Hello you amazing coaches,

With the passing of the winter solstice, days are beginning to get longer again. While there are still months of winter left in the northern states, the dark days of winter will start to slowly melt away. The winter months can afford us time to reflect on the year that was 2020. There were many challenging times that will dominate our memories of 2020, but make an attempt to focus on what you learned in 2020 that will help you in the future. Stay healthy, focus on fun, and ride your bike!

Thanks for being a coach,
Mike McGarry and the Coach Licensing Team

In This Issues
-Skills are Free Speed - Progression is Fun!
-Mental Health and Suicide Prevention CEUs available
-GRiT Corner
-Thank YOU to our 2021 Sponsors and Partners!
-NICA Welcomes Continental as New Sponsor
-Partner Content - How to Keep Kids Active in the Winter without Organized Sports for Fall Leagues


Skills are Free Speed

It can be tempting to focus solely on the fitness of your student-athletes once you have completed the first few weeks of practice. Student-athletes like going fast on their bikes and putting in miles helps them get faster. But don’t neglect MTB skills and progression during the race season! After all, skills are free speed!

Coaches should continue to focus on fundamental skills throughout the season while adding progressions for athletes that are ready for an additional challenge. The NICA On-the-Bike 101 Skills prepare athletes for riding singletrack and NICA race/event courses. Once athletes have shown proficiency on these skills, coaches should start to add different variables. When coaches initially teach a new skill we create controlled situations so athletes are able to attempt new skills in a consistent environment. To help student-athletes progress their mastery of skills we can increase/reduce speeds, change terrain, or add elements of timing. Games are always a great way to practice skills. Think about changing the constraints of games that you already play as a team. Can you change the size of the ball that you use for bike soccer or minefield. How could you adjust the course of a team relay race to focus on a specific skill. How could you change the rules to a game you play to encourage more communication between student-athletes. Be creative with how you teach skills and add progressions.

Great coaches also create competitive racelike practice activities that incorporate skills that will be essential for upcoming races or other NICA events. Just like we suggested with games, you can change the constraints of your practice to help student-athletes learn the skills needed for an upcoming event. Focus on skills and speed will follow!

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Utah League


NFHS Mental Health Course for CEUs

Mountain biking has the potential to elevate our moods and help us manage stressful and overwhelming situations in life. Although, mountain biking alone cannot always help coaches and student-athletes manage their mental health. Coaches spend a lot of time with their student-athletes and can help identify changes in mood that might indicate increased concern about mental health issues.
I encourage you to take the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) course “Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.” The course is free and counts as 1 CEU towards your level 2 or level 3 license.

This course is just a starting point for coaches but it will provide you with some tools and resources to support your student-athletes and fellow coaches.

Be good to each other. We live in tough times and the effects of constant pandemic stress can have severe consequences on our ability to manage normal amounts of stress.

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Coach Education Module Revisions Coming Soon

Your NICA Coach education process is about to get more interesting and engaging! Starting March 1st, 2021 fall league coaches will see new coach education modules that focus on what coaches need and follow best practices in adult online learning. The new modules will replace the existing Risk Management 1, 2, and 3 and the NICA Student-Athlete Coaching Philosophy. There are no new requirements! The new modules will be interactive, engaging, self-paced and allow you, the coach, to complete your education on your own time. The NICA coach licensing team has been working on new materials that will help all coaches from level 1 to level 3 prepare for their roles as a NICA coach with relevant and engaging content.

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Coach Education Revisions Coming March 1st, 2021

Tell Your Teams About the Girls Moving Mountains Podcast

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Girls Moving Mountains

This NICA National funded podcast was launched last week! Tune in every other Wednesday for new content from your hosts and co-creators of the podcast, Nikki Peterson (SoCal League Program Coordinator) and Jen Malk (Ohio League Director).

WHO: Target audience - For everyone! Focused towards recruiting female identifying student-athletes into NICA, but open to everyone.

WHAT/WHY: We believe Nikki and Jen’s podcast conversations and themes embody both NICA and GRiT values and will appeal to student-athletes, coaches, parents, and communities from all over. They have grouped the podcast episodes into themes: Creating Culture, Repair and Care, Student-Athlete Spotlight, Breaking the Barrier, Where Are They Now, and What’s Next.

WHEN: New episode every other Wednesday!

WHERE: Available on all platforms (website, Libyson, Apple, Google, Spotify, Amazon Music, etc.)

TIME: 30-45 minutes per episode.

Girls Moving Mountains Instagram handle: @girls_moving_mountains
Girls Moving Mountain Podcast:


Thank YOU to our 2021 Sponsors and Partners!

We would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to our 2021 Sponsors and Partners for their continued support of our mission to build strong minds, bodies, character and communities and their dedication to helping us get #morekidsonbikes!


Florida Interscholastic Cycling League


NICA Welcomes Continental as New Sponsor

We are excited to announce a new partnership with Continental, the global leader in bicycle tires. As a sponsor, Continental will support NICA’s overall mission and in particular, its Girls Riding Together (GRiT) initiative. GRiT aims to bring more girls and women into cycling to bridge the opportunity gap for future generations. In a male-dominated environment such as mountain biking, NICA recognizes the need to offer an inclusive, welcoming community for girls to increase recruitment and retention — and ultimately give back incredible experiences and opportunities to last a lifetime.

Learn more here.

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Tennessee League / Beth Pride Ford


How to Keep Kids Active in a Winter without Organized Sports

Each month we will present content and resources highlighting topics coaches may deal with throughout the season when working with student-athletes.

This month, TrueSport provides us with some information on how to help student-athletes set goals in uncertain times.

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Get Outside, Winter is Great! (photo by Mike McGarry)

With many schools opting out of organized sports in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are looking at a long winter with kids at home immediately after school, or possibly home 24/7 if your district has gone remote. This can make it difficult to keep athletes excited about practicing their sport or staying active in general. But it’s not impossible!

Think laterally about movement right now: Aim to keep your young athlete as active as possible, rather than focusing on sport-specific intensive practice regimens. Remember, the CDC recommends that kids between 6 and 17 get at least one hour each day of moderate to vigorous activity, and that they’re doing some type of bone-strengthening and muscle building activities (like running and push-ups, respectively) three days a week. How can you make that happen?

Here are a few ideas to keep kids active, even in the winter months and without organized sports.

Set ‘outside hours’
With very little daylight during non-school hours, it’s easy to go for days at a time without getting outside. To avoid this, look at the sunrise and sunset times and set an 'outside hour' (or 30 minutes) as often as possible. Some weeks that might mean before-school outside time, and other weeks, it might be easier to light up the backyard or go to a well-lit park for some movement. On less structured weekend days, make sure that your young athletes are getting out in the sun and fresh air whenever possible.

Find or create a community
Maybe your child’s team is already doing some virtual training together that makes this option simple, but your athlete can also take creating a virtual community into their own hands by reaching out to active friends or teammates. They may not be able to hold practices together, but they can all follow a similar practice schedule and do some workouts together via Zoom or Facetime. Depending on where you live, they may even be able to gather in small groups for outdoor training time.

Make getting outside easy
When it comes to getting kids more active outdoors, it’s critical to lower as many barriers to entry as possible. For example, make sure your kids have properly fitting clothes and shoes for the weather, as well as easy access to rain and snow gear that they also know how to maintain. If you need specific gear like hockey pads or sticks, ask the coach if you can borrow it while in-person practices are on hold.

Make it a competition
According to a 2016 study, people are most likely to stick to fitness goals if they have a competitive element. Without school or club sports, your athlete may feel like there isn’t a point to staying fit, but there are plenty of challenges that they can still take part in. Older athletes can set up friendly competitions—like a push-up challenge—with each other, using a Google Spreadsheet to keep score. There are also hundreds of options for virtual challenges to keep the competitive spirit alive even though normal sporting events are severely curtailed. Rather than playing soccer twice a week, your young athlete might be able to try something new, like a month-long running challenge.

Have fun with it
If you live in a snowy area, take advantage of the many snow-dependent activities that are both fun and healthy. Things like snowball fights, sledding, and shoveling the driveway are great ways to be active without the monotony of a standard workout. And of course, there are fun indoor options: Your child may not want to do a typical weight training circuit, but what about learning the latest viral dance?

Set some goals and expectations
To keep your child from burrowing in and making a permanent butt-shaped dent in the couch as the weather worsens and social gatherings become more restricted, sit down and write out some goals and expectations together. Discuss how often and for how long your athlete should be exercising or practicing each week, as well as some different options and alternatives. Basketball practice in the driveway can continue until it’s too cold to shoot hoops outside, so pick an alternative ahead of time, like a yoga YouTube video for basketball players.

Post your made-up schedule where you normally would put a standard practice schedule or season goals and commit to these sessions the same way you treated normal practices. If commitment is an issue, you might need to set further boundaries, such no TV time or video games until after a workout.


Use these tips to help keep your young athletes active as it becomes harder for them to engage in organized sports due to COVID-19 and to get outside due to winter.

About TrueSport
TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, while also creating leaders across communities through sport.

For more expert-driven articles and materials, visit TrueSport’s comprehensive LEARN resource.

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