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  1. #1
    Robertson
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    New NICA Coach Looking for Advice

    Good Morning All,

    I recently signed up to be one of the coaches for my old high school's NICA team, and was wondering if any of you (racers or coaches) have tips/advice on what I can do to be a good coach and better connect with the athletes. I'm by no means an expert rider but am experienced and competent, and was encouraged to become a coach by the head coach as I am younger (23 yo) than the rest of the coaches and he thought this would help me connect with the kids better. So anyone have any advice? Thanks in advance for any help.

  2. #2
    It's about showing up.
    Reputation: Berkeley Mike's Avatar
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    How big is the team. How many boys and how many girls? Where are you?
    I don't rattle.

  3. #3
    Robertson
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    Team is about 20 kids (all boys as far as I know), in Alabama. League is new this year as well

  4. #4
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    NICA has some excellent coaching webinars that do a great job reminding us coaches about the physical and mental development of our riders.

    What are your goals as a coach for this team? What's the mix like between competitive racer and beginner?

    I highly recommend the webinars here:
    Webinar Series ? NICA

    The teaching book might be useful too:
    http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Mount...dp/0974566039#

  5. #5
    Robertson
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    Those webinars are perfect, thanks! Most of the riders are pretty beginner, so my goal is to:
    1) teach them solid fundamentals: correct braking, cornering, attack position, etc.
    2) instill a love of mountain biking in them, so those that graduate stick with it, and those that are younger come back next year
    3) help them have fun!

    I'm planning on letting the older coaches who have more experience with racing teach them the more technical aspects, like starts, etc. I will most likely spend the majority of my time with the more beginner riders, focusing on fundamentals.

  6. #6
    Occasionally engaged…
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    Perhaps this piece of advice was covered by the webinars, but the biggest error I've seen committed by volunteer/assistant coaches is not being regular or showing when they indicated they would. This has been true of both the NICA and soccer teams my kids have been part of. Kids sense disinterest or flakiness pretty quickly and you can see their eyes roll when the assistant coach who said he was going to be at practice twice a week ends up showing up once every couple of weeks. That's not a good way to earn respect or establish a positive relationship with a teenager -- no matter the value of the guys input when he's there, they're not going to listen. Sure, conflicts come up and they'll be excused if the team knows you're reliable and have established your good intentions from the beginning.
    "The plural of anecdote is not data." -- Attributed to various people in a variety of forms, but always worth remembering...

  7. #7
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    PeT makes a good point. A flakey assistant coach or ride leader can sour the relationship with the students/riders.

    Especially with the beginners. They need your full support.
    Coaching: http://wgcmtb.org
    Riding: Santa Cruz Superlight 29
    Riding: Airborne Griffin
    Riding: Motobecane Cross Outlaw XV

  8. #8
    It's about showing up.
    Reputation: Berkeley Mike's Avatar
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    It is all about showing up. The critics and know-it-all don't last. Be true to the kids. If you take good care of them you will own the parents. There is more to this than winning.
    I don't rattle.

  9. #9
    Primative Screwhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    It is all about showing up. The critics and know-it-all don't last. Be true to the kids. If you take good care of them you will own the parents. There is more to this than winning.
    ^^This.

    Some other tips:

    1. Skills, skills, skills. Skill acquisition needs to be the focus of their junior years. Pedalling circles, bunch skills, braking, cornering, holding a wheel, laying off the wheel, bumping, sliding, emergency braking, eating and dressing whilst riding, etc. Their adolescent physical development will be all over the place, whereas skill acquisition is something you can plan, take control of and measure success in.

    2. If you're writing programs, tell them they'll get the next one only after giving you feedback on what they've accomplished (otherwise, what is the point of having a coach?) Also, you may write the most beautifully ornate and effective training programs the world has ever seen, but unless the athlete is engaged with it, it will be meaningless.

    3. Plan your sessions so that the athletes know what the goal of the activity is before they show up, how your session fits in with the weekly plan and why it's done in that part of the season.

    4. When they show up to training or racing, they should know how to warm up correctly without your input. You are basically teaching them to be independent - you wont be coaching them forever.

    5. Skills session need to conclude before they get tired. Keep a close eye on fatigue unless you enjoy strapping broken wrists (I've learnt this the hard way). If they say "But just one more pump track run..." say no. Someone has to be the adult, and that person is you.

    6. You can't want something more than they do. It has to come from them

    7. Praise the effort and application, not the result. By all means describe the result, but reward their engagement and attitude.

    Background: I'm a school teacher but also coached an elite junior development squad for my federation (Aus) for five years. It impacted my family too much so I had to give it away. Graduates range from 'gone nowhere' to 'Team BMC' via an U/23 World title. You'll get all sorts and you need to give them all the best chance that you can. I still take my school group for rides - I could care less if any of them ever enter a race (although some usually end up racing anyway.) We do 20km xc loops on the beautiful singletrack in the surrounding ranges - that counts as a win in my eyes and theirs.
    Ego maniacs please object to my posts.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpearce1475 View Post
    Those webinars are perfect, thanks! Most of the riders are pretty beginner, so my goal is to:
    1) teach them solid fundamentals: correct braking, cornering, attack position, etc.
    2) instill a love of mountain biking in them, so those that graduate stick with it, and those that are younger come back next year
    3) help them have fun!
    This is a good plan.
    1) Nobody has fun until they have the skills to feel safe.
    2+3) Probably not 1 kid in 20 has the grit to do the kind of suffering that's required to be competitive without the love. Key to this I think getting the kids to build bonds between one and another. Having fun with your crew on and off the trail really dilutes the hurt part of the deal.

    To that I'd add:
    1) Make some good connections with your local shops. NICA racers can burn a lot of gear and its nice to have a cheap source of parts, and its nice to have a shop that will fast track a repair when there's a race tomorrow. Also, these shops will be able to hook you up with the fast and skilled riders you need to support a bunch of competitive HS racers.

    2) Try to collect a couple of loaner bikes. You'll need them for people trying out, and as spare mounts for bikes that go down last minute.

    3) Dont burn yourself out. Start spreading the load to parents and ride leaders as soon as you can.

  11. #11
    My other ride
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    Kind of old, but lessons learned?

    I'm thinking about starting a team at my local HS, if there is interest. It is a pretty small school and conveniently enough, an English teacher there races as a local pro.

  12. #12
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    I see from your profile you're down in Norco.

    I would bet money there's a Composite Team in your area. You would make your life a WHOLE bunch easier if you teamed with a Composite team for the first year to help you you on your feet. I would Contact the socal league director, Matt Gunnell (sp?), and discuss it with him. He would steer you right.

  13. #13
    My other ride
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphic View Post
    I see from your profile you're down in Norco.

    I would bet money there's a Composite Team in your area. You would make your life a WHOLE bunch easier if you teamed with a Composite team for the first year to help you you on your feet. I would Contact the socal league director, Matt Gunnell (sp?), and discuss it with him. He would steer you right.
    You are correct, CCTMB is close by in Corona and where last years U23 24 Hour World Champion comes out of. I definitely have access to good local info, just trying to keep an open mind about info and looking far ahead as I'm not prepared to commit right now.

    I don't know Matt, but I know the name and know people in his circle.

    Thanks for the info. I'll reach out to him soon.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    I definitely have access to good local info, just trying to keep an open mind about info and looking far ahead as I'm not prepared to commit right now.

    I don't know Matt, but I know the name and know people in his circle.

    Thanks for the info. I'll reach out to him soon.
    Sounds like working with a Composite is the perfect thing for you, and people like you are the whole reason Composite teams were created in the rules.

    Ideally, the Corona Composite would work with you for a season to get you your volunteer hours, steer you towards the coaching and med classes, let you get some reps running rides and working the kids up through race day, and hopefully cut you in on some of the fundraising so you have a stake to start putting together a team "kit" (ezups, trainers, etc).

    Seems like when people try to just create a team from nothing they often end up doing a bad news bears kind of thing for a couple seasons while slowly coming up to speed. That's not necessarily bad, but its perhaps more painful and costly for the adults than necessary.

    Also, the rules now have a provision for "subdivisions" within the composite teams, so conceivably the kids from your perspective team could race as a team while still benefitting from the Composite team. I think if you have more than 5 riders you have to have that geographic subdivision.

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