Did you know that your kids school might have a mountain bike team? ‘Tis true! The Arkansas High School Cycling League has begun and teams will start practice in July. I invite you to take a moment as we check in with the league directors Alan Ley and Kyla Templteon Morgan.
“The Arkansas High School Cycling League was organized in 2015 to provide a fun, safe and high quality mountain biking program for students in grades 6 to 12. With the cooperation of our partners and our sponsors, we are able to provide a competitive mountain bike racing experience. Regardless of ability level, the Arkansas League is committed to providing a positive experience for all student-athletes in accordance with NICA’s Five Core Principles: Inclusive, Equal, Strong Body, Strong Mind and Strong Character. In turn, Arkansas’s goal is to create life-long cyclists who are conscientious, responsible and empowered.” – Arkansas League Website
Alan & Kyla are super passionate about getting kids on bikes. What they are developing will have a long lasting positive impact on our community and the growth of cycling in our state. Want to know more? Want to get involved? Want to get your kid involved? CHECK IT!
OCA: How are things shaping up this year for the first races of the Arkansas Interscholastic Cycling League?
Directors: In April we trained over 40 coaches at our inaugural Leader’s Summit. We will have four races in the fall – September 11 at Lake Fayetteville, October 1 at Slaughter Pen, October 23 at Lake Leatherwood, and November 13 is the State Championships at Slaughter Pen – at the end of the IMBA World Summit. We are having a summer clinic series for student athletes and coaches. Teams start practice July 1 but are forming and doing some pre-season picnics, clinics, parties, etc. now. We have had amazing support from our sponsors, mostly small businesses in the community and from the Parks and Recreation departments around Northwest Arkansas.
OCA: How many teams have formed so far (which schools)?
We have official teams at:
- Bentonville High School
- Bentonville West High School
- Lincoln Junior High (Bentonville)
- Har-Ber High School
- Rogers Composite (which means a combination of schools)
- Pea Ridge High School
- Arkansas Arts Academy
We have teams in the works at:
- Haas Hall (Bentonville and Fayetteville)
- Catholic High School (Little Rock)
- Eureka Springs
- Classical Academy (Bentonville)
- Fayetteville High School
- Ramay Junior High (Fayetteville)
- Lincoln High School
OCA: What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Directors: Our biggest challenges as a league are (1) to get enough people to start teams at the schools and (2) getting the word out beyond just the bicycling community and Northwest Arkansas.
- There is a misconception that people have to be an expert mountain biker to coach student mountain biking. The Arkansas League partnering with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association provides all the training necessary for people to get a team off the ground and into the trails. NICA also provides processes and risk management so we can be confident in bringing an excellent product for the students in Arkansas schools.
- Across the country, the student mountain biking leagues are supported by the bicycling community but the audience is much broader than that. The parents, teachers, school administrators, and local businesses all make the leagues successful. The students racing mountain bikes often don’t fit into traditional sports, but they find community and a lifelong activity in cycling. Also, the Arkansas Interscholastic Cycling League is for the entire state of Arkansas. We are concentrating the races in Northwest Arkansas the first year but over the years they will spread more evenly across the state.
OCA: What are your biggest needs?
Directors: Our biggest need is people! We need people to start teams and coach. We need people to staff our races. We need people to be advocates and champions for cycling to get more students on bikes.
Race staff positions – course marshals, race officials, scorekeepers, registration, volunteer coordinators, course setters, course surveyors.
We need small and large businesses to come beside the league and the teams – we all know that cycling can be an expensive sport and we don’t want cost to prevent a student’s participation.
OCA: Do you have to be a cyclist to help out with the League?
Directors: No! Anyone that wants to contribute can have a role – from helping to organize a team to registering students on race day to being a course marshall on the race course. We have jobs for just about every skill set – so people can do things they enjoy while contributing to the students having an awesome experience.
OCA: How can someone get involved?
Directors: Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can set you up with a school team or with the race staff. We are excited to bring student mountain biking to Arkansas – to help students develop a strong body, mind, and character and an appreciation for diversity and inclusivity through riding bikes. There’s much to be learned by all of us, and it is going to be exciting to do it while riding bikes!
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