906 Adventure Team released an updated and redesigned website last night. If you’re a parent, grandparent or someone who knows of kids looking for a group check out the site. We’ll be rolling out three After School Bike Clubs, Adventure Bike Club (summer program). For competitive kids who like to go fast we have Youth MTB Racing opportunities. Practice begins in July with races beginning in September. The team will race until mid-October.
If you have unanswered questions drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
One coach and 5 kids. That’s how this started. Nineteen coaches and 125 kids. That’s how last year ended.
Three After-School Bike Clubs. Adventure Bike Club – Marquette. Adventure Bike Club – Delta County. Spring Training at Superior Fitness. NICA affiliated Youth MTB Racing in the fall. That’s how 2018 starts.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m a little nervous about how big the numbers may get this year.
It’s not about the bike.
It’s not about cycling. Keep reading. I have not invested 5,000 hours into 906 for the sole purpose of teaching kids how to ride a bike. I have not shifted my residence to the state of Wisconsin in the fall each of the past couple years to watch kids race. I certainly did not do this for my kids the first few years because up until last year they were either too young to participate or disinterested.
I have said with great consistency since 2014 there was a void in our developing mountain bike scene. No opportunity for kids. Knowing what cycling had done for my life was all I needed to know to be convinced – it could be life-changing for kids.
So it’s not about the bike. It’s about the kids. My kids. Your kids. Your friend’s kids. Our kids. The bike is simply a vehicle. The gym (which we’re currently working in while the snow melts) and trail(s) act as our classroom.
Only 50% of kids participate in organized sports. I pulled that number from the National Federation of High School Sports. What does that leave the other 50% doing for physical development, strength building, team building etc.? It’s no secret some kids don’t fit the traditional sport models. Many of the best cyclists I know never participated in traditional sports because they “didn’t fit”. You might know someone fitting that description. You might BE that person.
I haven’t spent a day in elementary school in a long time or in High School for that matter but the overwhelming message I get from friends working in the schools is overall PE education and Time Active is down from where it once was (insert when we were kids statement here).
I’m not going to dedicate the time to it but should you be so inclined – you can ask our friend Google for regional obesity, mental health, drug addiction and suicide rates… Spoiler alert: They’re BAD.
I said earlier It’s about the kids. It’s about showing each kid his or her potential and helping them work to meet it. It’s about how the stuff we’re teaching them on the bike crosses over to day-to-day life. I say one of the most beneficial things we’re teaching them is how to do hard things. Not only do we teach them to do hard things, we find ways to have fun doing them and we show over a period of time (consistency) how having done those hard things made them better. When I walk up to a female high school rider and ask “How was the race?” and her response is (with a smile) “It was hard… but not as hard as practice.” I know we’re doing something right. Not because it was hard. Doing hard stuff with no extended life lesson is pointless. We’re not subscribing to a caveman mentality here. Hard things need to be purposeful. When she smiled and told me it was hard but not as hard as practice – she was beginning to understand why we do what we do and how it prepared her for what was ahead.
We’re taking an opposite approach to what the rest of the world does right now (with kids). No participation medals. Forget about medals all together. We focus on effort – specifically their individual effort. Effort is the priority because effort drives performance and achievement. We need to get away from conditioning kids to think life is black and white or win and lose. Life is going to be tough – there are going to be losses. Probably a lot of them if they’re taking any measure of risk to get somewhere. Kids need to learn how to extract the win (lesson) from the losses. We do that by focusing on intangibles such as effort, preparation and consistency. Combine those three things and you have a Triad of Success for school and life. Let the medals fall where they may. We’ll take effort over talent any day.
Society under estimates kids. Want more from kids? EXPECT MORE. Hang with me on this one. I’m not saying it’s as simple as walking in a room and demanding more. To get more you need a process or system – of trust and clear expectations. You need to create a culture based on those things. That’s what we’re building. Programs driven by motivated kid-centric people, inherently challenging stuff, designed to develop self-confidence, independence and self-esteem. Additionally providing a consistent emphasis on the development of positive fitness and nutritional habits with constant ties back to how all the lessons and habits will influence their lives. In our book a win is defined as an empowered, self-confident, engaged and respectful young person.
Traditional sports are great. But there’s a flaw.
I grew up playing baseball, football and basketball. I love them. They will forever have a place in my heart. But they’re not for everyone. In fact, as kids get older, those sports move from being inclusive to becoming exclusive – even for the kids who want to play. Again, there should be no participation medals and if an athlete is not good enough to be on a team, due to the team’s limited roster, he or she should not make the team. I agree with that. That is the achilles of the traditional sports model. Frankly, making the team isn’t always the best answer either. For the kids sitting deep enough from the starting or backup rotation the cold fact is this: You’re not going to get playing time. You won’t even get enough practice time to improve enough to get playing time.
I see that flaw as an opportunity. We offer a team environment free of roster restrictions. We’re not handcuffed by a certain number of “positions”. If anything we could be limited only by not having enough coaches or time!
Who would have thought in a sport (cycling) 50 schools could show up to race on a Sunday… and there are no rivalries. There’s no division amongst the kids. No territorial lines creating conflict. Just 500 kids showing up with their parents to compete – against each other and themselves… and regardless of the outcomes 99% of the time they’re all cheering for one another. You wouldn’t believe it unless you actually went there and saw it. But it’s real.
There’s no bench. I want to clarify what this means: Equal opportunity. Each kid receives the same amount of coaching, attention and opportunity. They (the kids) choose what to do with it individually. Adventure kids will focus on adventure. Race kids will go fast and race. There’s no wrong answer. They’re individuals. They’re a team. Regardless of what they choose to do or what their personal goal is – they are spending time in an environment with friends that is fun, engaging, collaborative and demanding… and time after time they rise to the challenge. I think it’s because we believe in them, they know we believe in them and that belief helps them believe in themselves.
It begins with opportunity. We have tremendous flexibility given we’re not handcuffed by lineups and roster restrictions. We’re able to prioritize the kids, each individual kid, and their goals. That’s the win we’re playing for. We’re playing for each individual kid to win. The kids do not get overshadowed by the “team” win. And really… I’m presenting the word win as a substitute for success. Helping kids succeed is a win and by helping them win or move closer to personals goal the team or organization as a whole wins. Not to mention over time the community is going to win.
Then we have this standard of conduct and responsibility – old fashioned people like myself might call it good behavior. Kids are always going to be kids, goofing around and saying things they shouldn’t say… but if we raise the bar on our expectations and hold them to the bar they will reach it. Maybe not 100% of the time but I guarantee it will be more often than if you lower the bar or altogether do not have a bar. Teaching kids to be early, show up prepared and responsible is our obligation. They’ll have days they forget stuff and show up unprepared. That’s an opportunity to coach and make sure it does not turn into a habit. By focusing on the success Triad (effort, preparation and consistency) we’re creating mental blueprints that may not be as important in middle school… but will pay dividends as they get older.
Directing focus to effort and away from medals. The lessons are huge. I’d almost say we’re teaching them how to lose – in that we’re embracing loss as an investment toward future wins. Helping them detach if you will from the subjective emotional reaction of “winning” and “losing” – teaching them to be a bit objective and finding how to be better next time. Then executing on that information.
And finally… varied and consistent physical activity, exercise, challenge and health education. It should be as routine as sitting on the Xbox or Playstation for hours. Or sending 4,000 text messages. People may sit back and say it’s not feasible, not possible… but that’s what it is going to take to create a #newnormal. Somehow we need to find a way to get more kids into this positive structure… because they thrive when they are surrounded by friends and other kids doing the same things. They just need to be shown an alternative to what they’re currently doing…
I don’t have it all figured out yet. But I know we’re a lot closer today than we were four year ago.