March 31 Director's Note It's the apex of our busiest spring season and NorCal and SoCal races are in full swing. The races are such great fun and

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March 31

Director's Note

It's the apex of our busiest spring season and NorCal and SoCal races are in full swing. The races are such great fun and I'm looking forward to our trip to Washington this weekend for their opening race. Our league directors are an inspired bunch, hard as nails – and it's such a privilege to be working with them.

NICA hosted a call last week for folks in other states interested in starting new leagues. With fourteen states represented, we are back to scratching our heads and thinking hard about how we can accommodate more leagues in 2012. We'd especially like to fast-track our coaches training program. We welcome suggestions!

We are grateful to all the coaches, parents, volunteers and donors and sponsors that make our growing programs possible.

Back to it–
Matt Fritzinger

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Colorado Leaders' Summit May 1st

The Colorado High School Cycling League’s annual Leaders’ Summit brings together coaches, assistant coaches, ride leaders, and parent volunteers—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.

This is a great opportunity to spend a weekend in the company of peers and energize for the upcoming season. The Colorado Leaders' Summit has 4 openings left for out-of-state league founders – we highly recommend anyone endeavoring to start a league take advantage of this opportunity.

Team Talk with George Martinez, Luther Burbank High School

A few years ago Officer George Martinez was a schools resource officer in the Sacramento Police Department, working to deflect at-risk children from a future of violent crime and prison. After meeting with the NorCal League at the Sea Otter Classic in 2007, high school mountain biking seemed an obvious activity for the G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education And Training) program that Officer Martinez was running as part of his schools resource work.

Now George runs a well-established high school mountain bike racing program for at-risk students, which is intended to educate, motivate, and encourage them to make wise life choices.

Q: What are the goals of the G.R.E.A.T. program?

A: “We try to equip students with sound decision-making skills, to counter negative influences in their lives, and to help them see what they can get if they finish school, go to college and get a degree."

Q: What resources were available when setting it up?

A: “We used bikes from unclaimed property. Bike mechanics came forward to get them in good working order, and that was our racing fleet. Since then we have been fortunate to receive some grant money for the club, which has the name Luther Burbank High School Mighty Titans.

Q: How have the team numbers varied over the past three years?

A: “I'm now on patrol, but when I was working in the schools I had more access to kids. A couple of years ago we had 12 or 15 that were in high school and several more in junior high. Last year we dropped down to four team members, but now we're back up to 12 in total, and eight of those are racers.”

Q: What did you do to grow the team again?

A: “The vice-principal from Luther Burbank came to a race and was very impressed with a video made by one of the coaches. My partner edited it, and we now have a video we will be able to show in schools. It has helped a lot. There's a lot of recruiting to be done, and we think the video can help us get results."

Q: What kind of results are you seeing among your team members?

A: “If I keep just one team member a year from going to prison or getting hurt in gang violence, that's a success. There's a lot of discipline and education in this team, like not trash-talking other trail users, and respecting the land. The freshmen are still learning, but the seniors are starting to look like life-long bikers, asking about how they will be able to continue the sport after they graduate high school. It's very important to keep kids in the program for several years.”

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Washington League kicking off Inaugural Season This Weekend

On Sunday, April 3rd, the Washington High School Cycling League kicks off its inaugural season with a race at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA. The event is expected to have a great turnout of student athletes, with confirmed teams coming from around the state.

Lisa Miller, who heads up the Washington League, says, “With 20 teams coming from schools ranging from north of Seattle to Spokane in the east, and as far south as the Oregon border, I feel tremendous statewide support for this important youth program.”

The second event in the series will take place on May 1st in the Seattle area (exact location TBA). That date will be a historic day for NICA, with races in the Washington, NorCal and SoCal Leagues taking place on the same day.

Inside Look with Matt Gunnell, SoCal High School Cycling League

The SoCal League was the first step in the creation of NICA. After the first season growth was over 100%, and going into year three growth is at 50%, including an influx of female student athletes. League director, Matt Gunnell, tells us about SoCal League, and offers up some valuable advice for new and prospective league directors.

Q: How long has SoCal been a NICA Project League?

A: The SoCal League was the first spin off of the NorCal League (pre-NICA), so we have been a de facto Project League since summer of 2008. SoCal is unique in that sense as we are the testing ground for most new ideas.

Q: When is it planned to become a full NICA Chapter league?

A: We are essentially functioning as a Chapter League but our goal is to become an official Chapter League before the end of our current racing season. Prior to the end of May 2011.

Q: What have been the major things you've needed to do and still have to do to creating the infrastructure to become a NICA Chapter league?

A: As I mentioned, SoCal is fairly unique in that we're really the proving ground for any new programs and systems. By the time the 5th, 6th, 7th Leagues come aboard, much of what we've learned through trial and error will be even more formalized and easily repeatable.

That said, we've needed to create a sound Board of Directors with officers, we've needed to create relationships with existing promoters and folks with inroads into race venues, we've needed to build up enough equipment and resources to put on many of our own events, and more importantly, we've needed to build up a broad base of coaches and families who buy in to the processes and philosophies espoused by NICA. There is no short cut to that last one. Culture doesn't transfer at the drop of a hat.

Though we are essentially functioning as a Chapter League, one of the things we need to continue building is a broad base of financial supporters who can help us close the gap to being even more sure footed than we already are.

Trail Blazer Julia Violich

Q:What prompted you to become a NICA Trailblazer?

A: I've been involved with the NorCal League since 2003 as a coach, as a bike shop owner/sponsor, and as an industry adviser to the league. I really believe in what NorCal is doing for the mountain biking community, and I wish to support that.

Q: Is there a better way than NICA to attract new long-term cyclists?

A: That's difficult to say, but bringing kids into mountain biking is the best way to introduce them to the outdoors and the environment, and I see it as the best way to foster environmentalism in our youth. Hiking just doesn't excite them in the same way that mountain biking does.

Q: You have been with NorCal since before NICA was thought about. How do you see the relationship developing between NorCal and NICA?

A: It's important that the national effort doesn't cannibalize the state league by taking all the sponsorship dollars. Moving forward, it is important that NICA remain sensitive to NorCal's growth. NorCal will continue for quite some time to be the largest Chapter League and it has a huge knowledge base.

Challenges for the NorCal League moving forward revolve a lot around taking care of coaches. Retaining and finding capable coaches is difficult. A mountain bike coach can work with a group of five kids, not 20, like in lots of the ball sports. And it's not like a parent can just step in and take over for a while. You need somebody who is a skilled mountain biker, who knows wilderness first aid and is trained in the relevant risk management. So we need a big cadre of trained coaches.

Q: What are the roles of a Trailblazer in NICA?

A: Set examples, maintain their support of the association and encourage their peers to support the association too. These are some of the main things we can do.

Individuals interested in joining Julia as a member of the NICA Trailblazer team should contact Rachael Lopes.

Washington League Clothing Coming Soon

The Washington League's first event is this weekend, and soon you will be able to show your support around town by sports the official Washington League cycling clothing. We are taking pre-orders for Washington League jerseys, set to arrive by mid-April.

Arriving at the same time are NICA Cycling Caps, NICA Arm Warmers and NICA Leg Warmers, all great compliments to your official League clothing.

Head over to the NICA Store to get your official League and NICA clothing today.

Calendar

Apr. 3 Washington League Race #1 - Fort Steilacoom Park at Lakewood, WA
Apr. 10 SoCal Race #3 - Power the Pinnacles at Lake Arrowhead
Apr. 10 NorCal Race #3 - Central Coast Invitational, East Garrison (near Monterey)
Apr. 14-17 Sea Otter Classic, Monterey, CA
May 1 NorCal Race #4 - Boggs Mountain Classic, near Cobb, CA
May 1 SoCal Finals at Vail Lake, Temecula
May 1 Washington League Race #2
May 1 Colorado League Leaders' Summit
May 14 Colorado League CycleFest Dinner and Silent Auction
Mat 15 Colorado League "Ride To Eat, Eat To Ride"
May 15 CA State Championships at Los Olivos
June 30 2012 League bids due

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