Before CNN Student News signed off at the end of the 2013-14 school year, the news anchor reminded viewers that the network would be recapping the FIFA World Cup tournament when broadcasts returned in August. As the world’s most-watched sporting event, the World Cup is definitely newsworthy. Unfortunately, not all sports receive the same recognition despite enjoying a growing popularity, such as what interscholastic cycling is experiencing right now.
In 1998, Matt Fritzinger began his career as a high school math teacher. Curious to see if students shared his passion for mountain biking, Fritzinger placed a call for interested individuals in the school’s daily bulletin. Within a day, several students volunteered to join Fritzinger on mountain bike treks. That inauspicious moment eventually led to the 2009 founding of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA).
Out of that small group of kids who responded to Fritzinger’s call for cyclists 16 years ago, only four stuck with the program the entire school year. To see how fast the sport has grown, one only needs to look at the 2014 California State Championships for mountain biking: more than 770 racers from more than 100 schools competed.
School-based cycling clubs are popping up all over the country as more and more young people take up the sport. Even better, formal leagues have been established through which schools compete just like the traditional sports of football, basketball and baseball. To date, NICA supports more than a dozen leagues in several states, including California, Minnesota, New York, and Georgia. Alabama and Virginia were the most recent to join.
How to Start
Not only does NICA support existing leagues, but it lends administrative expertise to students, schools and clubs that wish to create their own leagues. If you’d like to form an interscholastic mountain biking organization in your area, NICA recommends you follow these steps (find more information on its website www.nationalmtb.org):
1. Gather support
Conduct an informal survey to see how much interest exists among students.
2. Define your vision
What is the mission or purpose of the club? How will it be governed as well as operated?
3. Get permission
Find out what your school and school district require in terms of forming a club or becoming a member of a competitive league. Make sure to fill out all mandated paperwork and meet deadlines if you want to be taken seriously.
4. Continue to gather support
Once your organization receives official permission, obtain sponsorships from local businesses and engage parents in fundraising activities. Running a club will take cash, so this becomes a very important and ongoing step.
5. Recruit riders
Start advertising. Let others in the school know what’s going on with its newest club.
6. Hold regular meetings for riders and parents
Keep everyone informed on upcoming events and races and how volunteers can help, such as transportation, etc.
Just like conquering a tricky trail isn’t easy, neither is forming a brand-new organization, but it can be just as satisfying.