Would you like to form a high school mountain bike team or club?
Starting and managing a high school 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?
Take a look at the materials listed to the right. We have compiled the files needed to get you started.
STEP 1 - Define Your Vision and Team Structure
As you approach school administrators, potential sponsors, student-athletes and parents, you will find that people have wildly differing views on what high school 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 Alabama League 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 50 riders and over a dozen coaches. In addition to ranging in size, teams also have many difference structures to their organization.
Look at what the need is within your community and determine if you team is going to be a Composite Team (community based), a School Team (official or unofficial school club based team) or a Home School Student Team.
STEP 2 - Build Your Support Network
It's important to have the right support network in place before you make any contacts with local schools. In addition, you're going to need help managing and coaching your team. So reach out to as many friends, other parents, local bike clubs and any other source for local support. The most successful teams have built a network in their community of team supporters, coaches, parents and sponsors.
STEP 3 - Get Permission
Walking through the front door of your school or the community center 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 or community educators can see that there is demand and support for a mountain bike team.
Don’t just approach the first administrator you come across. Seek out a teacher, athletic director or community staff person who is receptive to healthy orientated initiatives. 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”.
STEP 4 - Get The Word Out And Recruit Riders
Students 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 no time. The same concept applies to adults.
When talking with prospective riders, tell them about upcoming meetings, or events where they can get more information.
STEP 5 - Have A Meeting For Riders and Parents
Have your students’ and parents sometime in the early evening; ideally at the school.
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.
STEP 6 - Register your Team in the Pit Zone and Get Out There and Ride
The Pit Zone is the league's online registration system that manages all participants from teams to coaches to student athletes. It is an invitation only system and you'll need to talk with the league director to get an invitation to register a new team. It's also important to know that no one can participate in NICA activities without being registered in the Pit Zone and everyone must have a signed waiver on file. So make sure to talk with your league director if you've made it to this stage and are ready to be a part of the most exciting youth sporting program in the state.
More Information and Resources
Don't feel like you have to tackle this process on your own. The league has a ton of resources to help and you have plenty of coaches in the state who would be happy to mentor you through the process. In addition you'll find brochures, posters and other useful materials at the top of this page that you are welcome to download and use.
Last but not least, rest assured that you're not alone. NICA has 522 (and growing) teams across the country. If they could all do it, then so can you!