NICA Literature Contest: Sage Flory

This year, we partnered with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association to host a literature contest encouraging student-athletes to write about how mountain biking has effected their lives, specifically how their coaches have been a part of the experience.

The prompt was: Has your NICA coach helped you develop not just as a rider but in character as well? Describe in 750-1000 words how you have been able to develop a strong character with the support of your coach through interscholastic cycling. 

The top 3 essays will be published here on the Dirt Rag website. You can find the others here.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this contest – we got a lot of great responses and it was hard to pick the top ones! Also thanks to Stans NoTubes, Park Tool, Shimano and Trek for providing prizes. 

By Sage Flory, age 14. Rhinelander Northwoods Composite Mountain Bike team, Wisconsin High School Cycling League. 

I never in a million years imagined I would be writing something like this. Or even getting on a bike to race week after week. No, no, I didn’t break my legs, but I was a huge hater of biking to begin with. Crazy! I know. I grew up in a biking family, but never pictured myself a part of it. My brother is a phenomenal biker and he always pushed me to join. I never realized how much I needed it. I have now learned that not only is biking a sport, but a family. It’s a way to be you, and a way to be great. My coach is not only my mentor and friend, but also my very own dad. In my small town of Rhinelander, a biking team was always a dream, but never a reality. Only two years ago, my dad introduced us to one.

With the encouragement of a great biking family that we met, I decided to give the team a try. At the beginning of the season, I was dreading the first practice, let alone race. I told myself I would try it out, do the first race, and be done. The day of the first race I reminded myself that this was supposed to be fun. Of course I was doubting that at the start. However, I remembered all of the amazing people and friends I was surrounded with, and I was ready. My coach (dad) came up to me and gave me a highfive. He said, “At least try to have fun…? It’ll be over in a half in hour.” It’s hard to explain, but the feeling that I got at the end of the first race, when the fans were cheering and
screaming for me; I knew that the next weekend, I was getting right back on that bike to race for a second time.

I remember the look on my dad’s (coach’s) face when I crossed the line. As well as my mom’s. My biggest fan. They were full of disbelief, happiness, and pride. My heart was beating so fast, and I knew that this was something I would grow to love. I was full of excitement for just finishing, and when one of my other great coaches came up to me and said, “I think you made the podium!” I thought “ no way” , and went on smiling. I was never expecting a podium finish…especially in the first race. I don’t think anyone else was either. Everyone knew me as polite and kind, but also shy in a sense, and a “soft” girl. I thought of myself that way too sometimes. After that race though, that was changed, I had found grit! The next races, I was pumped to get out on the trail and ride my hardest.

Although learning skills and hints for biking may not seem like the most fun thing to do, it became one of my favorite parts of practice. My dad always knew how to make things fun and interesting for everyone at practice. When I was doubting my abilities, he was always there to make a corny joke, or give me a push of motivation. When I would ride, I was never confident in whether or not I was too slow, or timid. With the help of my coach, my confidence was boosted, and I am now able to do things I never thought I could on, and off the bike.

Race after race, I was having the time of my life. I made new friends, and got closer to my dad as well. Every pre-ride, and every award ceremony, he was there cheering me on. If I was feeling exhausted and ready to go home, I remembered coach’s face smiling and cheering, and I pushed myself harder.

Every race of the season I was honored to make the podium, I was honored to have my coach as my dad, and I was honored to be part of such a team and sport. I am proud of the person my coach has helped make me. Not only him, but the people involved in the sport, my family, and the great kids I got to race with. I’ve become more in touch with myself and what I can do. More confident in my abilities. More comfortable in my skin, and a happier person overall.

I am looking forward to next season, and all of the wonderful memories to be made. I am so lucky to have my dad as a coach. He has introduced me to a new family, a new hobby, a new lifestyle, and a way to ride like I never even knew was possible for me. I can honestly say that I am a different person, and I am truly grateful.

Sage won a pair of Shimano SH-XC700 shoes for her essay. Congrats, Sage!