Pro-tips for pre-season planning
As we look toward the start of a new season, it can be overwhelming to consider all the tasks required for your NICA team! The pre-season is busiest times of the year for head coaches, team directors, and other team leadership. We’ve collected a few strategies and resources for tackling the long to-do lists that accompany the start of a new season.
Photo by Aaron Puttcamp, Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling Association
The templates and materials listed below can be found in NICA's Coach Resource Library, which is housed in NICA's Coach Education Center. Log into Pit Zone, click “Courses, Resources, & Benefits, and look for the Coach Resources link on the right-side of the NICA Coach Education Dashboard.
Lay the foundation
Pre-season planning begins with good feedback! If you had an end-of-season survey from families, coaches, or student-athletes last year, start with those results. Spend some time looking through the results and to identify areas for improvement, areas of success, and themes from the responses. Once you’ve reviewed the data and key takeaways, it’s a great time to create some goals for your team and possibly even reflect on your own personal coach philosophy. What do you want to accomplish by the end of the season? How will you define success?
- Sample end-of-season survey
- Coach philosophy worksheet
- Goal setting worksheets (several versions are available via the NICA Coach Education Center)
Pull in key stakeholders
Now is the time to get in touch with your essential volunteers and stakeholders (or those who have potential to be key volunteers!) Think of coaches, families, and student-athletes. Arrange a chat and ask for input: what do they want to see happen this season? What are reasonable goals to attain? How can these stakeholders contribute to the success of the upcoming season?
If you’re a team that is connected to a school activities department, it is also a good time to connect with your administrators to ensure everything you need for the season is dialed in and ready to go. From forms to meetings to team photos, there’s a lot to keep track of when collaborating with school districts.
Think about coach recruitment early. Are there any potential volunteers from last year that were “on the fence”? It’s time to reach out!
Create a plan
There are many ways to organize all of the info for your season, but creating a shareable, accessible, transparent document for your team leadership is a great place to start. For example, a collaborative document with an overview of your season month-to-month, links to important materials/resources, meeting agendas, contact info, etc. can be a great one-stop-shop for team directors and head coaches who are heavily involved in team planning.
Not only will a document/structure like this help you plan for the upcoming season, it is a great way to build a “template” and schedule that you can return to year-after-year. As new leadership/volunteers join your team and take on head coach or team director roles, they’ll be grateful to have an organized place to look, too.
Finalize a calendar
To borrow a line from Ferris Bueller…life moves pretty fast (especially these days!) It’s important to get your calendar established early.
Remember that most fall leagues open registration for coaches on March 1, and most leagues* open registration for student-athletes on April 1. Just a reminder that you can’t invite coaches or athletes to a team until the team is registered/insured with your league!
Communicating season timelines with the team is important; when will registration open/close? When is your first practice? When are your pre-season events?
Speaking of the pre-season, don’t forget about family meetings, coach recruitment meetings/orientations, and try-it-out events. Families’ schedules fill up quickly, so having these dates ready to go right away is important. An organized, accessible calendar with team and league-specific schedules is key.
*Please check with your league for exact registration dates. These can vary.
- GRiT try-it-out event template
- Family info meeting example slides
- Sample poster templates (English & Spanish versions)
Complete as much as possible in advance
Some tasks have to wait until the season registration opens (like those that involve student-athlete rosters, etc.) – but other items can be completed in advance so you can free up time once things get really busy.
- Create your team’s EMERGENCY ACTION PLANS and get them printed and ready for coaches
- Set up trail maintenance dates with local trail organizations
- Connect with local bike shops to host a maintenance clinic or pre-season bike check
- Organize and audit any team resources and materials (everything from radios to coach first aid kits to practice equipment to loaner bikes)
- Design your team kit and any associate apparel/swag
- Update/audit your team website or app with any new info
- Create flyers and print handouts and post
- Draft your budget for the year
Check it out! It’s your future self thanking you for all the awesome prep work you did in the pre-season. High-five!
- Emergency Action Plan Template
- NICA Team Budget Samples (both simple & complex)
- Sample poster templates (English & Spanish versions)
Ask for help
Running a NICA team is a lot of work. Don’t forget to ask for help early and often! Building an awesome NICA team community and culture involves pulling in new volunteers each season, and showcasing their talents! From carpool coordination to race weekend food planning, there are so many ways people can step up to help.
- Team director & head coach – roles & responsibilities (sample “job description”)*
- Possible volunteer roles
- Volunteer interest form template
Share (and participate in) league events & trainings
Stay tuned in to your league’s pre-season events and training opportunities. Make sure your whole coaching team is aware of upcoming league opportunities (like leaders’ summits, coach retreats, and first aid training). Remind coaches that some of these training opportunities only occur once a year, so it is important to prioritize them if they are interested!
Join a NICA Online Leaders’ Summit
If you’re looking for CEUs or to become a License Level 3 coach, you can check out NICA’s Online Leaders’ Summit Schedule and pick sessions that fit your schedule.
Completing a Leaders’ Summit in the early-season is a great way to get a jump-start on your coach education!
Most importantly…have FUN!
Pre-season time is busy, but it’s also the rad time of year that we get to reconnect with our amazing team and NICA community. Make sure to build in social opportunities for your coaching crew to gather and embrace our NICA core value of having fun. And…remember why we all love to coach: because we’re changing youth sports by getting #morekidsonbikes!
Please note that this article is a guide, not an exhaustive or definitive set of instructions – there are many, many ways to run a successful season and to build an amazing team structure, culture, and community.
If you have any additional tips, strategies, resources, or templates to share with us, please send them our way! We love to hear from our coach leaders and we look forward to sharing your best-practices with our national coach community.
How to use NICA's coach resource library:
If a resource above has an asterisk, you can find it in NICA's Coach Education resource library, via the Coach Education Center. Did you know that we’ve added a SEARCH feature to the NICA coach resources? To access this coach-exclusive library of online resources, log into Pit Zone and click the “Courses, Resources, & Benefits” button. In the Coach Education Center, find the search field at the top right and enter your query. Use any of the available resource names listed above to find what you need! We are continually making updates and improvements to our resource library, so stay tuned for more features.
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