Given NICA's explosive growth – a 100 percent increase in ridership from last year – we are challenged to meet the increased demand and also fulfill the needs of our seven existing leagues. Plus, we need to plant the seed for new leagues and nurture those that will come onboard this year and in the future.
In conversations over the past year with NICA’s Board of Directors, we've decided the best way to accommodate this growth is for me to transition from my role as Executive Director to focus on other areas that will help NICA prosper for many years to come. The search for a new executive director is ongoing, and I'll remain in my current position until that transition occurs.
It's been 14 years since I formed a mountain bike club at Berkeley High School, where I was a math teacher. Creating that team, and helping it grow into the NorCal League, and eventually NICA, has been highly rewarding and a great privilege. I'm so grateful to the generous sponsors and supporters, incredible volunteers, dedicated staff and the loving friends and family who have made it all possible.
These changes will put NICA in an even stronger position for continued success. I remain dedicated as ever to the mission of growing high school mountain biking from coast to coast. If it's not already obvious, we are just getting started!
Danielle Emter leads a fellow racer on some sunny single track.
Student Spotlight on Danielle Emter, South Orange County Composite Team
Danielle Emter is a freshmen on the South Orange County Composite Team, racing in the SoCal League. James Carillo, Danielle's coach, said about her, "Danielle is a talented rider that brings spirit to the team. She has been excited to compete in the league since Leila started telling her racing stories three years ago."
We caught up with Danielle halfway through the SoCal race season.
What made you want to race in the SoCal League?
My dad is a friend of Jamie, the head coach of the South Orange County Composite Team. Some of my friends joined the team and recruited me to join too. I've been trying to get more people on the team since I started too! I already got one to join and I'm always looking for others to join.
I live right near a great trail system and I've been riding those trails for 8 years now. I've done the Over the Hump mountain bike series and have had a lot of fun, but I was always one of the only girls my age. Racing in the SoCal League there are a bunch of girls I get to compete against. I love that!
What attracts you to the sport of mountain biking?
I love getting outdoors and on the trails, especially when the whole team is there. I especially like riding the technical trails - I've been riding dirt bikes (with motors!) for a long time and that has helped my mountain biking skills.
The Texas High School Mountain Bike League triumphed over surprisingly inclement weather in the first race of its inaugural season. In early March, the opening race had to be postponed after double the monthly average rain fell in just 24 hours on Burnet, Texas, just days before the event.
Incredibly, a similar story played out two weeks later at Rowlett Creek Preserve, Garland, Texas, when five inches of rain fell on March 23, necessitating an urgent search just four days before the race for a venue that wasn't flooded.
Thus the historic first high school mountain bike team race in Texas took place at the Rocky Hill Ranch, in Smithville. It was a triumph for the league, including the 57 student athletes that attended from all over the state of Texas.
Looking back on that weekend, we contacted Vance to find out what in his experience might be useful for the leagues that are preparing for their first events.
What are the three main learning points that might help other new league leaders?
One. Trust the NICA staff! Most of them have more race experience than anyone I have ever met. The NICA race product is nearly perfect for high school students.
Two. Envision the first girl's field at the start line. How many will be there? What is needed to get them there? What is needed to get the first girl to complete the first lap and ride under the finish banner?
Three. Category placement is important, especially during a league's first race. Positioning student athletes with previous successful race performance in the proper category is essential to the success of a race. Having a strong student athlete crush a field because he or she is placed below their capabilities doesn't serve to reward all student athletes for the work they have put in to prepare for a race.
What sets NICA apart from other youth cycling programs?
NICA's focus fills a gap in the cycling world. We are about using cycling to build strong minds, bodies and characters among high school students. The cornerstone of this is the culture of the leagues and of their races. This culture is what makes a NICA race special. It is what allows all student athletes who race in the leagues come across the finish line with a big smile on their face and an incredible feeling of satisfaction. It is magical to see it in action!
What’s been the feedback from your first race, and what are your feelings about the league's future?
The feedback has been far better than I could have ever imagined. One coach said that the race looked like and was run like a world cup race. Another coach said that after racing bikes for 27 years, this was the best race he had ever seen. Every student athlete that I have talked with said that the race was incredibly satisfying!
The future of the Texas League is brighter than ever. There are 2.4 million high school students in Texas and 60% (1.2 million) are within about 4 hours of each other. We have many amazing miles of trails yet to be ridden.
Is there anything else you wish to say?
Thank you to the NICA staff and the national sponsors! Their vision and drive to bring this the high school students of America is incredible. I am humbled to be a part of this movement.
Meet Lauren Duensing, NICA's New Program Director
Lauren Duensing recently joined the NICA team as Program Director. With NICA experiencing exciting growth at both the local and the national level she adds momentum and zeal to the program department. She is passionate about NICA's vision and has seen first hand the impact the sport can have on student-athletes and families. Working with NICA programs staff and League directors, Lauren will work to ensure that all 65 events (and growing!) this year will deliver the high quality experience for our student-athletes, coaches and parents that NICA has become known for. Lauren is committed to the continued pursuit of NICA’s mission to bring high school mountain biking coast-to-coast and to expand the impact of the high school mountain biking movement.
She comes to NICA as a parent impacted by the NICA story. An avid trail runner and reluctant cyclist, she was lead by her two children who raced (one of them still does) with the NorCal League to become an enthusiastic mountain biker. Years beckoned by the ease of two running shoes verses the complexity of riding - she finally watched a league skills clinic her son was attending “from afar.” From that day on she has been riding. Her family has been involved with NorCal for five years. Lauren was taught and lead by her 16 year old daughter to her first Mount Diablo Summit (in Northern California). “Mountain Biking has defined and changed our family. It is what we do and it has had a profound impact on our lives.” She wants to provide that for families across the country.
NICA Booster Fund
NICA is pleased to announce that our Spring 2012 Booster Fund grants have been awarded. The Booster Fund helps offset expenses directly related to participation in NICA league and team activities, which includes funding for equipment for student-athletes, and travel expenses for coaches and teams. By covering these expenses, the fund actively assists in the expansion of league ridership and helps enable every American teen to strengthen body, mind and character through participation in high school mountain biking.
Individual micro-grants totaling $10,385 were awarded to 17 student-athletes, 8 coaches, and 9 teams from the NorCal, SoCal, Washington, and the Texas leagues. Fall-racing leagues will have the opportunity to apply for Booster Fund grants in September, 2012. Congratulations to our inaugural Booster Fund grant recipients!
NorCal League Hosting Summer Invitational Camp - Open to All Leagues
The NorCal League will be hosting an Invitational Camp, a five-day camp at the University of California at Santa Cruz campus. The camp will combine great riding, intermediate and advanced skills clinics, educational seminars on a range of cycling topics, as well as some great times with fellow student-athletes. Student-athletes from all NICA leagues are invited to attend.
The camp will take place June 25–29 in Santa Cruz, California.
“The NorCal summer camps are a blast! Friends, fun, bikes, and food – there isn’t much else to ask for. It’s the best week of the year – the excitement and fun of race day all week long.” – Nate Byrom, NorCal League Alumni
This year's invitational has an exicting opportunity in that the NICA National Conference will also be going on alongside the NorCal Invitational. Students and coaches will have opportunities to interact with League Directors and board members from around the country! In addition, students, coaches and parents are inivited to atttend an open NICA Board of Directors meeting Saturday, June 30th. This is a great opportunity to have your voice heard as part of the high school mountain biking movement.
CycleFest Events Celebrate High School Cycling
The Colorado, Texas and Utah Leagues will be hosting CycleFest fundraisers in May and June to support their high school mountain bike programs. Each event will be hosted by a celebrity guest and includes a cocktail hour, silent auction, and dinner.
All NICA Leagues are dependent on the generosity of sponsors and individual donors to support the year-round high school mountain bike programs. 100% of the proceeds from these events will go toward supporting the respective leagues.
If you are in the neighborhood please come out to support high school mountain bike programs!
NICA is now accepting nominations for 2012 NICA Awards. Established in 2010, the NICA Awards annually honors individual student-athletes, coaches, volunteers and partners that have made outstanding contributions toward the development of high school cycling and the national high school mountain biking movement. The 2012 award categories include the Student-Athlete Leadership Award, Extraordinary Courage Award, Coach of the Year Award and Community Impact Award, among others. The deadline for nominations is November 1, 2012. View the complete list of award categories and descriptions by downloading the 2012 Awards Categories (PDF) document.
Do you know someone that has made an impact on high school mountain biking and deserves to be recognized at the 2012 NICA Awards? Nominate them today! Just fill out this brief questionnaire about why that person should get an award. You can view last year's awards recipients by visiting the NICA Awards page.
The 2012 NICA Awards Banquet is tentatively planned for January 12, 2013.
Mens and womens COACH jerseys are available to all licensed NICA coaches.
Educational Webinars for NICA Coaches
NICA is excited to offer a series of free webinars to develop coaching skills and knowledge, share strategies, and build community. All webinars are taught by seasoned coaches and are a great opportunity for both new and experienced coaches to improve their skills.
In addition, each webinar provides 1.5 Continuing Education Units (more information at NICA Continuing Education). While new coaches are encouraged to participate, these webinars are not intended to be a substitute for attending a Leaders' Summit, which are held annually by each League.
Participation requires a computer with internet access and a phone line. Questions may be directed to Austin McInerny, NICA Education Director (firstname.lastname@example.org).
May 8 Tips for Recruiting, Retaining, and Coaching Girls (Pete Kirkham, Hemet HS)
May 15 Getting Dirty: How to Get High School Student Athletes to Contribute to Trail Work (Steve Messer, Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association)