I have always wanted to give back to the local cycling community; for those who know me well, the skill I could contribute is my enthusiasm for sport and having fun. However, in the past I had found it challenging to find time between juggling working full time and training full time. Over the past couple of weeks I have taken time off work in preparation for Canadian Road Nationals, during this time a private sponsor mentioned contributing to the iRide program. Finally with some time in my typically hectic schedule I jumped at the opportunity to give back and hopefully inspire some cycling excitement in local young riders.
What is iRide?
“The iRide program inspires children and youth to develop their riding skills and increase their fitness level” Cycling BC. As my Richard my fellow iRide coach put it – “Your job is to make sure these kids have fun on the Bike” and boy did we have fun! On an iRide day coaches are at the school from 9pm-3pm, I was stationed at Upper Lynn Valley Elementary School. As coaches we set up a couple of drills and obstacle courses and then run each class through them. Each class has 1 hour on the bike and we see 4-5 classes a day. The group sizes vary from 15-25 kids, grade 1 – 7 with a varying level of experience. Cycling BC aims to make this program super accessible to all kids providing bikes and helmets to kids who may not have them.
That day we were not blessed with sunny weather, it was unseasonably cold and it dumped rain and actually hailed at one point. At a couple of points we asked the teachers if they wanted us to continue in these conditions and the best response was: “these are North Shore kids, they grew up in this weather, they are tough they will be fine”. As I was standing out in the pouring rain water seeping into my shoes, I was thinking, tough kids, they’ll make great cyclists =).
Nothing But Fun and Laughs
After helping set up the obstacle course, Richard noted that you should make up a sweet coach name that way the kids can easily remember it. Since, I was a little out of practice making up awesome coach names I would let each class of kids guess my name and whatever they guessed, that was my sweet coach name for the whole hour. I went from Coach Skeleton (the kids picked up on my super cyclist arms) to Coach Bob (no idea why Bob) to Coach Cheese and finally miraculously to Coach Sara. After establishing my name we would talk shop, in brief what are the goals of iRide. The goals are simple; goal one be safe, goal two have fun. After a quick helmet check and break check we were off. The drills included games like red light green light, and relay races over ramps, teeter-totters and weaving in between cones. Other games included single legs drills and single hand drills complete with high fives.
Without a doubt the biggest reward of the day was seeing timid riders come out of their shell. Some of the kids started the session silent and almost scared and finishing it giggling with a huge smile from ear to ear. Being on the North Shore there was a huge spectrum of experience some kids showed up on fancy down hill bikes and would give me a run for my money on any of the North Shore trails while others didn’t have any bike at all or hadn’t even ridden a bike before. One specific little girl stands out in my mind. She was in Grade one and had literally just gotten a bike for this event. She was fantastically determined and had inspiring tenacity in her struggle to stay up right on that bike with the pedals spinning. She didn’t care that she had just gotten that bike she was going to keep up her classmates one way or another. If her classmates were going over that teeter-totter so was she. When it was her turn to go over the ramps and up and over the teeter-totter (many kids can get freaked out with these obstacles) she asked me if she had to do all the obstacles.I told her no, if she didn’t want to she didn’t have to; however, if she wanted to I would be there right beside her to make sure it went well. That fight in her never quit, she gunned right over both obstacles without even taking another thought. To see her face filled with accomplishment and confidence was absolutely priceless.
Although I am relatively new to cycling, I have been lucky enough in my varied athletic career to have many positive strong role models. I will be beyond happy if my time at Upper Lynn Elementary can inspire one kid. I am grateful to have the opportunity to give back.