My son Ryan has been an active bike rider, swimmer and soccer player since he was young. By the time Ryan was in middle school he showed some interest in racing bikes so we decided he would join the Bowie High School/South Austin Composite Middle School Bulldogs mountain bike racing team at the beginning of his 7th Grade. As I’ve been a lifelong cyclist, I was eager to help support team rides and practices, so I took the NICA introductory training courses and got a background check so I could help as a ‘Ride Leader.’ It was a ton of fun for both father and son, and Ryan’s riding improved unbelievably!
In Ryan’s second season, 8th grade, the 2017-2018 school year, I was given the chance to become a first-year Assistant Coach.
I have worked with youths through soccer coaching and children’s ministry at church for most of my adult life, and I confidently say this has been the best, most rewarding coaching/teaching experience I’ve had. My favorite aspect of coaching the Bulldogs is working with newer riders and seeing them enjoy the fun of mountain biking while dramatically growing in their skills, fitness, and confidence in their first 1-2 seasons on the team. It is extremely rewarding supporting youths in their development both as humans and as athletes in their formative middle school and high school years. I see that with the Bulldogs mountain biking team we are creating a community of young dirt shredders who are having a blast while challenging themselves and growing! They experience losses and victories, and the many challenges mountain biking provides, while building strong bonds with their teammates; positive experiences that will be with them for life.
I firmly believe that God gave me the skills to work with youths and that He wants me to use those skills to help young people grow into positive, loving individuals who will grow to be positive, strong adult members of society, enjoying and caring for each other and for all of God’s creations. These abilities became clear to me fairly early in life as I was already helping coach a girls’ soccer team while in high school. I’ve since coached soccer for over a dozen years, both boys and girls teams, and felt the rewards of helping young athletes develop and thrive.
While coaching soccer has been very fulfilling (I hope to coach one or more of my grandchildren’s soccer teams someday), coaching mountain biking is far better! Riding bikes has led to some of the very best adventures of my life including MS150 charity rides, 100-mile rides to Shiner, Texas, X-Terra off-road triathlons, and more recently Mountain Bike and Cyclocross racing with my son. There was no way of knowing when I was young and learning to ride a bike all of the great times I would someday experience through bicycling. I am 100% a lifelong cyclist! I hope to be racing bikes, or at least continuing to ride in group and charity rides into my 70s and beyond. Other than knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, I can think of nothing I’d rather share with a young person than a lifelong love for bike riding. Through the Bulldog Mountain Bike team I see that we are creating lifelong cyclists, and I get excited just thinking of it.
I know from my own experience and that of my 3 kids (Ryan is the youngest) that middle school years are special in our development as people as we begin to have a strong sense of identity, who we are, and we begin to develop beliefs and habits that that will shape who we are as adults. I think it is imperative that youths in this age range have a positive group experience such as a sports team, academic team, or other structured group to identify with and to learn the fundamentals of working with others, consistently training, and preparing for upcoming competitions. During these competitions they put their training and own abilities to the test. Through these activities we are preparing youths to become responsible, confident, successful adults. Youths learn through this that they Can set and meet goals, they Can be reliable teammates, they Can push themselves in competition and experience successes and setbacks. They Can do these things while maintaining a healthy love and respect for their coaches, teammates, and adversaries in the competitive arena.
I feel blessed and lucky to have a strong youth mountain bike racing team, the Bulldogs, right in my community. I am even more blessed to be able to help with coaching, applying my God-given skills, to help young people develop to achieve their potential now and in the lives they are going to lead. That process of training in preparation for a big event or competition has been fundamental to who I was as a youth, and to who I am today as a ‘mature athlete.’ For me, the absolute best avenue for learning this critically important process is racing bikes! Whether the student athlete has the best competition season of their life, or suffers setbacks and falls short of their goals, they have won in life, and are forever transformed by these experiences.