So you want to form an interscholastic mountain bike team or club? Starting and managing an interscholastic mountain bike team is no small task – but incredibly rewarding work. Don’t let the list below overwhelm you, take it one step at a time using the following advice and documents to help ensure your effort is a success!
Are You Ready?
Over the years, NICA has created an expansive list of resources to make the process of starting a team or club simple. With a little dedication and effort, you can be at the front line of the interscholastic cycling movement.
Define Your Vision
As you approach school administrators, potential sponsors, student-athletes and parents, you will find that people have wildly differing views on what interscholastic mountain biking looks like – as well as many who may not have any reference point at all.
Having a defined vision will allow these people to see what you are working towards, while also giving you focus as you move forward.
There is no single model for what NICA interscholastic mountain bike teams look like. Teams range in size and complexity. Some may only have one coach and a few riders while others have up to 73 riders and over a dozen coaches. In addition to ranging in size, teams also have many difference structures to their organization. We recommend attending a NICA race, or better yet, a practice of a local NICA team to get a better picture of what NICA teams look like and what you want yours to be.
- Example NICA Team Constitution (Google Doc)
Walking through the front door of your school and asking for permission to start a mountain bike team is not the most successful way to go about it. Instead, seeking permission should be a longer process.
Build up a list of students, parents and teachers (which can be especially powerful) so that the school administrators can see that there is demand and support for a mountain bike team.
Don’t just approach the first administrator you come across. Ask your contacts if anyone knows someone working at the school, ideally a cyclist, and can make an introduction. Being able to ask the right person, with a personal connection to either the people involved or the sport, can be the difference between “no” and an enthusiastic “yes”.
Starting a mountain bike team is a large undertaking, and the more support you have from your local community the easier it will be. Find an experienced coach in your NICA league that can act as a mentor as you develop your program. Contact your League Director or NICA Coach Licensing at NICA for help finding a coach mentor.
You will also want to canvas the local community to raise awareness about the team and look for individuals willing to help out. Start with groups that have an obvious connection; local cycling clubs, road or mountain, are a great place to start. Many adults will be happy to volunteer for one of the roles on your team (see the “Team Tasks” document for a recommended breakdown of roles within the team). Consider requiring a minimum commitment, something like one practice a week for 12 weeks, to ensure that your fellow coaches are willing to follow through.
Local businesses are often very willing to support high school mountain bike teams. You will have a greater chance of success if you approach business owners with a connection to the team or to cycling. Reach out to your existing supporters to see if anyone can introduce you to a business owner. Remember to approach them with a well defined vision for what your team is going to look like, a specific list of needs for the team (if they give you money, what will you spend it on?) and several benefits for different levels of sponsorship (team jersey, team website logo, etc.).
Get The Word Out And Recruit Riders
Success in recruiting starts with finding and using the right support.
Student-athletes who already ride, parents of interested students, teachers, bike shops and cycling community members can all get the word out about a new team, so get them involved early. If every student interested in cycling recruits two friends for the team you will have a successful program in now time. The same concept applies to adults.
When talking with prospective riders, offer them a flyer and a team contact e-mail and/or phone number for riders and parents to contact with any questions.
- Sample Team Meeting Flyer (8.5″ x 11″) (Google Doc)
- Recruitment Posters for bike shops (11″ x 17″) (contact your league director)
- Tips for getting media attention
- League stickers and brochures (contact your league director)
- Team Meeting Sign In Sheet
- “The “dirt” on NICA, the league, teams and coaching (PPtx)
Have A Meeting For Riders
If possible, student meetings should take place at school during regular school hours.
Seeing all the participants in one place will be an inspiration for everyone. Be prepared for the first meeting and keep your goals simple. In addition to introductions, present an idea of the club’s structure and goals, including the requirements of participation. Be ready to acknowledge students’ ideas and dreams; they serve as the impetus for achieving the single most important goal: getting them out on bikes.
Be sure to convey that participating in the club will be tons of fun but that there are risks involved with the sport. Establish early on that you have high expectations from the student-athletes. Set a tone of respect, safety and good sportsmanship. Be sure to arrange a second meeting and follow up plan with the students. Collect a list of names, student e-mail addresses, parent e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Let the riders know about the parent meeting you’ve planned and ideally the location and details (this can be given as a handout).
Have A Meeting For Parents
Have your students’ parents meet sometime in the early evening; ideally at the school.
Introduce yourself and describe your cycling experience and your qualifications for working with youth (certified teacher, parent, CPR/First Aid/WFA Certified, etc). Explain why you started a club and what you hope to achieve. Arrange for any other adult coaches who will be working with your team to be at the meeting so parents can meet them as well. Describe the structure of the club, what is expected of the riders and what will be expected of the parents. It would be best to have an informational packet to hand out.
Not all parents will be avid cyclists, and many may not be familiar with the sport. Prepare a short presentation on mountain biking (see links below for media). Be sure to explain the logistics of your riding plan as well as your risk management plan (see Chapter 3 of the coaches manual). Acknowledge mountain biking has inherent risks for injury. Also, let parents/guardians know there are many ways for them to get involved with the club. This meeting is also a good time to pass out the necessary forms you need completed and signed before students can participate. Be sure to collect names and contact information of the attendees so you can create an e-mail list to keep parents/guardians informed.
Financial support is an important part of running a team / club.
It costs money to participate as a team and it costs money to participate as an individual on a team. While individuals are responsible for their own race fees, if a team works together to fund-raise for the team, the Team Registration fees as well as some of the individual rider Race Fees may be offset depending on the amount of money raised from team activities. Below are some examples of team budget and fundraising activities.
Attend a NICA Leaders’ Summit
Our annual Leaders’ Summits bring together all coaches – both new and experienced – to develop skills and knowledge, share strategies, and build community.
This conference will promote a holistic approach to coaching that creates an environment in which young people can grow and thrive. During the Summit, coaches will have the opportunity to learn from their peers and collaborate on ideas to improve the quality of their instruction.
The First Team Ride!
Congratulations! The club has come a long way and it’s time to enjoy the first team ride.
Set yourself up for success with plenty of support and modest expectations. Set the goals for this first ride to have everyone come on time ready to have a fun ride on beginner trails or have skills clinic in the open space of a park or school lands. The expectation for this ride is for riders to familiarize themselves with their bikes, their peers, and a format where all the riders to feel safe and included, with more challenging and fun rides to come.
- Register the team with your league (Don’t have a league? contact email@example.com about the Indie Club Program)
- All student-athlete and coach paperwork submitted (waivers, medical release, etc.)
- Conduct bike and gear checks for all riders (some days or weeks before is best)
- Conduct rider and parent meetings to review all rules and safety tips
- Attend On the Bike Skills Training at a NICA Leader’s Summit to learn best practices of conducting a skills clinic
- Become well versed with NICA Risk Management practices (Chapter 3), attend NICA Leaders’ Summit and Risk Management webinars
More Information and Resources
If you have completed these steps, you are well on your way to a running a successful interscholastic mountain bike team. If you have any questions, please contact your league director. Don’t have a League? Contact NICA Coach Licensing Manager Mike McGarry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NICA Coaches Resources page contains many of the above links, plus more. Reference it for documents that can help make you program a success.
Looking for league logos or pictures to use? Head to the NICA Media Center page.