Skip to content

LIFE ON TWO WHEELS

Alumna Gwen Sepp's  journey as a NICA athlete helped her plug into the cycling community post-graduation, where life on two wheels opens doors and provides fulfillment both personally and professionally.
 

Photo courtesy Gwen Sepp

NICA Alumni Gwen Sepp is an Alumni Network founder’s circle member, a NICA coach, president of her University’s cycling club, and an avid volunteer for cycling-related organizations. Below, Gwen shares how her journey as a NICA athlete helped her realize the importance of a growth mindset and allowed her to plug into the cycling community post-graduation, where life on two wheels opens doors and provides fulfillment both personally and professionally.

NICA taught me above anything else to be content to fail over and over again without giving up on a task. Anything that is worth doing is worth doing poorly at first. That mindset has helped me so much as I've gone through difficult classes in college and especially as I've started working as a bike mechanic.

NICA also gave me lots of leadership and teaching experiences as a student-athlete that I continue to draw on. I always loved peer coaching days with my high school team, and I have drawn on those experiences as I have had the opportunity to coach for a NICA team as well as for some private mountain bike skills camps and clinics. I have also drawn on the leadership skills I developed through my experience being a team captain as I have taken on a leadership role with my university's cycling club.

I am still riding, racing, and working on bikes as much as possible! I am the president of my university's cycling club, and we travel all over the rocky mountain west to race as a team. I also have been able to do a lot of very fun gravel and endurance races on my own since graduating from high school.

I've also found lots of other ways to be involved with the cycling community outside of racing. In the past year, I started working for a non-profit bicycle shop run by my university's center for community engagement. I have always been a bike commuter myself, and it has been awesome to work at a shop that works to get as many people on bikes as possible through providing free bike rentals for students and faculty and by donating bikes to various charities in the community.

In addition to that, I've had many opportunities to share my love of cycling through coaching. I have been able to coach for a local NICA team for the past two summers, and I have recently gotten involved with a local organization that holds weekly bike skills clinics for refugee children in the community. I have also gotten to travel back to St. George to help coach at a variety of camps and clinics. Basically, I've done my best to get involved with everything remotely related to bikes that I can!


Why, when, and how did you start mountain biking?

I went on my first mountain bike ride shortly after moving to St. George, Utah in 2015.  My Dad has been an avid mountain biker for most of his adult life, and after moving to the mountain biking mecca that is St. George, my mom and I decided we had better give it a try.  I had an old commuter that was definitely not designed for what I was putting it through ,and I crashed at least once on every ride, but I had so much fun; I was hooked.  My junior year of high school, I joined my high school’s NICA team and started racing!

What have you learned about yourself while participating in NICA as a student-athlete and as a coach?
As a student athlete, I think that I learned the value of failure, and more importantly that I’m a bit tougher than I think.  I heard this saying somewhere, and I think it sums up what I learned as an athlete perfectly, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” 

 

NICA and youth sports in general should be about creating a sense of community, and helping young people develop healthy habits around exercise that they can continue to apply throughout the rest of their life. 
Gwen Sepp

When I joined my high school mountain bike team, I was relatively new to mountain biking and brand new to racing, so I failed over and over again. With the help of awesome coaches and teammates, I learned something from every one of those failures, and got over my fear of being bad at things.  

As a coach, I have learned that teaching others about things that I am passionate about brings so much value and fulfillment to my life.  This has definitely guided my choices when it comes to what to study in school and helped me decide what careers I want to pursue that will be fulfilling for me in the long term.  

What advice would you give to coaches regarding creating an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome and included? How have you strived to do this as a NICA coach?
I think the most important thing is to step back and have a good perspective as to what the purpose of NICA is for our athletes.  Racing is fun, and it is a fantastic tool for learning physical and interpersonal skills, but race results are one of the least important aspects of an athletes experience in NICA.  NICA and youth sports in general should be about creating a sense of community, and helping young people develop healthy habits around exercise that they can continue to apply throughout the rest of their life.  As a coach, I try to implement this philosophy by asking athletes to tell me about their race (how they felt, what they experienced, what they did well or want to improve next time) rather than just asking them about results.  

In your opinion, how can coaches help get alumni involved in their leagues post graduation?
I had the unique experience of having some alumni coach for my high school team.  I always enjoyed it when they came to practice, so early on I decided that I would return as a coach when I graduated if possible.  Coaches can also reach out to collegiate cycling teams in their area.  I think the most important thing is just to let their seniors know that their help as coaches would be welcome and appreciated.  

What opportunities do you see for alumni to be able to plug into their league after graduating?
There are lots of opportunities beyond coaching for alumni to get involved after graduation! One big one is volunteering or being on staff at races. The Utah league employs a lot of alumni to help run their races. The NICA alumni network is also a great place to make connections with other alumni in your area! 

Are you curious about the NICA Alumni Network?

Learn more at
alumni.nationalmtb.org

COACHES!

We need your help! Please share the NICA Alumni Network with your graduating athletes so they can stay connected to an engaged and thriving cycling community.
Here’s an easy email template you can use to send a note to your graduating seniors and their families.
Special thanks to COMPETITIVE CYCLIST, a NICA corporate partner.

NICA partners help kids gain access to a thriving and engaged cycling community.

Special thanks to COMPETITIVE CYCLIST, a NICA corporate partner.

NICA partners help kids gain access to a thriving and engaged cycling community.

MORE ARTICLES FOR COACHES…

MORE ARTICLES FOR COACHES…

Meet David Haines

David Haines is a head coach, coach developer for NICA’s Kentucky league, and a board member for the KICL – […]

SCREAM ‘TIL YOU DROP!

A NEW off-the-bike game for NICA coaches! Get loud and get silly with this off-the-bike game. Never underestimate our student-athletes’ […]

Coach Education Department 2024

NICA’s Coach Education team exists to support a network of thousands of volunteer coaches across the country in their work […]

Alumni Invite Letter

Coaches, we need your help. Can you share the NICA ALUMNI NETWORK with your graduating athletes? Here’s an easy email […]