When I first began racing in a National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) league as a 13-year-old, I never expected the experience to have such an encouraging and long lasting impact on my character development and leadership skills. However, over these past five years I have grown and learned from some admirable coaches and have become someone whom my younger self would have respected. Here are just a few of the thing I’ve learned as a scholastic mountain bike athlete.
At first, as a young and impressionable middle schooler, I was often in doubt of my own worth and capabilities but the strong and encouraging coaches and senior riders helped foster my confidence so that I gradually grew in courage and self awareness. In fact I think scholastic mountain bike leagues like the Georgia League and NICA are and will continue to be super mentoring organizations for personal growth and leadership potential for all kids.
Time and time again, my coaches have given me the opportunity to push myself and develop both my mountain bike and leadership skills. This gentle push to get me out of my comfort zone has resulted in my becoming self-assured and able to make faster decisions. For example, when riding a trail, I can now confidently and quickly evaluate the safest and fastest route to take. The beauty of this is that I get to see immediate results of my thought process and whether or not my decision was the best one. This has translated to my everyday challenges because I now tend to look at issues with more of an analytical perspective rather than acting impulsively.
Compassion and helping those in need
Young teenagers need to look to others for guidance. Scholastic mountain biking has provided me and my peers with numerous talented and caring leaders to model. Any time anyone is in need of assistance, a coach or parent jumps in and helps however they can. This has taught me that I am never too busy to help others in need and that compassion and cooperation are worthy values to strive toward. In fact, I have not only learned how to better navigate my own world, but I have learned to try to view the world through others’ eyes.
Every year I am given countless opportunities to strengthen my skills both on and off the bike. I think that every lesson taught on a bike can be transformed into a crucial life lesson, the simplest of which is balance. In order for a bike rider to be successful, they must maintain balance and adjust in response to changes in terrain. The same goes for our lives. Maintaining a balance between school, work, and play is often difficult but is a lesson that must be learned. Mountain biking provides kids the chance to learn how to navigate tough lessons of life and leadership while maintaining a lighthearted atmosphere where the leaders of today are teaching the leaders of tomorrow.
Adaptability and a positive attitude
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all faced the challenged of modifying training and competition to avoid putting ourselves or our teammates at risk. With all the necessary precautions impacting our camaraderie and socializing, there is all the more reason to keep up our spirits and encourage our teammates to stay engaged in the program. After all, scholastic cycling was here before COVID-19 and will continue be here long after it’s gone. Especially during this time, every person you know faces challenges every day as they strive to grow and learn.
Society will only be as good as its leaders; if you want to be a confident and self-assured person tomorrow, then ride with us today and tell all your friends to come join us in NICA or whichever program your school may have.
Editor’s note: Updated 10/24/21 to clarify that as of the current 2021 season, the Georgia League is no longer a part of NICA as it was when Isabella began.