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Coaching High School mountain bike racers – The Basics

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) is a phenomenon exploding across the country getting more kids on bikes. Kids racing bikes to be specific. #morekidsonbikes

This article, coaching high school mountain bike racers, provides tools and training resources for high school coaches to effectively train their student mountain bike athletes within the rules and philosophies of NICA.

high school mountain bike training plan

NICA Mission: Founded in 2009, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) develops high school mountain biking programs for student-athletes across the United States. NICA provides leadership, services and governance for local leagues to produce quality mountain bike events, and supports every student-athlete in the development of strong body, strong mind and strong character through their efforts on the bike.

NICA has connected the magic of bikes, the exuberance of teens and the passion of adult coaches into a winning format. Many of these all-volunteer head-coaches report the experience has been one of the most rewarding of their lifetime. The head-coach position of a NICA team is a challenging job. The head-coach of our local team here in Southern Utah, Ron Jensen, jokingly re-titled himself team-manager instead of head-coach as his position includes so much more than coaching; risk manager, role model, motivator, organizer, authority figure, teacher, fundraiser, administrator, recruiter and cheerleader, to name a few.

high school mountain bike coach
Most head-coaches enter their position with a large passion for mountain biking and a strong desire to do the best for their students but are lacking the specialized background in coaching high school mountain bike racers.

NICA has five core principles; inclusivity, equality, strong body, strong mind and strong character.

All NICA teams, practices and races are held to these five core principles. There is no bench in NICA. Every student gets to practice and race. What this means for the head-coach is a team with diverse abilities. Most NICA teams have the full range from brand new riders to athletes competitive on a national level. The challenge a head-coach faces in coaching high school mountain bike racers, is to design a season plan with smooth and all-inclusive practices that deliver success for every athlete along the ability spectrum.

Training the Basics: Safety – Joy – Performance

The two basics to coaching high school mountain bike racers that need covered for every student at every practice and race are, #1 safety and #2 joy.

#1 Safety:

Coaches should take time in early season practice sessions to educate students on ride rules, trail etiquette and safe riding expectations. Every practice should start with a pre-ride bike check, helmet check and brief safety reminder talk. Safety is the top priority for every student and coach.

#2 Joy:

Every athlete trains harder and performs at a higher level when they are enjoying practices. For the most part this is pretty easy! Riding mountain bikes with your friends is generally an enjoyable experience. Raising performance level with training and hard work is rewarding and brings joy.

When coaching high school mountain bike racers, taking care of #1 safety and #2 joy fulfills the majority of training needs for new riders and most Freshmen category student-athletes. Training focus for these riders should be on building technical ride skills, general fitness, mechanical knowledge of the bike, hydration and nutrition education and trail etiquette. Most of all they should be having fun out riding with team-mates. The training plan for Sophomore, Junior-Varsity and Varsity category riders should be more performance driven which brings us to #3 of our basics.

#3 Performance:

A NICA team is a race team focused on preparing athletes for a series of 4 – 6 races. Racing pushes the performance requirements beyond just riding around with friends if a student-athlete has goals to be competitive at the league races. Even Freshmen category races are fiercely competitive at the front of the field. This is the part where NICA team head-coaches without a strong coaching background in coaching high school mountain bike racers seek me out for advice. Safety and joy are straight forward but pushing performance levels within the tenants of safety and joy, while upholding the NICA five core principles is not. Our next article in this series, coaching high school mountain bike racers, will delve beyond the basics and detail how to bring performance into a NICA team season plan and build success for each individual student-athlete.

At LW Coaching we have pre-season training plans for each  state in the NICA league. Your high school mountain bike team can use these pre-season training plans, while staying within the National Interscholastic Cycling Association pre-season coaching guidelines and training restrictions.

Browse our LW Coaching High School mountain bike training plans here.

By Lynda Wallenfels Google+