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My Students Never Fail to Make My Day!

Wow, what a great three days!  I get back from nine days of coaching in a wet and rainy Atlanta and my phone and email box was over following with happy riders sharing their stories.  From excited Atlanta campers including a 51 year old women who started mountain biking at 41 to possibly the fastest teenager in the world and riders and racers of all levels in between from New Zealand to Nepal.

First Mitch Ropelato calls to tell me he scored is second pro victory at the downhill race in Bootleg.  This kid trains hard and trains smart and is full of desire that I don’t think can be coached. Take note of his name as you will be seeing a lot from him.

Then Jamie Danesh emails to say he took 2nd place in first race ever at the Keysville classic! He later tells me that another camper (Jason Benge I believe) from the same camp won the sport class with a time that would of been 1st in expert!

Later I get this email:  …..

Before your camp, I had reached my potential based on my skill and knowledge level.    We ride quite a bit, but I was riding all our trails the exact same way each time, with no improvement.  I would stop and walk over the same obstacles, take the same line on all the corners, brake the same way each time, corner the same way, etc.  A friend who took your class several years ago would tell me to “look to victory.”  I really didn’t know what that meant.    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for teaching me the correct way to do the basic skills, and giving me the tools to start learning those skills.  I have many years ahead of me to ride my bike, and I absolutely love mountain biking!!!  Now the doors are wide open for me to become that much better a rider!   Thank you!!!!
I can’t wait to get the homework assignments!  Send them on–I’m ready!!!  The next time you hear from me, I will be a better rider!
Thanks, Gene–you are awesome!
Barbara

What a great week!  Create your best ride yet,

Gene

Mountain Bike! The best pro in the sport taught me wrong!

Often the best athletes in a sport don’t make the best coaches. I was reading the book Blink the other day and it talked about Andre Aggassi’s advice on how he puts so much top spin on the ball. When explaining it to his coach and other coaches he stated that by turning his wrist over as he hit the ball it gave him the top spin. Well the coaches believed this (after all Andre was one of the best players in the world) and started teaching their students this. Well, an interesting thing happened, there was a huge rise in wrist injuries among young tennis players. After careful motion analysis the coaches saw that Andre’s wrist never moved, the “top the ball motion” was actually generated at his shoulder not his wrist.

Reading this reminded me of all the movements in riding that I now explain quite differently than I did 5-10 years ago. The skill hasn’t changed but after years of study I realized that I was often explaining the outcome of doing it correctly but not the actual fundamental skill. Effective coaching involves breaking skills down and being able to explain them to a diverse group of people. One of the best aspects of my job is after 20 years of coaching I am still learning how to explain skills better. The learning of skills continues too, after 11 years of coaching mountain biking I am still learning a lot of little details on how to do skills better/easier/with less effort.

The moral of the story, don’t believe everything you hear, even it comes from an “expert”.

Kids on Bikes!

Those of you who have taken a camp with me or simply been riding with me when we pass a group of kids or a family out riding know how happy I am when I see “kids on bikes” as I usually shout with glee, “Kids on bikes!” Ever since my first my first purple bike with big banana seat and ape hanger handle bars I have loved riding bikes. My bike was my ticket to adventure. It exponentially expanded my universe my allowing me to leave my block and explore unknown territory and gave me an out let for my boundless energy. As our country has gotten more in to consuming and spectating than actually doing anything (shopping is not a hobby, neither is watching other people play sports) it has really saddened me to see so many kids who have never discovered the freedom and adventure of riding a bike. Seeing kids on bikes gives me hope, makes me smile and brings back great memories. The kids on bikes are always smiling too, what a great toy!

After a fun (but way to short) stay with my family for Christmas I had to rush back to Tempe to coach the NOVA junior mountain bike team. I was looking forward to coaching the kids but mad at myself for volunteering to coach so close to Christmas. I was also honestly feeling a little resentful that I was sacrificing family time to coach a clinic (how is that for Christmas spirit! hopefully I won’t feel like such a scrooge next year). Well I woke up Thursday and rushed to get to South Mountain on time and was further upset that there was some confusion as to when the clinic was going to start. I was thinking, “I left my family so I could coach some late, ungrateful kids?”. Well the crew arrived not long after that and we got started. My attitude quickly changed as any time you get “kids on bikes” it is a good thing and this was no exception. The kids were fun, smart and good riders. We all learned a lot and had a lot of fun despite a chilly and breezy day. The kids were grateful too, the all thanked me and said that they were looking forward to next week’s clinic.

On Friday I was lucky enough to teach a younger group of kids than on Thursday and really relearned/remembered the differences in teaching younger kids and how much fun it is. Three 11-13 year old girls learned how to do wheelies! Like the older kids we had a lot of fun and they thanked me at the end of the day.

After the camp I had a little energy left so I went out for a ride. I was hoping to go up Mormon loop and down National trail but ran out of energy near the top of Mormon and turned around. Not long after turning around I ran into more kids on bikes! From the size of their smiles they were clearly excited to be out riding. I stopped to chat with them and they were pressing me to turn around and do National with them. Turns out that they are from Golden, Colorado and we ride a lot of the same trails at home. Their enthusiasm for descending National almost got me to turn around climb back up with them but I was just too tired. I did my best to focus on what I was doing on they way back to the car but I kept thinking about those two kids. What a grand adventure they were on! Unlike a lot of kids I see today they were in excellent shape, had great self-esteem and were quite happy.

For years I have thought if we could just get more kids on bikes we end so many problems. A kid with a skinned knee or even a broken arm has a story to tell and will heal stronger and even more confident of himself. A kid that is 30 pounds over weight by the time he/she is 13 years old and has never accomplished and/or failed anything isn’t really prepared for what life is going to throw at him/her. Life involves stress, physical, mental and emotional and riding a bike is similar to life in this matter. Riding a bike can teach a child a lot: that they can do more than they thought, that they have some control over their life, that exercise is fun, how to handle failure and through all of this increase their self esteem. I am doing what I can to encourage kids to start riding and I hope you will do the same. Stay tuned for more information on “kids on bikes”.