High school racing continues to grow in United States

Boys High School Champ, Eric Carlson (Helena Dynamos).

Boys High School Champ, Eric Carlson (Helena Dynamos). (Image credit: Geoff Proctor)

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) announced expansion plans featuring two programs while at Interbike in Las Vegas, Nevada this week. The American organization behind high school racing launched a new program called the 50-State Coach and Club program and announced a new league.

The 50-State Coach and Club program is the most far-reaching program yet. "With the 50-State Indie Club program, we are excited to reinstate our ground-up approach to creating leagues, which originated in 1998 when four students responded to a school bulletin. This was the foundation of the Berkeley High School Mountain Bike Club, which grew into the NorCal League," said Matt Fritzinger, NICA's executive director.

In recent years, coaches with the desire to set up a high school team in their state have had to wait for the formation of a league and then become a member of it before obtaining their NICA Coaching Licence. The Indie Club program now enables coaches to acquire the coaching licence, one component of which is attending a NICA Leaders' Summit, and then they are able set up an independent high school mountain bike club without the requirement of an existing NICA league.

The intense activity in forming new leagues is fueled partly by highly positive feedback from participants in existing leagues. Statistics from a 2011 survey of NICA athletes suggest the following:

- 97 percent of non-graduating student-athletes intend to participate again next year. 93 percent encourage their friends to join.

- For 26 percent of NICA student-athletes, 2011 was their first year of riding. 65 percent have been riding for less than three years.

- 89 percent of NICA student-athletes ride year-round. 99.5 percent think they will continue to ride throughout their lives. 98 percent of parents think their child will ride throughout their lives.

- 84 percent of student athletes reported increased understanding and respect for other trail users, while 73 percent reported increased awareness and respect for the environment.

New League in Utah

NICA also announced its next League in Utah, which furthers the organization's goal of taking high school mountain biking coast to coast by 2020.

The chain of high school cycling leagues now runs: Washington, California, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, and Texas.

"We were very impressed by the strength of the Utah bid and the groundswell of support for high school mountain biking in Utah. Lori Harward and her team are doing incredible work and the opening season next fall is going to be fantastic for Utah youth," said Fritzinger.

Harward, the new director of the Utah League, said, "This is a great thing for Utah. NICA's five core principles of inclusivity, equality, strong body, strong mind and strong character are what attracted me to NICA. As cycling coaches, my husband Dave and I have been looking for ways to get more kids into cycling for some time. NICA's all-round package is perfect for kids and community, and we're all really excited to be part of this tremendous national movement!"

The Utah High School Cycling league will receive a NICA Grant and a wide range of support services as the successful applicant from several groups in the ongoing NICA bid process, which challenges organizers to surpass requirements for community and financial support. The newly formed NICA Grant program helps upstart leagues cover start-up costs and is made possible by NICA's sponsors.

A Leader's Summit for coaches will take place in the spring and racing will commence in the fall of 2012, interested coaches should contact Lori at Lori@utahmtb.org. View the Utah League website at www.utahmtb.org.

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