Inspire, Develop, Challenge
To understand yourself is the best place to start when making a difference. For any young athlete finding their feet and their place in the world is challenging. Adding on New Zealand’s geographic isolation, size and limited population poses a number of barriers for our young kickers, throwers, hitters and riders. Using Mountain biking as a vehicle it has helped develop me into the man I am today, but not for the reasons you might think. With limited support throughout my racing journey as I navigated my high school years I was frustrated to find myself achieving results but not progressing as a person. That all changed when I took a step back from burying myself in endurance training and looked deeper into what makes a great athlete.
Since commencing my coaching journey in 2016 I now find myself far more interested in developing others than myself. As a young rider there were two underlying questions I always had. The first is “New Zealand has a huge number of talented junior riders, why isn’t there more support for them” and the second “Why do the majority of quality riders leave the sport when they leave school”? Looking deeper into these two questions I have realised they have a huge impact on each other. By 2019 I realised that its not just an issue within cycling, but a number of sports in New Zealand have similar issues. Mountain biking being such a popular recreational activity engaging hundreds of thousands of Kiwi people every year masks the sorry fact that we can have as few as only 3 elite riders in a National Championships. Although world class athletes, these three riders have no depth of competition to push them upwards in the races that count. The national body is already stretched working on addressing issues such as this. I firmly believe that grassroots communities need to be driving to make improvements on this front.
Establishing the Junior Development Process within Mountainbike Tauranga has already seen over 300 different riders since 2016. Children come and go from competitive mountain biking, as long as they have a smile on their face and they’re out and being physically active that is great. Jenny Rissverds summaries it really well. “My Aim is to inspire children to stay active, to always come back to what you love to do, to be yourself” – Jenny Rissverds, 2016 Olympic Gold Medallist.
I have created a fun, engaging and rewarding development process that takes in riders 7 years and older and progresses them to the end of high school and beyond. Although the focus is primarily on competitive kids there is room for riders wanting to develop as a recreational mountain biker within the process. Looking forward, I will Inspire and support young people to believe in themselves, develop with mountain biking as their vehicle through the rough years that are high school. Therefore allowing these riders to challenge themselves to with the courage, work ethic and resilience they’ve developed with in mountain biking as they move into adult life.