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  1. #1
    PeT
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    Why are we doing this?

    My son is taking part as a freshman in the Colorado High School MTB series (NICA). I've been whining locally about this since it started here and since there's a forum for it, I figure to continue my whine here -- it's too damn expensive for what you get. $210 in fees for four races! Travel to venues no closer than 3 hours drive, either camping or hotel fees, ugly jersey to purchase -- I figure it will all amount to something on the order of $1500 out of pocket for the "season". And in the end, the kid will probably end up riding less 'cause all the weekend travel time this is taking. We'll be spending less on a season of downhill skiing for the two of us, something I didn't think was possible.

    Okay, that part was about me and my family's situation. We are all committed cyclists (daughter is in her third year running her collegiate cycling team) and we ride and race in much the same way we breathe. But with expenses like that, it's no wonder the local team is floundering -- we're the exception around here, rather than the rule. Places like Boulder and Durango have no problem filling out a team, but growing cycling among youngsters as a sport in places other than the hotbeds needs another mechanism. Several of my son's friends expressed an interest in doing the high school mtb team but that was shut down in a hurry when the costs came to light. And some high school kids that were regulars at the summer $5/race summer series aren't taking part in the high school team because of costs and travel. The local organizers of our team are great and eager to see that kids that want to do it can afford it through scholarships/loaner bikes/whatever, but that doesn't seem to get through to families (or doesn't set will with them to take a handout).

    I've been on the inside of race promotion and know the effort and costs involved, but this seems like an expensive way to get kids on bikes and involved in mountain biking. I'm not saying I have a alternative in mind, but I don't think the NICA model does anything then milk more out of the same group. I'm grudgingly going along as cycling is our "thing" and the people organizing and coaching are friends, but if one of those things wasn't true -- we'd be riding and racing locally for a lot less money and a lot less hassle...
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  2. #2
    J-Flo
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    Here's why we are doing this

    Here in Nor Cal, the high school mountain bike races provide really special and irreplaceable benefits. Extremely well-organized races, with about 500 racers on average (and more than 600 at several races) at all skill levels, from those who are competing for national championships to beginners learning how to be atheletes, all in a very safe (and insured) kid-friendly environment with well-planned courses and 50 or more marshals and sweeps. Our team has four dedicated coaches (three of them volunteers) who ride with the kids at least two-three times per week during season and provide tremendous support on race days, together with a group of supportive parents. And the cameraderie of the team is terrific -- the kids are actively recruiting new riders now and taking every spare moment they can to go on rides together. I am sure I am leaving out many of the great aspects of the team and league.

    Here in the Bay Area, there aren't any nearby mountain bike races, so traveling is always necessary to race (in fact, I don't think there has been a USAC XC race within 50 miles for more than two years; the last one is being reorganized and will be done again later this month). But most of our races have been within 100 miles.

    It sounds to me as though your major issue is simply that the Colorado league is very young and hasn't yet achieved the critical mass that would support more and closer races and dividing up the state into separate leagues. The solution is to recruit more riders and build your teams!

    I suppose that, if your kid already has ample opportunities to compete in terrific nearby mountain bike races, and doesn't care about having coaches or teammates to train and ride with, then I might be able to understand why you are complaining. If your kid isn't benefiting from being part of a team and is getting only an "ugly kit" and a lot of unnecessary travel, then why do it? (By the way, the solution to an ugly kit is to find out which of the parents or their friends has some graphic design talent, and get them to make a cool kit. It works!) You really can't complain about a $55 per race fee, if your races are anything like ours in terms of safety and quality of organization. I can only assume that the level of travel you mention is required because your league is still small and the races have to be spread out to cover the state. That won't be a problem for long. High school mountain biking is the wave of the future.

  3. #3
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    Time and money - I think those are challenges for parents of kids involved in any competitive sport. And the more rural your location, the more time and money involved, as travel becomes more of a factor. School sports are also challenging because kids still have to get homework done. In that regard, cycling isn't any different than softball or baseball or soccer.

    I'm lucky enough to live in the only school district in my county where kids don't pay for competitive sports. The key is parent and kid involvement in the schools. The parents and kids do car washes, rummage sales, sell snacks and drinks at all the home events. I've worked a few: you can sell a lot of Gatorade at a xc or track meet. Maybe there are some local opportunities that kids from your area could help with by providing labor and services: shovel snow, deliver and stack firewoood, etc.

    Scholarships are not handouts; they are based on merit and work. But how you get that across to parents is something you need to brainstorm on; what I might say to people in my community might not resonate in your area. But maybe a service commitment could be tied to the scholarships - scholarship athletes do team laundry or clean bikes or paint bleachers at the school ball fields. Like I said, depends on what works in your area.

    Lastly, the way to control travel costs is to coordinate as much as possible, both with other team parents and the host venue. Carpool, bring ice chests, arrange for group rates at hotels.

  4. #4
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    Seems to me like supporting a high school racer is pretty light duty compared to a lot of other sports like football and soccer.

    There's less than 1/2 a dozen race weekends while soccer players go every weekend for months. I look at the commitment of baseball parents and feel like a slug in comparison.

    Most clubs only practice a few days a week, but as a parent "practice" is a lot more palatable when you can ride along and get your own work out in rather than just sitting your arse on a cold bleacher seat.

    As far as the travel goes.....get the "f" over it and try enjoying your life. Its a chance to camp with the kids, travel, eat out, talk in the car, ride some new terrain, work together towards the goal of making your racer successful, and see new things. If you treat it like grievous burden it certainly will be. If you treat it like an opportunity to get out of your rut and create memories with your family, then that is what it will be.

  5. #5
    PeT
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphic View Post
    As far as the travel goes.....get the "f" over it and try enjoying your life.
    [Edit: Removed my less than witty, poor form response to what I still see as a less than witty, judgmental, off-topic response. I apologize for that. Back to the topic at hand: is NICA the best way to allocate scarce resources?]

    It seems yet again that my poor writing skills masked the point I was trying to make – here’s another try. In my opinion, NICA gives less in return for the money they take in than what folks in the Rocky Mountain region can get from existing local promoters and similarly focused organizing efforts. My home race series in Laramie is one example, the Boulder Racing Cyclocross series is another -- more racing for a fraction of the fees that NICA races cost. Get this -- the promoter for the Stone Temple 8 at Curt Gowdy Park is putting on in conjunction with the 8 hours race, a race for middle and high school kids -- it costs $12 and it includes lunch! No $50 league registration fee, and less than 1/3 the fee for a NICA race. I'm just not understanding the economics of the NICA model.

    And yes, these "NICA alternative" events are safe, insured, well organized, and offer a supportive, all-inclusive environment. I’m not saying high school racing as promoted by NICA is without value, but I am willing to say it’s has a lot less value on a per dollar and time basis than other avenues for racing. I’ve seen no evidence that more kids are being introduced into the joys of mountain bike racing or drawn into fellowship of like minded individuals by this league than other established cycling related events. Twice as many high school aged kids (and younger) took part in the Laramie MTB Series races than are on the local NICA team. Just on a numbers game alone, our local events are bringing more kids into the sport than the more costly NICA gambit, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if that was true elsewhere. It's an "Emperor's new clothes" thing, a developing "sacred-cow", above criticism 'cause it's "for the kids". Because it's "for the kids" we probably should be getting it right.

    And then maybe my disappointment is really with myself for not having come up with the idea of creating a national sanctioning body that has to be pulling in excess of $100,000 in league registration fees/year. Talk about a missed business opportunity…

    And because every thread is worthless without pictures, here's one of the boy riding a trail at Gowdy this past weekend. Hope your weekend ride was as good as ours. For that matter, I hope your Tuesday night ride was as good as ours...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Why are we doing this?-gowdy.jpg  

    Last edited by PeT; 09-19-2012 at 06:08 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Sounds like the value is outweighed by the downside for you. Sounds like you should move on and stick with other ride and race opportunities.
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  7. #7
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    PeT,

    I think you are plenty eloquent. I see the point you are making about those two other race series and value per dollar. So maybe the high school racing doesn't make financial sense in your situation.

    But I think comparing the number of kids involved in the local race series versus the school team is pretty much an apples to oranges comparison - like comparing how many kids play in the town little league versus are on the middle or high school baseball team, and concluding the latter aren't cost effective.

  8. #8
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    Hopefully you are all doing it because your kids want to do it. I would be thirilled if my son or daughter wanted to get out there and race bikes. Unfortunately for me and the Mrs., that gene must be recessive or skip a generation. Have Fun!

  9. #9
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    First off, a $5 race is unrealistic and can only happen if someone else is paying the bill in some way. That said....

    Key to this is exant resources It sounds like some places have a race culture in place which supports kids, even if it piggybacks off of adult-funded and well-established races. Both factors reduce and defray costs. So in some sense you guys are spoiled. It's a good thing.

    However, the training and support generated by the NorCal model we developed, which NICA is subsequently expressing throughout the nation, supports and developes a much wider range of potential athletes than the racer-family some of you seem to represent. Racer-families bring something special to the League experience, often in a value-added sense, but in the larger picture their model doesn't have a broad benefit. One of my boys was converted from baseball and by the time he was a Jr. he was killing everyone, even kids from racer-families.

    To put it plainly, and no offense meant, the racer-family can be a disturbance, unless these folks step up to lead or coach on an overall program, as their sense of resources and goals is very narrow and, in a funny way, very old-school. You can hear it in the initial post. Keep in mind that I respect the fact that such a deternination comes from a great deal of expertise.

    Having founded, shaped, lead, structured financially, developed 2 teams over 10 seasons, and had my own son a part of these teams I get the stresses. I have watched race families come into the league and wrestle with its values; the teams don't do it right, my kid needs more, my kid needs more of this and less of that. It is hard to watch other folk coach your kid.

    In the overall the racer family kids are not the most successful racers but that is not the point of these High School teams. The point is the shared experience, the growth, the individual excellence, and lastly, the Podium. The Podium is for the Racer Heads who can understand nothing else. Most important is the chance to spend time with your kids while they recreate and spend time with their peers, not to seperate them from the rest.

    Cycling is a lifelong experience which is so much broader than racing and so much more fun. If that is not a value one can embrace then this experience is not for you.

    The cost? Well, folks, it is a lot like advocacy; no one can just sit back and expect trails to be created, transformed, or converted just for your own pleasure. (BTW do racers do much advocacy or trail building? Just askin'.) It's not like the folks who put on these races are rolling in dough. Come on, you know better; no one in cycling makes much money. This is about building a new community for the future. Maybe you have your race already; well good for you. Don't let the door....

    Don't like the costs? You need to go out and find sponsors; as seasoned racers you may know more about this than other folk. Build new financial community resources to offset costs. Be creative. We started form nothing but the tools in my truck and a box of Clif bars. In a few years we had scholarships, provided bikes, and reduce fees. Full kit of SS jersey, bibs, long sleeve jersey, vest, windjacket was only $125.

    Think in terms of sharing. Or you and your kin can all pile into your race vehicle and do it your way. The Leagues will live without you and you will see each other at the Nationals. Yes, there are always the families who do nothing but there are families who do so much. Which one do you want to be? Need a hand? ; the teams will never say no.
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    Last edited by Berkeley Mike; 09-21-2012 at 10:39 PM.
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  10. #10
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    My son has raced the past 3 yrs in the league here in NorCal and will again this year. Yes I agree it's expensive but here it provides the best competition. My son does other events but the fields tend to be much smaller. I find the league races are by far the best organized but on the negative side the venues are not always the best because the venues have to be able to handle the large fields. Unfortunately where we live there is not a school team so we are independent.
    My son used to play club soccer and overall the costs are not that far apart in the end, plus I enjoy cycling myself so its a win all around.
    The League is truly not focused toward the individual racer as stated in Berkeley Mike's post above but rather the experience and to provide exposure to riding. Racers can and do benefit because at least here in NorCal you will find the best competition at the League races, but the league's focus is for everyone from the serious racer on down. In fact IMO the league is less focused on serious racers and more on the overall experience of training,improving and growing.
    My only complaint is that kids that don't have access to a school or composite team miss out on a lot of what the league provides. My son does all his training alone, since I'm too slow to help him improve and it's not always easy to go up against teams that have multiple riders in a race that work for each other. Plus many of the school teams or composites get additional breaks due to sponsorships they have formed. Finding sponsorship help for an independent rider isn't easy.
    Last edited by MTB Dad; 09-21-2012 at 10:50 PM.

  11. #11
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    Independants and Composite teams have it so very hard. Solo training or trying to organize training with riders from multiple schools is a real challenge. I hope you are able to get closer to another racer. Maybe you can find a circuit wher you can work him while you time him or something, for some part of your ride. Yeah, you give up your rride but...its for your kid. Besides, you might wear him down a bit so you can stay with him. Remember to keep it fun.

    Also, see if you can build a relationship with an established team and hook up for a Saturday workout a couple times a month. It is a nice change and he gets to ride with other guys and gals. If he enjoys the riding everyone will enjoy him. It will be that way no matter where he rides in the world throughout his life. Check with the League and make a call; I am sure he will be welcome. And since you ride, too, your contribution to the team will be appreciated as well.

    As far as staying with your son on a ride; I last saw my son's skinny butt when he was 14. He raced Varsity as a Jr.
    Last edited by Berkeley Mike; 09-22-2012 at 08:24 AM.
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  12. #12
    PeT
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    First off, a $5 race is unrealistic and can only happen if someone else is paying the bill in some way. That said....

    Key to this is exant resources It sounds like some places have a race culture in place which supports kids, even if it piggybacks off of adult-funded and well-established races. Both factors reduce and defray costs. So in some sense you guys are spoiled. It's a good thing.
    Or, it could just be the culture here and elsewhere has grown-up the right way in support of our cycling youngsters. It's true that the guys promoting our local $5-a-race-series take nothing in return, but they do buy insurance and have had to accumulate the supplies necessary to mark a course and they're not paying for that out of pocket. I will try to encourage them to share with others how they can put on such a good series for so little money. Speaking with a VERY experienced promoter, he did think the NICA fees were a bit high but reminded me of significant start up costs (posts, fencing, course markers, timing and PA equipment, administration) and certainly wasn't indignant about the fees and did make me feel better about the appropriateness of the fee structure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    However, the training and support generated by the NorCal model we developed, which NICA is subsequently expressing throughout the nation, supports and developes a much wider range of potential athletes than the racer-family some of you seem to represent.
    This is the crux of the argument I'm apparently having with others in this thread -- I don't see this as being true nor has there been any evidence in support of this claim presented by NICA or its supporters. Since this discussion is current, I paid particular attention at the 2nd race of the Colorado series held this weekend -- about 400 racers and I counted less than ten kids equipped and performing in such a way as I would conclude they were not from a "racer family". There's half that many kids from "non-racer families" in our small town alone that raced this summer but aren't on the team because of the expense and travel involved. So I'm calling "bull" on this claim until presented evidence otherwise (or discover it myself). There are many ways to encourage cycling among the youth, but an expensive (to some) and involved racing team wouldn't seem to be the best way under any circumstance. I honestly believe I'd be all in if I felt that claim had any merit, but I'm just not seeing it -- you may not believe me when I say it, but I want to be convinced. And in the end it wouldn't be so wrong to admit straight up that there was a market for another teen-centric activity that has the benefit of promoting good health and friendly competition, and NICA filled that niche -- there's a lot worse ways to have parents spend money on their kids (IMO). That might just be a good enough "greater good".

    It was a stunningly beautiful day at the race in Granby (Snow Mountain Ranch) yesterday -- great course, good weather, and the organization was much better than the first race. That's something the Colorado group has going for it -- truly nice, enthusiastic organizers.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Why are we doing this?-photo-sep-23-12-05-55-pm.jpg  

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  13. #13
    J-Flo
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeT View Post
    So I'm calling "bull" on this claim until presented evidence otherwise (or discover it myself). There are many ways to encourage cycling among the youth, but an expensive (to some) and involved racing team wouldn't seem to be the best way under any circumstance. I honestly believe I'd be all in if I felt that claim had any merit, but I'm just not seeing it -- you may not believe me when I say it, but I want to be convinced.
    Cycling is both an individual and a team sport. You seem to be looking at this only from the individual perspective, and I suppose that there are plenty of kids out there who are focused primarily upon themselves and their families and find their motivation from somewhere other than a team -- from their racer parents, maybe, or friends, or within themselves (or even from Strava, I suppose). But I've been incredibly inspired by the positive way that team-oriented high school mountain bike racing has transformed my 14-year old son's life. In less than 12 months, he has lost almost 20 lbs. while growing 4 inches. He now is the athlete in the family and I am learning from him and inspired to start riding heavily myself. He started from ground zero, attracted to the team by a friend and because he knew mountain biking is fun (he was just a dabbler before), crew practice was too inconvenient and difficult, and he needed to do something to replace P.E.

    This is only the beginning of my second year at it, and Berkeley Mike and many others here have far more experience as rider parents and coaches, but so far I have observed the following benefits, which I think are :

    1. Team racing promotes both individual drive and collective motivation. There's nothing like a group ride to make these kids want to perform against and with each other. Unfortunately I can't keep up with them so I don't get to experience it, but my kid always prefers the group rides and practices to riding on his own (or with me, which forces him to stop and wait at the top of the hill). Kids who start out finishing at the bottom of their classes are brought along in a very constructive way and encouraged to keep at it rather than giving up; whereas kids who start out slowly in other sports are cut from the team, in high school mountain biking everyone can participate and it can only help, never hurt, the team's score to have more riders.

    2. Team coaches and other teammates provide excellent teaching training for kids on the essentials of riding technique, fitness training, healthy diet, trail behavior, and caring for the trails. Sure, they learn some or all of this from their parents, but it is reinforced so much more strongly when it comes from a peer group -- especially the fitness and diet aspects. The

    3. It's just fun as can be to watch kids incorporate mountain biking into their high school experience, with school rivalries and ability to make friends with riders from other schools who they otherwise would likely not meet. Team training rides (as well as the other, unofficial practices organized by the more involved kids) are generally open, and kids from other schools that might not have a team, or even those that do, are welcome to join in.

  14. #14
    PeT
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jfloren View Post
    Cycling is both an individual and a team sport. You seem to be looking at this only from the individual perspective, and I suppose that there are plenty of kids out there who are focused primarily upon themselves and their families and find their motivation from somewhere other than a team -- from their racer parents, maybe, or friends, or within themselves (or even from Strava, I suppose).
    Hmmm... I'm not sure how my suggesting that scarce resources (time, money, volunteer efforts) might be better spent in ways than those promoted by NICA to get more kids introduced to the sport comes off sounding as if it's coming from the "individual perspective". I'm glad it's worked out well for you and your kid from your individual standpoint. My observation has been (okay, all of two races and one small town) that the NICA program is "preaching to the choir". I had hoped I might spur a conversation about how to be effective evangelicals with young athletes who aren't coming from a cycling family, but others don't seem to see the weakness in the NICA model that I perceive -- I'll relent and put my argument to bed. I hope you all have a good fall riding season.
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    I found this a curiosity:

    "The local organizers of our team are great and eager to see that kids that want to do it can afford it through scholarships/loaner bikes/whatever, but that doesn't seem to get through to families (or doesn't set will with them to take a handout)."

    What makes a $5 race possible? How is that different? Anyhow....

    In my many seasons participating in developing this model I have watched resources siphoned off of our NorCal League (which evoked/created a racing community where it was only marginal) to pay for the expansion of the method to SoCal and Colorado and then to develope NICA. It is a method of athletic development, devised at great cost, superior to any in the country which has and will ultimately displace regional and idiosyncratic old-school methods. It creates smart, powerful, and gracious athletes adn characters, within a team in a solitary sport, as matter of course because the techniques are refined, customized, adaptable, tested, and proven in life and on Podiums.

    The unique resources extant in the SF Bay area evoked a synergy which exploded into a community ready to embrace it and support it; the maturing mountain bike community in the birthplace of the sport. This cultivation took advantage of special skills, ingenuity, flexibility, creativity, and heart. It took athletes who understood teens, the sport, how to engage communities to support it, academics who extracted the esence of mountain biking and how to spread it to a general audience to express power and safety at the same time. And not scare mom. And bring girls to the sport... in droves.

    Each time these people, as a resource, were pressed to grow the model to other states we had to infill to keep NorCal going. New suitable people had to be found and developed. Financial resources were expressed in that fashion as well. That came from our race fees and our League fees. So money had to be found to address that and it sure wasn't going to come out of my pocket. Smart ways of managing volunteers had to be devised, and the right people added, otherwise it all came out of my end, too. That was the price of exporting the model across the country. All while keeping the kids on the trail and coming back for more.

    When I moved on from my teams they were well-funded, volunteers were well-trained, and families knew how to support the team. We had scholarships, were able to reduce costs, and bing kids in who might not otherwise have had the resources to ride mtb. They were left with a model which kept them viable and fertile. Both of my teams continue to function well and grow. The lives of people are changed forever. Over the years families have come to understand the value of what we created. My former athletes come back from college with a new understanding of what we shared.

    Racing seems to work for you and your friends the way it does for some very good reasons. Your system has emerged from its own community for its own ends through great people and many have become accustomed to it. Remember, there was nothing here when we started, either, and through our resources it has gone nationwide; that has a cost. The model continues to spread; that has a cost. Your local races are not spreading; they are an end in themselves serving a homogenous community with a certain definition of success. They can be less costly.

    Costs being what they are for whatever reason, I still think the answer is to find other ways to pay for it.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    It is a method of athletic development, devised at great cost, superior to any in the country which has and will ultimately displace regional and idiosyncratic old-school methods. It creates smart, powerful, and gracious athletes adn characters, within a team in a solitary sport, as matter of course because the techniques are refined, customized, adaptable, tested, and proven in life and on Podiums
    Wow. Just wow...

    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Costs being what they are for whatever reason, I still think the answer is to find other ways to pay for it.
    Oh...after the passage above, this was such a let down.

    You're clearly invested in this organization and it can be tough to see its motivations or value questioned. I appreciate that NICA filled a void experienced by some and is valued by many. But being who I am (and strangely enough, formed in part by spending many years in Berkeley), I always end up asking questions about why something is the way it is and how it might be done differently. I apologize if you found my questioning impertinent. I'll seek information elsewhere.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeT View Post
    Wow. Just wow...


    Oh...after the passage above, this was such a let down.

    You're clearly invested in this organization and it can be tough to see its motivations or value questioned. I appreciate that NICA filled a void experienced by some and is valued by many. But being who I am (and strangely enough, formed in part by spending many years in Berkeley), I always end up asking questions about why something is the way it is and how it might be done differently. I apologize if you found my questioning impertinent. I'll seek information elsewhere.
    No apology is necessary. You had pertinent questions about value. You just got a lot of info about value and cost which can relate to your area where values and costs are different. This is also a cultural impact.

    I just found a local race series set up for HS mountain bikers in California. 5 races in as many weeks. $25 a pop. It is not piggybacking on a pre-existing adult race but does utilize/access course materials from another series. It also takes advantage of pre-existing NorCal teams which fills the starting lines and increases the safety and integrity of the race experience. This model is not growing/spreading either. This keeps costs down.
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  18. #18
    J-Flo
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeT View Post
    Hmmm... I'm not sure how my suggesting that scarce resources (time, money, volunteer efforts) might be better spent in ways than those promoted by NICA to get more kids introduced to the sport comes off sounding as if it's coming from the "individual perspective". I'm glad it's worked out well for you and your kid from your individual standpoint. My observation has been (okay, all of two races and one small town) that the NICA program is "preaching to the choir". I had hoped I might spur a conversation about how to be effective evangelicals with young athletes who aren't coming from a cycling family, but others don't seem to see the weakness in the NICA model that I perceive -- I'll relent and put my argument to bed. I hope you all have a good fall riding season.
    I'm having some difficulty understanding your concern. Are you questioning the value of of team-oriented high school mountain biking (as it seems), or just the way NICA leagues do it and how much they charge? If you think that time and money and evangelical effort focused on kids is better spent in some other way than high school mountain biking, then how else can they get this kind of team-oriented experience? I think the value is priceless.

    I suppose we could focus on organizing teams apart from schools, but that seems much less likely to attract new kids into the sport, because it requires so much more effort to find riders and bring them together and the ones you find will likely already be committed riders. Our team has brought many new riders in to the sport through loaner bikes and scholarships.

    Working through the high schools requires an increased focus on safety (the NICA races are, from what I have seen, much safer than most USA Cycling sanctioned races -- they have better course marking, safer routes, more marshals, more medical personnel on site), insurance, as well as a real standard-setting organization for teams and coaches, and from what I can tell NICA has done that extremely well. NICA has a training program for coaches and makes sure all of the leagues are up to snuff; the leagues in turn make sure the individual teams and coaches are in good shape, and help find good, well trained coaches when the need arises. I think that most high school athletic programs would want nothing to do with an interscholastic racing program that did not have this kind of organization.

    All of this costs a lot more money than a more loosely organized semi-local racing league. Our league (Norcal) is pretty good about finding ways to increase access for kids with no bike and no money. The Colorado league is still very new and will I am sure get better at this. And NICA has been putting a lot of resources into establishing the new leagues across the country. Fees largely from Norcal and Socal went to pay for the effort to create the Colorado league (and this year the Utah league, which is off to a good start. All the training clinics for coaches and organizers cost money but pay off because they create a professional-style race environment from scratch. NICA is growing at a furious pace, which seems to me in 5-10 years or less will have a dramatic effect on bringing more World Cup racing into the US. Nobody is making a fortune doing this; NICA's board (and the league boards) are all committed volunteers, only a handful of key people receive any pay (allegedly they are part-time employees, but many of them work nearly full-time at it).

    So, what do you mean about being concerned NICA is "preaching to the choir?" Who is the choir? What are they preaching, and is there something about it that can be improved?

    I am sure there are ways that NICA can be made more efficient and less expensive, but I don't know what they are. Not that I am an expert in this; I am still learning and have never been a coach. But I tend to agree with Berkeley Mike, that doing high school racing right is inherently more expensive than other kinds of races (which in your area sounds like they are very well done -- you are fortunate), and our best solution is to find other ways to pay for it. Those will take time but they will come. Parents and alumni will donate time and money to their leagues as they grow older and can afford it, more foundations will get involved, and we are very slowly inching our way towards funding from the school athletic programs (already a reality at many private schools and I think at a few public schools).

  19. #19
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    Look into BMX racing at a National level... Competitive kids and parents travel a lot and all over the country. For a parent who supports their child and funds their racing it can run $5000-$12000 for the year for race fees and travel/lodging. And the fact BMX is starting to hit the colleges now firms up the future for that side of bicycle racing. Average race fees for a national weekend is $175-$350 depending on how many riders and how many days to be raced on any given weekend. That doesn't include the local races attended during the year. I have been there and done that with 3 kids plus raced them at local tracks for years. Alot of money was spent but you know what..... Would do it all over again to have those times and memories with my children. I now travel with my oldest daughter for MTB races and enjoying every minute of it. I guess I am trying to say...... ENJOY YOUR TIME WITH YOUR KIDS!!! You will regret it not doing so if something were to happen to them or yourself....

    Ride and be happy
    Trying to painfully relive some of youthful adventures!!

  20. #20
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    I find all of this banter very interesting. As a parent of a young mountain biker (12) in a state that has just joined NICA (AZ), I am thoroughly excited to have something for him to look forward to in the next two years. He enjoys riding with me most of the time, but he has few friends that even own a mountain bike. I think nothing but good can come of high school mountain bike racing in AZ. There aren't many races he can do at this time. He rode his first race in Flagstaff and even though he complained about the technical climbing, he had a huge grin on his face when he crossed the finish and the crowd was cheering him on. Amazing how quickly he forgot the pain. I look forward to attending NICA events with him in 2013 (he won't be in HS yet) just to see how they are run and the quality of the courses. It's all good in my eyes.

  21. #21
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    Chiito,

    Now is the time you should be finding or starting a youth racing club. Most clubs are looking for middle-school riders and racers as part of a development squad. NICA level competition can be very fierce, even in the Freshman class. A successful racing team will be identifying, training, and conditioning 7th and 8th graders to have competitive high-schoolers. The best way to get fast freshmen is to have 7th and 8th graders training with the high-school kids.

  22. #22
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    I have been thinking about that. He goes to a school that is unlikely to have a team. I have already volunteered, but may do what you suggested.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeT View Post
    I figure it will all amount to something on the order of $1500 out of pocket for the "season". And in the end, the kid will probably end up riding less 'cause all the weekend travel time this is taking. We'll be spending less on a season of downhill skiing for the two of us, something I didn't think was possible..
    You and others have the money and spend it gladly. IMHO, cycling is on the same trajectory as golf was many years ago. How much is/was spent on greens fees, carbon clubs and all the rest is what matters, not the activity itself and making it available to many

    Inside the bike industry, they are proud that cycling has become more expensive than skiing. More dollars for them. If you look at who is running NICA, it's all bike industry folks. They aren't particularly interested in a low-cost sport. The same is true for USA Cycling too, so nothing new on either front.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by asphalt_jesus View Post
    If you look at who is running NICA, it's all bike industry folks. They aren't particularly interested in a low-cost sport.
    You are dead wrong and obviously have no idea what you are talking about. The only thing the "bike industry" has to do with NICA is that many industry members (including many small companies and LBS's) have jumped on the bandwagon with sponsorships and support for leagues and individual teams. They are followers and have never been the leaders of NICA. What is your agenda in making such a ridiculous statement?

    Go bury your head in the sand somewhere else, please.

  25. #25
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    Well said. The people who I have met in AZ NICA have nothing to do with the bike industry. They are people like you and me. Well, like me. They are enthusiasts who want to see the sport flourish. The only way that will happen is to get new blood involved. In case you are wondering that would be the young people.

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