In celebration of Black History Month, we’d like to introduce you to the Tallahassee Thunder Composite Team. They’re making waves in their first season with the Florida League as they are focused on inclusivity, equity and getting #morekidsonbikes across the greater Tallahassee community. Team founder and director, Bree VanOss established the team last year by focusing on creating partnerships with local youth-serving organizations, recruiting coaches from diverse backgrounds, providing equity to lower the barriers to entry through fundraising and finding practice locations that were accessible for all student-athletes across the community.
To facilitate access for all potential student-athletes in the Tallahassee area, the team worked with the local Tallahassee Mountain Bike Association to fundraise over $10,000 which went directly to the student-athletes, off-setting the cost of league and race entry fees and provided for 7 scholarship bikes for student-athletes.
Last Father’s Day, after participating in a community bike ride sponsored by theOmega Lamplighters, a local non-profit youth organization that seeks to empower youth with academic and social skills, community connections and opportunities to ensure their roles as active, educated and responsible citizens, Bree connected with the Omega Lamplighters to recruit coaches and student-athletes. NICA’s values of fun, inclusivity, equity, respect and community align with the Omega Lamplighter’s principles of leadership, academics, maturity and perseverance.
The Omega Lamplighters held Zoom meetings and helped Bree connect directly with parents of interested student-athletes to work with them to join the new team.
One of the student-athletes recruited through the Omega Lamplighters, is James, a senior. James has risen to a leadership role with the team on and off the bike. A skilled rider athletically, James mentors younger student-athletes and helps lead warm-up drills at practice. Off-the bike, James works to recruit more student-athletes for the team.
As a composite team, there were a lot of options for practice locations across Tallahassee. Using input from riders, the team selected a location that was equally accessible for all student-athletes. Initially Bree was concerned that their practice locations weren’t close to the best trails – but after a few practices, he soon realized that it wasn’t the most “rad” trails that made practices fun for student-athletes, but simply connecting and riding bikes.
Currently, the Tallahassee Thunder has 25 active student-athletes from diverse backgrounds across Tallahassee. All seven scholarship bikes are also proudly being utilized, and the team is excited to start their first season with the Florida League in the next few weeks!