NICA Quickstart Guide
START A TEAM
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. The first step for many successful coaches is attending our fall coaches conference: the Leaders Summit. The leaders summit is a great opportunity for new coaches to ask any questions they may have and learn about all the resources the League can provide.
Administrators, teaches, parents, students and/or community members can start a cycling club at their local high school. Extensive cycling experience is not necessary. One should simply have the desire to introduce kids to the sport of mountain biking.
Teams are broken into Division 1 and Division 2 categories based on their team size (and not their school size). Please see the rulebook for more info on Division specifics.
Registration for NorCal League teams happens mid-October. At this time anyone who intends to coach a team should register with the League so that they are covered under our insurance. League teams are limited to the number of weeks they can have pre-season practice. In addition, teams are not insured outside of these limits. Teams can commence limited pre-season activities on October 15th. Allowable pre-season activities are bike checks, fun rides, mechanical workshops or skills clinics. Between October 15th and November 31st, teams are allowed to have up to 6 scheduled pre-season activities. Regular training practice (3-4 times a week) can commence on December 1st. All team rides or other training activities must end within two weeks of the final League race. A more detailed description can be found in the rulebook.
The NorCal League currently spans from Salinas all the way to Nevada City. If you are interested in starting a team outside of the current League, reach out to Vanessa, the League Director.
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. In addition to ranging in size, teams also have many different structures to their organization. We recommend attending a NorCal race, or better yet, a practice of a local NorCal team to get a better picture of what NorCal teams look like and what you want yours to be.
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 the NorCal league that can act as a mentor as you develop your program. Contact your League Director Vanessa Hauswald 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. 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.).
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 no 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.
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 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. 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.
Scholarships are available for race and camp registration. Scholarships are need based and awarded based on fund availability. Scholarships rarely exceed 50%.
Scholarships are available for Leaders’ Summit, Wilderness First Aid and CPR fees, and On-the-Bike Skills clinics, as well as NICA coach licensing fees. Scholarships are need based and awarded based on fund availability. Scholarships rarely exceed 50%.
Scholarship Reporting: Scholarship recipients are required to complete an online “Scholarship Fund Impact Survey” upon completion of the riding season for which they received their grant. Recipients are also encouraged to submit photographs and videos from their activities during the season including; racing, training with the team, coaching and instruction, etc. Information on how to complete this survey will be provided to grantees.
TEAMS BY LOCATION