NICA has been growing steadily and gaining momentum since its inception in 2009 as an umbrella organization to help develop youth mountain biking programs and provide support for regional leagues across the nation. The idea was to create racing standards and make mountain biking look like other interscholastic sports, with a defined pre-season, race season, and off-season. But unlike most other sports, racing and competition are not necessarily the focus. While it provides a goal for student-athletes to work towards and incentive to push themselves, the main objective of NICA is simply getting more kids on bikes. Racing is not mandated for all team members, but anyone who wants to race can do so. There are no tryouts. There are no cuts. Every team member gets to participate as much or as little as he or she wants. No one sits on the bench.
And it’s more than just kids on bikes. It ultimately results in parents, families, and friends who are more aware of cyclists on the road, or who are more involved in creating safer bike routes. It creates a community that is more aware of cycling, the outdoors, and physical fitness in general. It helps to mainstream the idea that high school athletics can go beyond traditional ball sports. In addition, the Teen Trail Corps, a joint effort between NICA and IMBA, is a way for student-athletes to give back to their home trails.
Austin McInerny, NICA’s President, said, “We are pleased to welcome Maryland and West Virginia into the flourishing NICA community. These new leagues bring key players in America’s mountain biking scene into the NICA fold as well as tremendous talent and experience in their founding committees. Geographically, we are filling large pockets in the Eastern United States, and our national NICA team is looking forward to providing training and support as both leagues prepare for their inaugural seasons. With the addition of these two states, NICA now has the infrastructure in place to serve nearly 60% of the country’s population; we are well on our way towards fulfilling our mission of providing every American teenager the opportunity to build strong body, mind and character through participation on a school cycling team.”
Cassie Smith, the West Virginia League founding Director, said: “West Virginia becoming one of the newest states accepted into the NICA family is so exciting for our state. As league director, I’m honored to lead the effort of getting more kids on bikes!” Founding Co-Director of the Maryland League, Jonathan Posner states, “We can’t wait to see the impact we’ll have on Maryland kids with this program. Viva la mountain bike!” Fred Powell, Co-Director of the Maryland League said, “I believe NICA can be the single most impactful youth development program in our state.”
We at Dirt Rag are proud to support the West Virginia League via Dirt Fest West Virginia, which took place for the first time this past July at Big Bear Lake Trail Center. As is standard for our Dirt Fest events (Dirt Fest Pennsylvania has raised over $70,000 for the Allegrippis Trails), we donate a portion of proceeds back to the trails and communities in which the event is held. We are happy to help get more kids on bikes in the Mountain State!
Want to help out? Interested in starting a team? Check out the NICA website for ways you can contribute.