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Creating a fun & inclusive event weekend

Tips and tricks for how to get your entire team community STOKED!

Photo by Deborah Hage, North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling Association

We all have that one thoughtful, crafty, or creative friend who knows how to level-up any occasion. Maybe that person is YOU! We want to share a few team-level ideas for how to elevate your next race weekend and turn up the FUN-o-meter to eleven. And beyond!

Thanks to our North Carolina and Nevada North leagues for inspiring this post with their league-level race day celebrations and fun!

Plan ahead

Race weekends are jam-packed with pre-rides, bike prep, and activities. In an already-busy schedule, it can be easy to overlook ways to connect your team beyond the pit zone. Consider the following:

  • Coordinate group lodging, block some rooms at a local hotel, or coordinate camping so your team can stay together
  • Plan a team meal for the night before the race (be mindful of food options for a solid pre-race meal!)
  • Set up a team cheer section on the course, or coordinate your spectating: encourage riders to group together and meet to provide trailside kudos and support for each category!
  • Have an experienced parent or volunteer lead a pre-race venue walk for new families. Meet at your pit zone and head out together to find good spots to cheer, see the start/finish/staging areas, and answer any questions for folks who are new to the world of MTB spectating. This is also a great time to share how parents/families can volunteer to support future races!
  • Create pre-ride groups based on rider goals, and schedule accordingly. Do athletes want to stop and session? Do they want to ride with a group of friends? Pre-scheduling your pre-rides can help!
  • Share the full race weekend schedule and team activities with your families ahead of time, so they know what’s happening and how their athlete can participate (i.e. GRiT pre-ride, adventure/game zone, etc.!)
Have (and embrace) a theme

Many leagues have themes for their season, and some even have themes for each race (I’m looking at you, Nevada North and Arizona!). If your league or event has a theme, communicate it with your team and get everyone stoked. 

If there isn’t a set theme for your race weekend, consider creating a team-wide theme. Ask your athletes what they’re interested in and what they have available to participate in the theme. Themes don’t have to be complicated to be fun (not everyone will be able to go out and buy an inflatable t-rex costume, though those are pretty rad). A few easy-to-implement ideas include a neon theme, mismatched theme (switch your socks and your kit for the pre-ride!), flannel…the list goes on! 

Let parents know about any league- or team-level themes, and encourage them to participate as spectators as well (it seems like everyone has a fabulous Hawaiian shirt these days!) Consider coming up with a team-wide plan to embrace the theme, whether it is costumes, poster-making, coordinating your socks, or decorating your pit zone. 

Remember to set expectations on appropriate garb and prioritize safety of your riders: that rad cactus onesie may be the coolest costume at this years’ venue, but it may not be safe to ride a bike while you’re wearing it.

Get silly (and vulnerable) as a coach

It may push you a bit out of your comfort zone, but leading by example helps create group buy-in: team theme? Embrace it. Are you suggesting riders wear costumes on the race day that’s close to Halloween? Why not have the head coach dress up, too! Nothing like seeing someone dressed like yeti (while riding a Yeti) at your local trails…

Celebrate your athletes

Rider recognition is important! Think of ways you can highlight your athletes: senior posters/photos can be added to your pit zone area. Bring a spare folding table, some tagboard, and some big markers/stencils so families and other athletes can create signs to cheer each other on. Have a special pre-ride group for the GRiT riders on your team. Highlight the riders who are participating for the first time on your pit zone whiteboard so others can know to cheer extra loud for their new-to-racing friends!

Above, photos from across our leagues showcase how to bring FUN and CELEBRATION to your next event at the team-level: Nevada North, North Carolina, NorCal, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Texas. 

Overall, we want to ensure that our teams are creating space to be together, and intentionally including and inviting all riders and families to join the fun. Whether it’s a theme, a team dinner, a casual meetup around the campfire, or a team night ride at nearby local trails, having opportunities for riders and families to spend time together at events helps everyone feel like they are included. It shouldn’t matter if you’re the fastest kid on the team or the kid who is trying racing for the first time: we want to make sure athletes leave race weekends feeling like they belong. After all, that’s part of what makes our NICA community special: everyone rides!

NICA’s Coach Education team exists to support a network of thousands of volunteer coaches across the country in their work to develop youth through the sport of mountain biking. NICA’s coach education provides coaches with the skills, knowledge, and abilities to be confident and effective leaders and role models who build strong minds, bodies, character, and communities through cycling.

Special thanks to TREK, a leading NICA partner.

NICA Partners are enabling NICA to reinvent youth sports and engage families in a thriving cycling community, for life.

Our partners’ commitment to NICA’s mission has a huge impact on our student-athletes, their families and communities across the nation. NICA partners are changing the world by getting #MoreKidsOnBikes!