Broadening Opportunities within School Sport Programs
How do you progress from riding around the park on a BMX to lining up on the start line at a junior criterium?
If a parent, family member or close friend doesn't ride, good luck.
Three points construct the monstrous barrier to entry cycling has:
· Knowledge of the sport - where do I even go to race? And when I get to the race, what do I do? It's not a mainstream sport like AFL or Cricket.
· Gaining the equipment - it's expensive and there's a bit to it, you can't just buy a pair of cheap trainers and head down to the local running club for a race.
· Safety - it's a potentially dangerous sport, especially in big cities.
Hence, why the program I am about to discuss is so good!
After moving to Melbourne from the little island, I applied for a tennis coaching position at a school. Upon attending my interview, the interviewee mentioned they offered a cycling program. I had no idea the sport was accepted by schools! The job involved two-midweek indoor sessions and either a race or training session on Saturdays, as part of the Schools Series. Fortunately, I gained the position to coach within the cycling program and I was able to see first-hand how this all worked.
The Schools Series, run by Cycling Victoria is a seven-race program that provides students with the opportunity to experience four different styles of road racing - criterium, circuit race, time trial and team time trial. The idea developed by an independent board (that included Simon Gerrans), took the responsibility of developing a program for school students. Simon is the ambassador for the event and attended last weekend's race.
"During my offseason, I would spend time within the corporate world and there was a massive boom men’s cycling. The corporate world was cycling mad but a lot of the people I rode with wanted to provide their kids with the same cycling opportunity. There was no clear pathway to allowed students to enter the sport. After discussions with friends, we assembled a board and developed a schools series. The program aimes to reduce the challenges of entering the sport."
The Schools Series addresses the three challenges of beginning cycling and provides students with an access point previously not available.
· Each school has coaches
· Scott road bikes are accessible to students at races
· All the racing was conducted on closed roads
"Tapping into the competitive nature of schools, we were able to encourage schools to sign up and offer cycling within their sporting curriculum".
Cycling Victoria now runs the Schools Series and since its inauguration, it has been continually growing from 70 athletes in 2014 to 170 this season and importantly, providing the opportunity for students to experience the sport.
"The best part is the increased participation. A lot of the students would have never even considered bike racing if it wasn't for the program."
After getting to know the athletes at the school I coach at, it really became evident how broad the benefit is. Some of the students already race and it provides them with the opportunity to develop and represent their school. In contrast, some participants have never raced a bike before and this platform allows them to make the once difficult transition.
It's also really well run, races are normally completed by lunchtime and done so in an efficient manner. The organisers do a fantastic job of reducing the "racing" feeling and promote participation and enjoyment.
Simon's ambition is to continue to scale the program with the end goal of "making cycling an Australian wide school sport".
See you back at the social club,