Hello you amazing humans,

The fall race season is in full swing and many of the fall leagues are approaching the end of their 2021 season. The spring leagues are ramping up and coaches are preparing and planning for a great 2021/22 season!

Over 26,000 student-athletes across the country depend on us to make their NICA experience the best part of their day. This immense responsibility should fill you with joy. Coaches help athletes reach their full potential and achieve their goals, whatever they may be. Cultivate joy in your own NICA experience and your student-athletes will feel it.

When we constantly pursue our best self we create environments that encourage student-athletes to do the same.

Coaches Matter!

Thanks for stepping up to make a difference in your community,
Mike McGarry and the Coach Licensing Team

In this Issue:
1. Game of the Month - Bike Soccer
2. Tips for riding in Cold and Inclement Weather with your Teams
3. End of the Season Team Celebrations, Rituals and Acknowledgement
4. NICA Handbook Spotlight - Prohibited Substances
5. Athlete Abuse Awareness Training Update
6. GRiT Corner
7. NICA Sponsor Content - Continental
8. Partner Content - TrueSport - 9 Easy Ways To Prevent Cliques On Teams

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We need your images of your teams playing games! Email us at

Game of the Month: Bike Soccer

Where: Open Space
Objective: I can cooperate and communicate with my teammates. I can kick and giggle. I can build timing and coordination, pressure control, and steering skills.
Setup: Make a field of play using soccer cones, flags, etc. Size is dictated by the number of players. Tennis court size. Add two goals 4’-6’ wide. Divide the group into two teams of a max of 5-6 riders. Teams start on their own goal line. Coach in the middle drops the ball to begin play. This repeats after each goal is scored.
101 Skills: Braking, Bike-Body Separation, Shifting
202 Skills: Ratcheting
Rules: Riders must remain riding without feet touching the ground when kicking the ball. If they put a foot on the ground near the ball, they must ride away without kicking it. “Foot Down! Ride Away!!!”
● Play is neutralized when the ball goes too far out of bounds
● Return the ball to playing area and resume
● Shots on goal must be below the knees to count (Contact with other riders (pushing, leaning, bumping) is not allowed.)
Options: No boundaries but goals can only be scored through the front of the goal. Penalty for kicking with one foot on the ground - Rider must exit to the sideline. Then, is allowed to return to play.
Reflection Question: What positives can you take away from the game?
Progression: If you have a large team, keep group size max of 5-6 rides to increase participation. Create a time limit for games, and rotate groups in and out of the game based on time limit (2 minutes tops per game).

You can find Bike Soccer and more in the NICA On-the-Bike Games guide found in your Coach Resources in the NICA Learning Management System, LMS.


Tips for riding in cold and inclement weather with your team!

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As we head into fall and winter months, with decreasing temperatures and less daylight, the following tips can help you continue riding happily with your teams throughout the fall and winter months.

Ease into winter riding: Conditions are more challenging than riding in warmer seasons, so start with shorter team rides to get acclimated and get your gear worked out.

Remember to hydrate: You might not feel warm on winter rides, but you’re still sweating and need to hydrate. Pro Tip: If you’re riding with a traditional water bottle, keep it in your back jersey pocket so it won’t freeze.

Ride the bike you already know: You’re used to how your bike handles; no need to buy a winter-specific bike, just add or upgrade a few components on your current one. You can add mud guards and new tires!

Gear up to see and be seen: Prepare your teams for riding after dark by significantly beefing up your lighting, including bright headlights, safety lights and reflective gear.

Bike lights: Front and rear lights! Your brightest one goes on the handlebar;
another light can on your helmet, so you can direct it independently from the
handlebar-mounted light. Place your brightest flashing safety light on the back of
your bike and the other one on your helmet, pack or clothing.

Check and adjust your tire pressure: Air pressure loss happens faster in cold temps; inflate tires to the low end of the recommended range. Consider switching to grippier tires.

Dress for warmth: Wear layers so you can adjust to changing conditions; you also need arm and leg warmers, rain gear, jacket, gloves, and a warmer helmet and bike shoes.

Cycling headwear: A cycling cap or skull cap that fits under your helmet adds a surprising amount of warmth. For really cold days, consider a face mask or a helmet that covers more of your head. You can also add goggles or clear glasses to protect your eyes.

Hand warmers and foot warmers: Great accessories for any winter activity, air-activated warmers that slip inside your gloves or shoes can provide great comfort on bitterly cold days. Pro Tip: Break them out of their sealed packaging a few minutes before your ride as warmers don’t heat up instantaneously.

Winterize your riding tactics: If a trail has muck or ice, take another trail! Ride relaxed to improve handling on bumpy, icy or wet trails.

Clean and lube: Wipe down your chain, drivetrain and other bike parts immediately after an especially grimy ride (at least once weekly if you ride regularly). Also do a more thorough clean and lube every few weeks. When you’re done with either a wipe down or full cleaning, lightly recoat your chain and drivetrain with a “wet” lube (one made for wet/dirty climates). You don’t want a dry chain in the wintertime.

Riding in cold or inclement weather can bring a fun, new and exciting way to experience riding with your teams, safely.

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End of the season team celebrations, rituals and acknowledgement

As the Fall Leagues begin to wrap up, it is important to think ahead and start planning how your teams are going to celebrate an amazing year of progress and team/individual goal achievements. This is not only a time to acknowledge all your student-athletes but also the other amazing important humans that have played a key role in your teams success such as coaches, parents, volunteers and sponsors. The goal is to get your Team/Community (student-athletes, families, sponsors and coaches) together for games, food, prizes and acknowledgement!

Here are a few ideas to think about:

Potluck dinner celebration - Get the entire team (student-athletes, coaches, parents and volunteers) involved and organize a potluck dinner at a facility, park or trailhead. If you have local sponsors, invite them and recognize them. This gets everyone involved!
Awards - Identify some team and individual awards to acknowledge those that achieved certain goals or accomplishments. Pro-Tip: Have the team vote on the awards and get creative and collect old chainrings, disc rotors or even chains to make awards.
Year end ride - Create an all team “Year End Ride” with a celebration after at a park or trail head. Have pizza and ice cream delivered or designate parents to bring food.
Food trucks - Organize a food truck to meet you at the end of a ride and provide burgers, fries, tacos or whatever for all of the student-athletes, coaches, and family members.
Games - Organize some fun games at your year end celebration event. Everyone loves games, set aside some time to #playbikes too!

Recognize your departing student-athletes - Boise Brave MTB Team (Idaho) recognizes the seniors on the team with a Seniors Ride; where any and all coaches can have one last ride with their departing students.
Annual rituals - Team Big Bear Composite (SoCal) has "The Rock" award at the end of each season. It is quite literally a rock with a metal plate on the front which has the student-athletes name, year, team, and THE ROCK inscribed on it. This has been awarded to the athletes that participate in all five of the NICA races and is awarded by Team Big Bear, a local sponsor.

Take time to reflect on your season:

In addition to celebrating, it’s important to reflect on the season as coaches. What went well? What can we do better next year? Schedule time with your coaches to reflect on the season and always start with the positives to make sure they don’t get lost next year. When thinking about ways to improve, be solution oriented and come up with a plan to make the season better for student-athletes, coaches, and families. After you take some time to reflect, take some time off and recharge. Being a NICA coach is really rewarding but we all need some time to relax, regroup, and recharge before the next season, which will be here before you know it!
To all the NICA coaches, thank you for doing what you do! Coaches matter and you are making a difference in the lives of your student-athletes and in your communities. You all are amazing!



2.10.A In addition to the A-List substances in Rule 9, the following substances are also prohibited.
1. Caffeine is an addictive substance that enhances performance. NICA and the Leagues deem caffeinated products as inappropriate for young student-athletes. Caffeinated sport products such as bars, gels, and sport drinks, are banned before or during League races, practices, and other activities. The consumption of products containing caffeine by student-athletes at NICA and League races and camps is banned.
2. Creatine, Guaraná Root, and Taurine are also substances banned from consumption at NICA and League races and camps.

2.10.B Student-athletes need to be very careful as many energy drinks contain these substances. Student-athletes are responsible for knowing the ingredients of the products they consume. Pleading ignorance will not constitute a defensible position.

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Photo Credit: Owen Swall, Nevada League


The NICA Athlete Abuse Awareness training has been updated and shortened. This extremely important training has been updated to include a NICA specific introduction and updated content from our partners at Abuse Prevention System.

Although the percentage of abusers is small it takes the consistent and concerted effort of all coaches to prevent athletes from being victimized. All levels of NICA coaches and volunteers play an important role in keeping our student-athletes safe.

The entire NICA community working together minimizes the potential for abuse in NICA.

The next time you need to recertify your Athlete Abuse Awareness Training you will complete the updated version. The NICA Athlete Abuse Awareness Training is only required every 2 years.

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New Athlete Abuse Awareness Training


Now is a great time to think about coach development, and specifically the benefits of GRiT coach retreats for current and prospective female coaches.

Intentionally creating space for female coaches to come together, learn from each other, connect and level-up skills builds confidence, competence and community. These are the things that help us, as coaches, create an amazing experience for ALL of our student athletes. And often, a female-oriented learning environment feels safer and more accessible to new coaches, who may not yet be confident in their riding abilities or coaching skills, and may feel intimidated or that they will “hold others back” at a co-ed clinic.

Interested in participating in a GRiT coach clinic or retreat in your league? Many leagues already have something like this in their plans… reach out to your league’s GRiT Coordinator if you’d like to attend this type of clinic or retreat. If you don’t know who to contact, please email Emily, NICA’s GRiT Program Manager, at, to get connected!

These events don’t have to be complicated, or expensive! Wisconsin’s retreat (pictured below) was self-funded through registration fees and the sale of GRiT tank tops. But it was hugely impactful for those who attended, and well worth the effort!

Learn more about the NICA GRiT Program HERE

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Photo credit: Anthony James, Rubber Down Photography

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Photo Credit: Joel Simpson, Firetower Media

Continental Tire is Getting #moregirlsonbikes!

Continental is proud to support [NICA's Girls Riding Together (GRiT) Program] to increase participation of women and girls in mountain biking! Thanks to their support, GRiT Coordinators have been able to host flat tire clinics and other fun activities for GRiT student-athletes. Thank you Continental for providing tires and swag for our GRiT Coordinators across the NICA Community!

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Visit our Sponsor!

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TrueSport - 9 Easy Ways To Prevent Cliques On Teams

TrueSport: 9 Easy Ways To Prevent Cliques On Teams

When it comes to preventing cliques and bullying behaviors, it's best to be proactive. While it's easy to get caught up in drills, rosters, and logistics, coaches who focus on building strong team-wide relationships from the first day of practice are less likely to run into the social problems, like cliques, that hurt teams and players. TrueSport Expert Nadia Kyba, a social worker and expert in conflict resolution, explains how to avoid cliques forming, and how to deal with them if they do.

1. Understand the skill of team-wide relationships
"The more coaches can do in terms of relationship-building on the team, the better," says Kyba. "It's just as important as skill-building in terms of performance and athlete retention: it's going to serve you when things go south or when people want to leave. The great coaches that I speak to are on top of avoiding cliques from day one."
2. Recognize that cliques are natural
"Groups of kids who know each other from school or from different activities will naturally want to stick together because it's comfortable," Kyba says. "I think that it's really important to acknowledge that it's sometimes tough for kids to make new relationships, especially if they're feeling insecure about their athletic abilities. Close friendships among teammates are fine and normal, but cliques are the negative side of small groups of friends in larger team contexts. When others are being excluded, that's when a coach needs to step in."
3. Explain why team dynamic matters
Many coaches make the mistake of gruffly splitting apart small groups of friends. Especially for young athletes, they may not understand why they're being separated—and they may even feel as though they're being punished. "Be really transparent about why you're working to build relationships between everybody on the team, rather than just a few groups of people," Kyba says. "If you can explain this, it's easier for the kids to see that you're not just out to ruin their lives."
4. Make sure it's not a punishment
Many coaches let athletes pick their groups early on, and only split them up once the kids are acting up, being loud, or ignoring instructions. But that ultimately makes separating cliques into a punishment rather than a default for the team. " Separating groups of friends from day one can ultimately create a better team dynamic," Kyba says. "Normalize that by not letting athletes divide themselves."
5. Split groups differently
"Be intentional about splitting groups differently on a consistent basis - even for social activities," Kyba says. "If your team does a group dinner but everybody just sits in their little social circles, it's not really doing anything to team-build." You may need to assign tables or opt for activities that keep athletes moving around.
6. It's a season-long process
"I know a hockey coach who's been coaching for 40 years. He works on building the team relationships from day one and has it down to a science," Kyba says. "For example, he would assign lockers in the locker room and change them weekly. He would do icebreakers at every practice. He would even look at carpools and make sure that every single time, the carpools were different. He mixed up rooming assignments and seats on planes. He had it all logged in an Excel spreadsheet to keep track. It was a huge focus for him, and his teams did amazing as a result."
7. Get parents on board
Don't just tell parents you're trying to avoid cliques: Make them part of the process! "That hockey coach also got the parents on board: he thought that it was really important for the parents to also role model team-building," Kyba says. "He had the parents drive other kids that they didn't already know in their carpools, so they could get to know the kids on the team. They also had to get to know the other parents—and parent cliques can be just as tough as athlete ones!"
8. If you see something, say something
One of the biggest mistakes a coach can make is ignoring a clique when it first starts to form, hoping it will go away or won't cause a problem. "When you see a clique forming, it's important to address it immediately," Kyba says. "Get back to those icebreakers, randomize seats on the bus, and change up your practice teams."
9. Don't just separate
The biggest mistake coaches make when addressing the issue of cliques is separating, but not changing the behavior. Separating groups of athletes is a place to start, but unless you're also focusing on building relationships between all of the teammates, your athletes are likely to end up resentful and unfocused. "Find ways that teammates can collaborate, even outside of competition," says Kyba. "For instance, if a few athletes are creative, get them to do the team's social media together. Give them a purpose and a reason to work together that isn't just passing the ball."
Preventing cliques is one of many ways to proactively avoid conflict on a team, including bullying behaviors. Use these tips from TrueSport Expert Nadia Kyba to prevent and address cliques on your team.

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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