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Use NICA’s Code of Conduct to create great expectations for your team

The NICA student-athlete code of conduct provides a fantastic foundation for your own team social contract. These “great teammate pledges” or “team constitutions” give clear pathways for positive behavior, and allow athletes to have a voice as soon as they join your team. Find out how to create a team contract, and learn about our most recent updates to the NICA codes of conduct.

Photo: Crystal Stanionis, Montana Interscholastic Cycling League

The NICA adult & student-athlete codes of conduct are provided to those who are signing up in Pit Zone for any NICA program (either as a volunteer or for families registering student-athletes). These documents are foundational to how we operate at a team, league, and national level. 

As coaches, we need to be aware of both the adult and student-athlete codes of conduct. Head coaches and team directors can use the adult code of conduct to set the tone and expectation for adults within their team community, especially their coaching crew. ALL coaches can use the student-athlete code of conduct to create and reinforce team behavior expectations and establish a positive culture from the very beginning of the season.

NOTE: At the end of this article, we also summarize the changes to the NICA codes of conduct for 2023. Please take a moment to review these updates.

Using the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct to establish positive team culture and expectations

The NICA codes of conduct provide a fantastic foundation for the creation of your own team social contract. Sometimes we call these “great teammate pledges” or “team constitutions.” 

Parents and families are expected to review the NICA student-athlete code of conduct during registration, but as coaches, we also need to remember to establish a positive culture and set of expectations within our community, as well as revisit these expectations regularly.

Beginning of season: Build a team contract

At the beginning of the season, use the code of conduct as a starting point for building a team’s social contract. Involve student-athletes in this process. Set aside time at practice (or in a pre-season team meeting) to ask: What are the characteristics of a great teammate?

Record and gather athlete responses and have athletes work together to determine which characteristics show up again and again. Discuss and draft a team contract using the key themes generated by your athletes, and have them sign this pledge. Save it, and refer back to it often as your season progresses. Should you have to deal with managing any athlete behaviors during the season, you can refer back to the contract that was signed by each team member.

This is also a great time for student-athletes to think about goal-setting, and how to incorporate social goals (i.e. leadership, friendship, mentorship, and kindness) into their aspirations for the season. 

By including student-athlete voices in the creation of our team social contracts, we give them ownership over their expectations and behaviors.
During the season: Revisit and remind

Before each practice, consider highlighting part of the NICA code of conduct or part of your team social contract. In your ride groups, discuss what it might look like to demonstrate those great teammate behaviors as part of your pre-ride briefing.

EXAMPLE: Be Respectful
A coach might ask, “what will it look like for us to be respectful tonight during our practice?”
Athletes can share ideas about proper trail riding/yielding to other users, checking in on their teammates, cheering them on over a hard feature, or trying their best during skills practice.

During the season: Managing conflict and behaviors

None of us sign up as volunteer coaches because we love to deal with negative behaviors or conflict – that said, it's inevitable that these situations can arise within our dynamic teams. Using the NICA codes of conduct (and any team contracts you develop) will not only help you establish clear expectations from the very start of your season, they can also be a clear, neutral, and positive way to manage potential negative behaviors should they come up during your season. 

Remember, if any situation on your team goes beyond your abilities to manage as a coach, we encourage you to engage your league director or NICA national staff to assist. This is especially important for any abusive behavior by an athlete to another athlete or by a coach to another coach or athlete. We are here to help.

While the codes of conduct may not be considered the most shiny or exciting tool we have as a NICA coach, it is certainly one of the most powerful! How do you use the code of conduct or a team social contract to create an amazing set of expectations for your NICA teams? Let us know so we can share your ideas with our coach community.


The NICA student-athlete and adult codes of conduct were revised for tone and general readability. The student-athlete version has a stronger call to action, noting that the code of conduct is a starting point to help create great teams and communities. The edits have increased clarity and decreased redundancy. 

The adult code of conduct has a new introduction paragraph that describes why we have the code. It was also revised and re-ordered for clarity and readability. There were two main content additions: one is an explicit expectation to not be under the influence of alcohol/drugs when acting in your NICA role with student-athletes under your supervision. The second supports NICA values by better addressing how we approach and interact with other NICA community members outside of practices and events. 

We encourage you to access and review both the student-athlete and adult codes of conduct.

About the author

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.