The environment was electric as 1,200 high school youth raced down the challenging Corner Canyon route on Saturday. They dodged protruding tree roots, low-hanging branches, and some times other racers. These 14-18 year-olds were on a mission to see who could get to the finish line fastest. Their faces were intent. They were also smiling.
The sport gaining momentum, exponentially, is high school mountain biking. The National Interscholastic Cycling Association, NICA, was formed six years ago in 2009. Their goal was to “build a new generation of passionate and committed trail advocates and environmental stewards” says Jerry Pomjie, Board President, NICA.
Why should your high school student participate? Here are three reasons:
High School mountain biking is one of the fastest growing sports
There has been 51% growth in student-athlete participation and 40% growth in licensed coaches since 2013. In 2014 there were 15 leagues in 14 states, nearly 400 teams, and over 5,000 athletes, according to NICA reports. The director of Southern Utah’s Flying Monkeys, Ron Jensen, reports that the growth of his team has doubled every year since they started.
NICA Values Benefit Students In and Out of the Classroom
NICA’s five core values are inclusivity, equality, strong body, strong mind, and strong character. Each student is encouraged to support each other on and off the race trail. According to NICA reports, high school mountain bikers demonstrate improved test scores, grades and time management skills as well as boosted concentration, memory and classroom behavior. Additionally, riders have increased self-confidence and strengthened social and cooperative skills such as teamwork and problem solving. High school mountain bikers also report reduced anxiety and stress.
Everyone can ride—and Continue Riding Throughout Your Life
There are no tryouts for joining a team. All skill levels are encouraged to participate. Male and female riders are given equally opportunity, and if you don’t have the proper gear, NICA is dedicated to providing the necessary items through a network of community-based gear donation centers and scholarships to help each rider get started. Once your high school student is introduced to mountain biking, she or he can enjoy the sport both competitively and recreationally beyond high school.
One of the most compelling reasons to get your high school student on a mountain bike is so he or she can have fun! “ In five years, NICA has created a movement that is gaining significant traction as more and more communities learn that cycling can be used to improve physical and mental health, provide mobility independence, build camaraderie amongst those that participate all while providing opportunities to get outside and have fun!”-NICA Annual Report
Photos used from NICA Annual Report
To read more see NICA’s 2014 Annual Report at www.nationalmtb.org