El Cerrito High School MTB Wrap-Up
It’s been a pretty amazing year. We grew from 9 racers to 26, increased the number of Club bikes (bikes we provide for our riders, amny thrugh parts and frame donated by the Norcal Forum) from 3 to 12, increased our coaches from three to seven, including a Girls’ coach, and doubled our number of girl racers to 6. And we got a really cool 10 ft x 15 ft. tent with our logo on it. In short, we have become very easy to find and that has been by design.
I know that this all sound so very administrative but, you know what? The organization, now in it’s 4th year, has arrived. All of our hard work in defining our spirit, method, identity, and establishing our presence has paid off. We’ve earned the support of businesses in the community, our neighbors, and mountain bikers from all over the States. Most importantly, though, the kids have sought us out when they come to the school, just like the more traditional sports. In fact we have kids who have given up baseball, football, and soccer to be with us. We are seen as a real Varsity sport with a cool factor no other program can touch.
Our athletes are evolving as time passes. They are more dedicated to what we do and see our sport as an end in itself. Our girls in particular are changing. We used to just be glad to have any girl ride but they were always so otherwise very well involved in other great things. Our 3 new freshmen and our second year racer Soph ECHS Gal are dedicated to what WE do and that is a very exciting prospect. You can see their determination and their love of their bikes. And they’ll be back next year.
We competed this year without juniors and only 1 senior, a founding member of our club. The sophs did very well and we look forward to having them and our freshmen back next year. By the 2008 season we hope to be at full strength. In the mean time ther are growing pains.
While the growth had its’ management challenges it did have great benefits. That these kids were showing up was one thing but then you had to understand the parents. With all the concerns they might have for the safety of their kids and the expense they had heard how good we were for them. They heard of the way we embraced our charges with a single-minded devotion to their development as thoughtful and powerful athletes. They had heard that we found the best in all of them, kept them close, and bound them together. They heard that the community of our sport supported us by giving.
It was at the first race in Monterey that they really got a chance to see what we really do. After months of outfitting (with much thanks toour Norcal supporters) training in the wet and cold of December, January, and February and few scrapes there was something tangible. Up to this point they only saw what could be seen before and after practice. Finally they could all see why we did all we did.
Our entourage of racers, families, friends, and coaches numbered 80 people and 3 dogs. The kids were in full kit and, with snow on the surrounding hills, hooded Club jackets. They got to watch as coaches and experienced parents lent a hand to prepare for the race. They got to see the final prep of bikes, registration, mounting race plates, pre-race foods, the warm-ups, race instructions and emotional support. They got to hear our final exhortations to honor and grace and courage. They got to see the migration to the starting line and, for the first time ever, their kids with game day faces. It’s great moment when the races start and there can be collisions and confusion right off the line. Sooner or later, though, all the kids are on the course and around the corner out of sight.
It can take a while for the kids to come back around to where you can actually see them race so we do a quick return to the tent for coffee and a chat. There are so many questions and excitement and the folks slowly settle as the laps progress. Finally the first of the shorter races end. One of our Freshman Boys takes a 3rd and ECHS Gal takes a 4th. Two Soph Boys go 5 & 6, JV Girl 8th and a Varsity Boy a 4th. These are the best finishes we have ever had. There were some disappointments, too: a DNF JV Girl, a double flat Soph Boy, some wandering off course here and there but that is all racing to learn from.
The first race is huge for everyone and regardless of the finishes it is full of success. At the tent spirits are high with joy and relief. There is hot chili, hot dogs, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, fruit, cornbread and so much more all donated pot-luck by the parents. There was a 16th birthday celebrated with singing and chocolate cake. There are smiles and chagrin, race stories and hooting. The kids and parents are all bubbling. It is like that moment when you realize that the party you threw is in full swing and you can’t wait to throw another.
Each race has its stories about snow, freezing water crossings or heat and each race was a better experience. They were better because the kids built on their experience and created their identity as racers. And the folks kept coming forward to help. And I finally started to relax as tasks were taken from my shoulders by glad hands. The organization of Race support and food was handed off. Responsibility for the tent and tables was taken up. Aspects of fundraising and money management are slowly being picked up as is the website. The parents, some very talented and generous people, did this so that we could do what we do best; ride, coach, and build character in their children. All this other stuff we did for 3 years because there was no other way. We have arrived. Now I am working hard to refine our legal foundations and create the best environment I can for our coaches so that we can continue to thrive.
This year, just as in all the other years, we have finished 5th in the Division 1 part of our League; this year clubs having 10 or more racers. We don’t draw from a mountain biking community like the Marin and Sierra Teams we hold in high regard. We built our riders from scratch by converting interested athletes from other sports and understanding our community and its’ values. When we started competing in the winter of 2003 we were 5th with 55% of the points of the Champion Club. Each year we have improved and this year we finished with 89% of the Champions’ total. Our division grows tighter with our presence.
Throughout or participation in the Norcal High School Racing League we have been known for our sense of fair play and generosity. If you are a parent you know what it means to have someone comment on your kids good manners so when the other coaches say it to you or parents from other teams you start to see that you are doing something right. Our program is starting to bear fruit; our victories will come. Our Club is expanding and it is my fondest wish that we never lose sight of what is most important; honor, grace, and courage.
Ths year new families and businesses are stepping forward to support us. MTBR donated several kits to our kids to use as awards for partiipation in practices. The Bicycle Trail Counsil of the East Bay has donated money in support of our new jersey Kit; both MTBR and BTCEB will have a proud place on our jersey.
MTBR and the Norcal Forum have been a big part of our validation through their support. I know that this experience has changed the lives of many of our kids; grades are better, voices are louder and they are learning kindness in power. Further a few of the bikes we assembled from donations will be sold at a rediculous discount so that the kids can ride off season. The gratitude on their faces is amazing to see. I know that the gear we got from all of you really put these boys and girls in a position to ride and bond and succeed. Everyone I come in contact with thinks that this is just the coolest thing in the world and it is just remarkable to experience their support. Even people who read about us in passing seem to send a little karmic energy our way. You must appreciate that I’m glad to extend my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you but, more than that, you all need to understand that you, too, are honored by your gracious thoughts and deeds.
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