Director changed your life?

Being the League Director has changed my life in lots of ways. I never studied nonprofit management so I have learned from numerous mentors, and through self education. This process has been altogether fascinating, inspiring, challenging, and exciting. I enjoy being a lifelong learner, so this has been a great perk of the job. Additionally, it has changed my life because of the incredible people that I get to work with. My colleagues at NICA, my Program Director, and all of our coaches, parents, student-athletes, sponsors, donors, and supporters have really enhanced my life in so many ways. Although I have always had a great community of family and friends, being the director of the NorCal League has truly enhanced my life by adding so much to my community.

What inspires you?

Haha, do you have all day to listen to my answer?! What inspires me? I am inspired by the idea of serving youth and fostering youth development with the bicycle as the tool to do so. I am inspired by the growth that I see in teens as they learn how to overcome physical and mental challenges. I am inspired by the volunteerism and commitment to service, in order to better the lives of local teenagers, that our coaches demonstrate. I’m inspired by seeing kids unplug and enjoy the hell out of nature. I am inspired by the potential that cycling has to truly change the way that people eat, sleep, travel, exercise, and socialize. I am inspired by the kids who take it upon themselves to mentor other kids on their teams. I am inspired by the motivation and heart of my fellow colleagues who work long, unglamorous, challenging hours for little pay, all to create a transformative experience for other people’s children. I am inspired by the people who choose to support the work we are doing, by donating and volunteering, and stepping up to help wherever it is needed. And the list goes on, and on, and on, and on. 🙂

How has being part of NICA helped you and your region’s efforts to get more kids on bikes?

Being a part of NICA has helped the NorCal League by providing us with the much-needed support that it takes to run a high school sports program. NICA has provided us with innumerable pro-bono services, plus many affordable services that we simply could not get anywhere else. The people of NICA are always open and excited to collaborate on new ideas, and this innovation is something that we really appreciate. Also, the sponsors that support NICA have a direct impact on our regional Leagues, which is quite helpful for our growth and development.

What is one thing you would like to say to other states about your League?

I would like to tell the other Leagues that if we ever have a national high school championship, the NorCal League is going to crush you all! Just kidding…kinda. 😉 I’d like to say that we are here for all of the new Leagues, and I hope that y’all will reach out to us if you ever need our support!

When my last race of the season is complete…

When my last race of the season is complete, I always have mixed emotions. I am sick of working super hard outdoors doing manual labor; however, I am really sad not to have the incredibly inspiring and rewarding interactions with my coaches, race crew, and student-athletes. Oh, also, I always get a massage, go on a weekend trip with my husband, and don’t talk about bikes and youth development for at least a week 🙂


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