In the past month I’ve had the pleasure of working with coaches from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Idaho in person! It has been great to get out in the field working with coaches directly again. The stoke level around the country is high!
The NICA community throughout the country is united around the love of bikes and the beautiful thing about a Nationwide community is you can show up at almost any trailhead and find a member of our NICA community. We have instant riding partners and folks to share stories with post ride. Your passion and love of mountain biking and coaching student-athletes keeps that stoke alive and ensures that generations of student-athletes will have the opportunity to pursue their best selves and find out who they really are. Let’s keep the community growing!
Keep up the good work getting more kids on bikes and thanks for being a coach! Mike McGarry and the Coach Licensing Team
In This Issues -Game of the Month – Bike Limbo -Managing Growing Teams -Spring Season Wrap Up Ideas -Last Call for the Spring End of Season Survey -Sparkle On Scholars Announced -NICA Coach Jersey! -Shimano HYPERGLIDE -7 Things to Know About Disordered Eating
Game of the Month – Bike Limbo
Bike Limbo with the Princeton Progressions of the New Jersey League
Where: Open Space Objective: I can build timing, coordination, and pressure control skills. I can have fun. Setup: Two coaches hold a long thin object such as rope, webbing, broom handle, or a rod of bamboo (for authenticity). Riders form a line and try to ride under one at a time. 101 Skills: Bike-Body Separation Rules: Riders must ride under the height without touching the ground. Lower the object as riders progress. Riders are eliminated until you have a winner. Reflection Question: What would you do differently next time?
Managing Team Growth
Teams across the country are experiencing explosive growth as we come out of restriction. This can be really exciting but it can also be a little overwhelming for coaches and team directors. When preparing to manage team growth coaches can focus on a few different aspects of their teams: build your support network, identify tools and strategies, practice structures, and larger group rides. We’ll briefly examine each of these topics below.
Building Your Team Support Network Large teams need help to run well. Head coaches need to ask for help and there needs to be an expectation of volunteerism by families for large teams. There are many roles that teams may need to function: team director, sponsorship coordinator, volunteer coordinator, event day coordinator (food, volunteers, equipment, etc), merchandise/kit coordinator, school liaison, GRiT coordinator, equipment and supply manager, treasurer, and advisory board. These positions can be filled organically but more often than not require an invitation by a head coach to be filled. Remember that that answer is always “No” if you don’t ask. Ask families and assistant coaches directly to fill needed roles so the team can function systematically.
West Madison NICA Teams 2019 Team Photo. In 2021 there are currently 226 athletes practice ready on the Teams Photo: Josh Gormley
Tools and Strategies to Manage and Organize Teams * Organize committees in the off-season * Recruit coaches in the off season * Team jerseys in team storefronts * Have pre-written emails and team info flyers ready to go * Use Teamsnap or Team App and Signup Genius. Quickbooks, excel sheets for $$ * Payments through Teamsnap or PayPal/Venmo, etc * Set a culture of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility * Discount fees for parents who meet volunteer requirements * Be organized! Team agreements, schedules, emails – set expectations * Create a culture of parent involvement * Head coach practice plan is KEY * Everyone must know their role * Alternative practice days and locations – to accommodate larger teams and small trail systems
Practice Planning Structures Head coaches need to create season and practice plans that are easy for assistant coaches to follow. Those plans need to be communicated to assistant coaches with enough time for the assistants to process the information and identify their role in the practice. Head coaches also need to know how many coaches and student-athletes to plan for at each practice, so have a way to track attendance projections via a team organization app or a shared calendar. The goal is to coach, not to manage. If the communication of objectives and coach roles are clear then large team practices can go just as smoothly or better than small team practices.
Large Team Group Rides Large teams have the opportunity to create ride groups that align to student-athletes goals, skill level, fitness level, and social connections. There are lots of different ways to organize groups. They all have strengths and weaknesses.
Here are a couple of different strategies to create groups
▪ Skills assessment days – set up a short course and play games. Observe student-athletes in different settings and identify their strengths and areas for improvement ▪ Mini Team Time Trials – Use that same short course and do some timed laps to get some hard data ▪ Coach Recommendations – Coaches often have a good understanding of student-athletes they are working with. An assistant coach may have seen something that you didn’t ▪ Student-Athlete Choice – Student-athlete choice can be powerful but it can also cause problems. Some student-athletes are not ready for the groups they want to be in. Help them identify their plan to get the skills and fitness they need to move to the group in the future. If they want to move down a group to be with friends, let them know that they will have to dial it back during practice to keep the rest of the group safe
Skills assessment days – set up a short course and play games. Observe student-athletes in different settings and identify their strengths and areas for improvement
Mini Team Time Trials – Use that same short course and do some timed laps to get some hard data
Coach Recommendations – Coaches often have a good understanding of student-athletes they are working with. An assistant coach may have seen something that you didn’t
Student-Athlete Choice – Student-athlete choice can be powerful but it can also cause problems. Some student-athletes are not ready for the groups they want to be in. Help them identify their plan to get the skills and fitness they need to move to the group in the future. If they want to move down a group to be with friends, let them know that they will have to dial it back during practice to keep the rest of the group safe
Large teams provide a lot of opportunities for greater differentiation. As coaches we have to be organized and creative to meet the needs of our student-athletes and our teams. If you create a culture of shared workload, put people in the right job, and let them do their job so teams can thrive and grow! We have many teams across the country with well over 100 student-athletes. You can do it too!
Spring Season Wrap Ups
Spring leagues have wrapped up for the season and it’s time to celebrate and reflect. What do you do as a team to celebrate the efforts of your athletes, coaches, and volunteers? We talked to a handful of coaches from around the country to hear what they did this year to celebrate and reflect.
Mike Murphy from the Pisgah Range Team in Asheville, NC told us about the team’s BIG Adventure ride that punctuated the end of their season. With COVID restrictions still in place they weren’t able to have their traditional end of season party but the BIG Adventure ride gave student-athletes and coaches the opportunity to test their skills one last time. If you know anything about western North Carolina you know that there were rocks, roots, and creek crossings involved in a great day out on the bike. I heard there was even a pancake sandwich!
Errin Odell of the Humboldt County Composite team in the NorCal League shared some custom 3D printed glow in the dark light switch covers that they give to student-athletes as an end-of-season souvenir.
Humboldt County Comp Light switch Covers
Ryan Balkenhol of the Coyote Composite team in Emporia, Kansas spoke about their first annual end of season party and cook out they are planning. The goal is to get student-athletes, families, and coaches together for games, food, and prizes! Congratulations to the Coyote Composite and the Kansas league on an amazing inaugural season!
Coyote Comp of Emporia, KS
Coyote Comp of Emporia, KS
Cari Levine of the Napa Valley Composite team in NorCal shared their end of season ride in the Skyline Wilderness Park trail network in Napa, CA. They had a local food truck set up and provided burgers and fries for all of the student-athletes, coaches, and family members at the end of the ride! What a great way to end a ride and the season!
In addition to celebrating, it’s important to reflect on the season as coaches. What went well? What can we do better next year? Schedule time with your coaches to reflect on the season and always start with the positives to make sure they don’t get lost next year. When thinking about ways to improve, be solution oriented and come up with a plan to make the season better for student-athletes, coaches, and families. After you take some time to reflect, take some time off and recharge. Being a NICA coach is really rewarding but we all need some time to relax, regroup, and recharge before the next season, which will be here before you know it!
To all the Spring league coaches, thank you for doing what you do! Coaches matter and you are making a difference in the lives of your student-athletes and in your communities. You all are amazing!
Last Call for the Spring End of Season Survey
If you have already filled out the End of Season Survey, THANK YOU! If not, it’s not too late. Your feedback is very important to us as we work to continually improve the experience for everyone in the NICA community. Please help us by spending a few minutes to complete the survey, and then share the link with your team so they don’t miss this opportunity. Don’t delay, the last day to share your thoughts is Friday, June 18th.
If you would like to be included in our survey drawing for one of ten $35 ROAD iD gift cards, please provide your name and email address at the end of the survey.
Congratulations to the first class of Sparkle On Scholars – Darcie Bushee from Idaho, Toby Hassett from Colorado, Justin Peck from NorCal, and Gwendolyn Sepp from Utah! The Sparkle On Scholarship presented by Kate Courtneyrecognizes graduating NICA student-athletes who have demonstrated academic and athletic excellence and plan to attend college and continue racing mountain bikes. The first class of Sparkle On Scholars are distinguished by their unique contributions to the sport of mountain biking and the joy and determination they show in pursuit of their goals. Learn more HERE.
Congratulations to the first class of Sparkle On Scholars – Clockwise: Darcie Bushee, Justin Peck, Toby Hassett and Gwendolyn Sepp
PodiumWear NICA Coach Kit!
Check out Podiumwear’s storefront and get your coach kit today! This store closes on June 22nd and orders will ship out not later than July 20th. On the check out page use code: COACH10 for a 10% discount.
Looking for precise and smooth shifting in all riding conditions? Look no further than the Shimano HYPERGLIDE+! Shimano’s HYPERGLIDE+ revolutionizes shifting performance with seamless shifting both up and down the cassette, so riders can shift under load more confidently while riding, thinking less about shifting and more on the trail ahead! Visit the link to learn more! https://mtb.shimano.com/en-us/technologies/
7 Things to Know About Disordered Eating
Disordered eating covers a large amount of dieting and exercising behaviors—and while it may not be as severe as a full-blown eating disorder, it can seriously affect a young athlete’s health in the short and long term. Here, TrueSport Expert and licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Melissa Streno explains what disordered eating really is, and how coaches can help their athletes avoid and address disordered eating.
1. Disordered eating isn’t an eating disorder “Disordered eating is a step before a serious eating disorder, which is where we see a lot more clinical, psychological, and physical consequences happening,” says Streno. “An eating disorder, as it’s defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, really affects one’s routine, functioning ability, relationships, etc. Disordered behaviors can cumulatively lead to this.”
Streno explains that disordered eating refers to behaviors that deviate from authentically choosing food that sounds good, finding a good variety, eating a moderate amount, and listening to hunger and fullness cues. “Deviating from those behaviors and using a fad diet, any sort of rigid rules, or even using exercise in a disordered way— over exercising with the intention of changing your body weight, shape, and size for example—can be disordered eating,” she says. “Disordered eating also comes down to intention: If a young athlete is doing the keto diet or cutting out carbs because they want to lose weight, that is disordered eating. If they’re under fueling and over exercising to fit into a particular clothing size or to meet a particular body image ideal, that would be disordered.”
Both can be about control, though. “Food and exercise are examples of things that people try to control when everything else feels unpredictable or uncertain,” Streno says.
2. COVID-19 has made disordered eating more common for athletes “The stress and change surrounding COVID-19 has contributed to a noticeable uptick in eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors, especially due to the unpredictable and sudden change that occurred in athletes’ familiar routines and structure,” says Streno. “Isolation is a big risk factor, as eating disorders thrive on secrecy and isolation. There’s less accountability from others to hold on to healthy behaviors and choices. There’s less community and less interaction with people, especially within sport.”
Additionally, COVID-19 has made getting help harder. “I think also, with everything being virtual, I’ve seen a lot of resistance to going to treatment or joining support groups or seeing a recommended practitioner because they just don’t want to do another Zoom meeting,” Streno adds.
3. Watch your language with the team “It’s so important for coaches to hold everyone to the same standard. Be careful how you speak about weight, food, exercise, and body image to everyone on the team,” says Streno. “Be aware of what you’re modeling by comments you make to other people. Don’t talk about numbers or weight and steer away from focusing on appearance. Because if you say, ‘Wow, you look really fit,’ to one person on the team, another athlete who’s struggling may hear that as, ‘My coach is looking at my appearance, they’re critiquing, they’re judging.’ Be aware of your language.”
4. Know the warning signs According to Streno, coaches should be on the lookout for any combination of these warning signs of disordered eating: • Anxiety, OCD, depression, or mood change
• Loss of energy from those whose normally have good energy
• An increased focus on social media or influencers who conform to a particular body image or ideal image for that sport
• Difficulty focusing or concentrating during practice
• Avoiding any sort of team activity like team meals
• Starting to train outside of the prescribed routine (doing their own runs in the morning or adding extra strength training)
• Obvious physical changes, like big fluctuations in weight or strength
• Noticeable injuries, including stress fractures and overuse injuries
5. Open lines of communication If you suspect an athlete is struggling, have a conversation with them early…don’t wait for it to become a more serious problem. “Try to frame it as concern, rather than blame,” says Streno. “Let the athlete know that you care, and your concern is coming from caring about the athlete, and their health and safety. Explain what you’ve noticed and ask the athlete to help you understand what you think is going on.” Rather than calling them out, you can say that you’re worried and that you hope you’re wrong. Let the athlete know that you can help them, or that you can help them find professional support.
“If there is real concern—if an athlete is passing out at practice, or if weight has dropped dramatically—you can escalate the situation more, but if you catch it early enough, you can usually begin with a simple conversation,” Streno adds. “But remember, the athlete has to be ready to get help on their own. So instead of shaming them, let them choose the direction they want to go with support. Sometimes they might not know the answer in that moment, but they’ll know that you are there to help.”
6. Set a team standard and protocols early Especially in sports where weight plays a role, establish protocols and open lines of communication early. “As a coach, you need to be looking out for the whole person and not be afraid to take an athlete out of play so that they can get help,” Streno says. “There should also be a consistent protocol and standards that must be met before athletes are cleared to play again, similar to concussion protocols.” If needed, bring in experts to assess what’s going on and if an athlete should continue.
7. Make sure athletes are ready to come back There is no exact timeline for making a comeback from disordered eating. Mountjoy and colleagues’ statement around Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) demonstrates long-term consequences if left untreated, or if an athlete returns to sport too early.
“An athlete should be medically cleared to come back after dealing with disordered eating. There are milestones that should be met, like being able to maintain their meal plan and stay at an appropriate weight,” Streno says. “Then there should be a very gradual reintroduction of activity that parallels appropriate nutrition. And that’s not something a coach should be assessing themselves. There should be a medical and psychological evaluation to see if this person is ready to return to play.”
Takeaway While disordered eating is a serious issue that may require professional support, there are things that coaches can do to prevent and address problematic behaviors, from being mindful of their language to setting healthy protocols.
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