YOUTH MOUNTAIN BIKING
United States of America
Founded in 2009, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) develops interscholastic mountain biking programs for student-athletes (grades 6-12) across the United States. NICA provides leadership, services and governance for regional leagues to produce quality mountain bike events, and supports every student-athlete in the development of strong body, strong mind and strong character through interscholastic cycling.
- Providing extremely high quality experiences for student-athletes. 95% of NICA participants said they have learned the skills needed to ride safely and 95% of non-graduating student-athletes are going to participate again next year. 75% report that their participation in the League inspired other family/friends to start riding bikes.
- Engaging younger riders. Since NICA started offering middle school aged kids (grades 6-8) the opportunity to register and become insured for the riding activities under the supervision of licensed NICA coaches, participation has grown quickly. In 2016, 33% of total participating student-athletes were middle schoolers; this is a 10% increase from 2015.
- Improving both physical and mental health of participants. 74% of parents report that their children are making healthier food choices since joining NICA teams. 90% of students reported their overall health and physical fitness has improved. More than half of students average a 3.6 GPA or higher and fully 88% earn a 3.1 GPA or higher. They are truly “student-athletes”, with 64% reporting that they are looking at colleges that provide cycling scholarships.
- Increasing respect for the natural environment. 81% of students reported that their understanding and respect for other trail users and the environment benefited from participation in the league.
- Creating new opportunities for adults to get more active, and serve as coaches and mentors teens. The community connections made through coaching are noteworthy too: the number of licensed coaches grew 40% in 2016 to nearly 4,400 registered adults.
- Promote athlete skills development, excellence, teamwork, professionalism and respect for the community and the environment.
- Promote the sport of mountain biking and the benefits of mountain biking as a healthy, low impact, outdoor recreational lifestyle.
- Advocate for the environmental conservation of natural areas and parklands, mountain bike trail access, and the development of sustainable trail systems.
- Increase female participation by partnering with Little Bellas to provide increased mentorship opportunities.
- Establish Alumni Program to engage growing legion of alumni for support and involvement as coaches.
- Expand physical activity-based youth development curriculum to equip coaches with the right “tools” to help student-athletes develop skills and traits that enable success both on and off the bike throughout life.
NICA and GU both grew out of Berkeley, California! Four years after GU was founded, a math teacher and 4 students at Berkeley High School formed a mountain biking club, which would eventually turn into NICA! Today there are nearly 11,000 NICA student-athletes participating in 19 leagues across the country.
Over the years, GU and NICA have worked very closely together on a number of initiatives and events including co-hosting group rides in both southern and northern California, conducting sweeps of the Death Ride to pick-up used sports nutrition wrappers, holding screenings of Singletrack High to raise funds and awareness at the Leadville 100 and riding stages of the Tour of California (captured in a GU video here).
Favorite GU Product
Where to start? Our student-athletes love the caffeine-free GU chews in Blueberry-Pomegranate and Watermelon on race day, and for longer training rides they’re really digging the new Salty’s Caramel Stroopwafels!
Many of our student-athletes like to tape a GU to their top tube for quick access or even stick a few GU chews on their top tube! For a great post-ride recovery drink, we also like to mix GU Chocolate Recovery Mix with ½ a banana, ½ a cup of frozen cherries, vanilla yogurt and some almond milk in blender!
LISTEN: High Schoolers On Bikes
Hero Image: CodaJet Photography