NICA 2017 Conference in Minnesota was a great success and a fun time for everyone. Photo: Todd Bauer / TMBImages
The 7th Annual NICA National Conference brought 70 leaders and speakers from NICA leagues across the country together in Minnesota to share lessons learned over the past year and to strategize on how to strengthen and further expand interscholastic cycling in America. NICA’s President, Austin McInerny, observed, “The conference enriched NICA League leadership by providing time to work together on important initiatives aimed at improving NICA’s overall programs and services. In meetings and on rides with residents of rural Minnesota communities, we heard very clearly that interscholastic cycling is empowering youth while building stronger communities. NICA’s national and league leadership is energized and ready to build on the outcomes from this conference!”
This year’s conference provided attendees the opportunity to experience three locations, starting with a tour of QBP’s headquarters in Bloomington, Minnesota. The conference then moved to Duluth and Cuyuna, Minnesota, IMBA Gold and Silver riding centers, respectively. Both these areas are home to amazing trails and the local communities have embraced and been bolstered by mountain biking as an economic driver for their community. City of Duluth Mayor, Emily Larson stated in her welcoming address, “The City of Duluth is thrilled to host NICA’s national conference! As we have seen on our local high school team, which my own son rides on, mountain biking is a great youth activity that helps students build strong body, mind and character, and also strengthens our local community by connecting youth with responsible coach mentors and trail stewards. Our city’s enthusiasm is growing – in the last 5 years our high school program has grown from 13 riders to over 90. Communities across America have much to gain by supporting NICA’s growth and expansion.”
City of Duluth Mayor, Emily Larson, addresses conference attendees. Photo: Todd Bauer / TMBImages
The trails of Duluth and Cuyuna did not disappoint! Photo: Todd Bauer / TMBImages
With both a Leadership track and a Coach Supporter track spread across four days, this year’s conference was shaped by the strategic influence of Dan Brooks, NICA Board Member and Georgia League founder; Kenny Griffin, Georgia League Director; Susan Helm-Murtagh, North Carolina League Founder and NICA Board Member; and Lauren Duensing, NICA Vice President, Programs.
League Leadership focused on developing their region-specific business plan, called a “Glide Path” to enable each league to set achievable milestones over the coming years to work towards sustainability. Coach supporters worked with IMBA ICP instructors to refine and learn new methods for delivering NICA mountain bike instruction programs and to refine a new training manual with involvement of REI Co-Op. Daniel Grillo, Program Manager with REI’s Outdoor Programs, conference speaker and attendee, observed, “I was excited to participate in the skills training built with scalable volunteer access in mind and supported by REI’s grant funding. We look forward to continuing to support NICA leadership, leagues, and coaches in their efforts to level the playing field for women and girls, foster the value of lifelong stewardship, and get more kids on bikes.”
Keynote speaker, Juliellen Simpson-Vos, Executive Director, Girls on the Run – Triangle, discussed the importance of capacity building and about a nonprofit’s ability to deliver its mission effectively now and into the future. Drawing from her seven years of experience as Executive Director, she shared leadership strategies, perspectives and challenges that occur with fast growing youth development organizations.
IMBA ICP Instructor, Lisa Scher, teaches skills to Coach Supporters. Photo: Tood Bauer / TMBImages
Additional guest presenters and instructors included: NICA lead trainers and IMBA ICP Instructor Trainers Ben Tufford and Lisa Sher; Park Tool’s Calvin Jones; as well as assorted NICA National Office staff and League Directors.
SoCal League Director Matt Gunnell remarked, “Even though I’ve been involved since 2008, I come away from the conference more inspired and bullish on the interscholastic cycling movement than ever before. The folks involved in building the movement (student-athletes, coaches, and staff) are truly fantastic and of universally high quality. What an opportunity we all have to build strong bodies, minds, and characters in the future mountain biking family!”
In addition to productive work sessions, each day included an opportunity for a locally-guided trail ride that were led by local NICA coaches and student-athletes!
This benchmark event would not take place without the following sponsors springing into action to provide support to cover logistical and meal costs: QBP, Visit Duluth, Bosch, Stinson Leonard Street, Podiumwear, Park Tool and TeamSnap.