DAVIDSON COUNTY — “They’re no tryouts… no benchwarmers! And every student-athlete gets to contribute points that count!” enthuses Mike Hensley, former head coach of the Davidson County Mountain Bike team. Mountain biking is an ideal sport for youth empowerment and personal growth but many students have never tried mountain biking. However, this new high school sports trend has unveiled some barriers to entry. North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League (NCICL) now in its second season, is addressing these barriers by virtue of their core values: inclusivity, equality, strong body, strong mind and strong character. How are they doing this? First and foremost, NCICL allows student-athletes to compete at their own pace. For NCICL, student-athletes are students first.
In an effort to have more socioeconomic diversity among participants, NCICL has started a loaner bike program to make mountain biking more accessible. With this initiative, they are able to provide all the benefits of mountain biking to students of different cultural backgrounds, from inner city to rural communities who are generally “priced” out of mountain biking. “If a student-athlete cannot join the team because of a financial burden then we need to hear about it,” emphasizes Coach Danny Anderson, the current head coach for the Davidson County mountain bike team. “One of the biggest issues we face when reaching underserved communities is financial. Some families cannot afford to pay entry fees for races.”
In addition, many students cannot travel far to practice. “Right now, many of the students in Davidson County have to travel to different counties to practice,” adds ride leader, Cary Kanoy, who is also cofounder of Roadies and Dirties of Davidson County, a cycling and trails advocacy group. “Student-athletes commute out of county to practice because we lack trail access within our county for mountain biking. Four out of five times we practice out of county... There is only one true mountain bike trail in Davidson County accessible to the general public, which is still under construction. We really need to see an improvement in trail access in Davidson County.”
Last year, NCICL kicked off its inaugural season with 321 student-athletes. “The NCICL league had a strong start because of NICA’s (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) mission — no tryouts, inclusivity, a strong core of volunteer coaches and strong coach support,” says Mike Long, League Director of NCICL. “This year, we’re projecting that 400 students will start. As of now, we have invited 39 teams of which 25 have begun the process of gearing up for this season! Our target goal is 40 teams across the state this season.”
Coach Hensley witnessed numerous cool things happen at the mountain bike races. “The cheering that goes on for these kids gets this type of student to come to practice because they find something that gives them an identity.” NCICL student-athletes race at their own pace achieving their goals in mountain biking. Interestingly, students empower themselves to go harder hopefully creating lifelong cyclists.
Looking ahead, for the next five years, Hensley muses, “We would love to see every school system have a team. The dream would be for every middle and high school to have their team compete across the state and every school system will have at least one team. We would love to see mountain biking reach every community.”
If you are interested in joining the Davidson County Mountain Bike team, contact Danny Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. To find out more about North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling Leagues, visit northcarolinamtb.org.