First, it is important to remember what our team mission is. Everything we do is centered around accomplishing our mission. It is why we do this.
Here is our mission:
The Cedar Valley Mountain Bike Team exists to provide as many quality opportunities as possible for local youth to:
Develop as a person through the challenges of hard work and competition.
Build positive, meaningful relationships with peers, coaches, and other leaders
Learn the skills and love of mountain biking
Improve Health and Fitness
Provide great experiences that are fun, challenging, and memorable.
Our training program has been developed over the last year based on research done, and on mentorship/coaching from some of the best coaches and programs in the country such as Durango Devos. We interviewed 10 top coaches throughout the country, and asked them to share the core foundation of their success and what we should be doing to improve our results and experience. Out of that, came five key findings:
FUN Everyone we talked to mentioned this first, over everything else. Not only that, but research done confirms this emphasis. When kids have fun, they ride more, they get better, they get faster. This was the biggest predictor of success for riders and for teams. If kids enjoyed it, they practiced more, worked harder, got faster, and the cycle continued. When kids are not enjoying it, they burn out, quit, and actually find themselves under-performing over time.
MORE SKILLS TRAINING - From beginners to pros, what we’ve discovered is that successful teams and riders spend A LOT more time on skills than we previously thought. This includes both specific drill training, and in-context/on-trail application of that skill. - Riders who are confident and skilled on their bike are better able to manage their speed through the various terrain and obstacles they encounter on trails and in races. It can be one of the biggest differentiators in a race - especially on technical courses where many riders have to dismount their bikes. - Teams are practicing skills in drills, games, and on the trails on specific sections and by repeating them many times. -This is about making kids better mountain bikers first, then fast racers second.
GET OFF THE BIKE - As with any sport or activity that requires coaching, it is critical that we do more actual coaching. Spending all our time going point A to B with a lead coach and trailing coaches often does not allow for us to adequately watch skills, body position, and other factors that we may need to work on. It is important that we spend A LOT more time observing, timing, measuring, and actually coaching. - More coaching by coaches and more learning by riders!
TEAM FOCUS MORE Team and team culture has been the subject of a lot of research in the past few years, particularly in terms of how it affects performance. Even in a sport where it seems to be more “individual” based, studies have shown that riders who train in isolation or without belonging to a “team”, ultimately burn out and do not reach their full potential. We learned that 1) fast riders make fast riders, and 2) good riders make better riders. What does that mean? It means that we need leaders and chasers to make both the leaders and the chasers better. It was also clear in our interviews that for long term success in a team and with a kid, they need to feel connected to others their age and of their interests. It’s critical that teams develop traditions, habits, and environments that build good cultures.
RACE SITUATION SIMULATION - Teams practice a lot on mimicking things they find in races. From skills situations to length and speed of ride, to specific components of racing like passing, sprinting to finish, starting line, and more. - It’s important that we create practices that are more similar to our race conditions and race sections. - It’s a huge part of training for many teams to create competition a lot more often to mimic race day adrenaline, nervousness, and competitive thinking.
LEAGUE STUDENT SURVEY RESULTS
These five factors were recently reinforced by our own League student athlete survey. Check out some of these results:
Notice that most league riders join because of relationships and fun. If we keep that priority in order, then they continue to have their “why” power them to success. If we try to reverse this, and put Biking first, assuming that what got them in doesn’t keep them there, we will lose our culture, they will lose their “why”, and we will not succeed as we should.
Notice that last statement - more activities and skills training was part of 429/541 responses. Most kids know they are largely improvising on the trails with their skills, and many are in need of much more social connection. We are convinced that if we can build those connections better, and improve skills, we will have a HUGE increase in success this year.
Notice #1 and #2 and #3 are all about either skills training or culture factors having to do with fun and/or connections with others.
In the end of everything, most riders are realistic about their futures in Mountain Biking. And fitting with our mission and NICA’s mission, we see that the above responses are not surprising. What they will remember and love the most are great experiences. Their favorite things are related to fun and relationships. We intend to incorporate more fun into how we train, without sacrificing effectiveness of training.
Our training philosophy is simple. It should be F.U.N. - this is an acronym for the three elements that make up what we believe will make for the proper environment for success:
FOCUS - Always have a plan & be organized - Have a purposed/reason - and communicate it. - Scales make the best “Jazz” - meaning focus on the fundamentals and repeating them, as it will allow for better long term success because it builds a broader base on which to build.
UNPLANNED - Be open to the unplanned, spontaneous. Don’t be so rigid/structured that the spontaneous doesn’t happen. Leave room for, and be open to unexpected opportunities, going off the beaten path, and trying new things. - Use games to allow for this within a structure and with purpose. Games and teach skills and fitness without the awareness kids have of the “hardness” of things. Plus, it builds relationships, competitive fire, and team. - The wild river cuts the best canyons! When we run into obstacles, we can either keep hitting our heads against them (think river against a dam), or we can cut around it. We don’t want canals. We want beautiful canyons. Be willing to find a new path to training, to working with an individual, and to getting results.
NATURAL - We work with our strengths. We work with the trails and resources we have, we build confidence on things we’re naturally good at, and we use that confidence to overcome weaknesses. - We know and coach to our “psychology”. Each kid has their own psychology. Think of it like a diet - which is the best diet? the one you stick to. And just like some techniques/diets work better for our particular psychology, We need to understand how each kids thinks, to help position them the best we can on a ride. If leading is a better role for them, then give them that opportunity. If chasing is their thing, then give them the ability to chase. If they need to be pushed, then push, and if they need to be left a lone a bit, then give that space. We need to understand those nuances of mind and character and use them to their advantage (and ours). - Sincerity is better than authenticity. Just “being real” has no morality to it other than being “honest”. But kids need honestly with caring and purpose. That is sincerity. Lionel Trilling, in his book “Sincerity and Authenticity” (long and largely boring, but very in-depth) explains that authenticity is largely descriptive and static and can be used to describe objects/things and humans, wheras sincerity is a human trait and is dynamic. Authenticity can be “truthful” without caring and without moral because even an “authentic” hatred is still authentic - it is real, it is what it is. However, sincerity requires us to act and really be the way we present ourselves to others. Authenticity strips away mannerisms, impersonations, and caring. One scholar defined sincerity as, “being true to oneself with an eye to others.” In other words, you can be “authentic” and still be a jerk, while it’s impossible to be sincere and be a jerk. We want to cultivate sincerity on our team - with coaches, parents, riders, and everything we do.
Bottom line is, we are training kids, not Olympians. We are building a lifelong love and skill for mountain biking. We need to build canyons, not canals. The results will follow this. Olympians come from those who love mountain biking, not the other way around. As you saw in the research above, they don’t love it because of the training. They train because they love it. We cultivate love through skills, experience, and lots of fun together. Then, that love sparks all the necessary ingredients they need to push, to train harder, to get better, and reach their potential.
Our framework defines the scope of how we train. It helps us think about how we design, organize and manage training exercises. We believe that if we train within this framework, we will get better at mountain biking, have more fun, and get faster.
EXAMPLE OF TRAINING
EXAMPLE OF TRAINING
Riders need to be able to have a level of fitness to ride their bikes continuously through a race.
Long miles on the trails at increasing levels of speed over time.
Long uphill climbs (without going into lactic acid buildup)
Riders need to have the skills necessary to ride through all the different conditions of the trail/race without needing to stop and without accidents.
Skills drills like drops, rock gardens, berms, flat turns, sand, skinnies, up and overs, and more.
Games that emphasize skills (Bike Polo, Sharks and Minnows, Bike Baseball, etc)
Skills repeats on trails
Riders need to have the strength and speed necessary to get up steep sections, over obstacles, sprint off the start line, and sprint to the finish line. Burst/Speed training helps develop that extra “Nitro” needed to accelerate or power up and through what is needed.
Steep hill climbs
Off-the-bike exercises at times
Riders need to understand the core principles and skills of riding mountain bikes so they can speak the language, understand training, feel more part of the sport, and make better decisions.
Teaching trail etiquette
Bike knowledge (parts, repairs, etc)
Teaching trail names/locations
Riders need to build confidence in their abilities so they can get faster and more skilled
Repeating skills drills
Repeating trail segments/features
Testing (time trials, segment timing, challenges)
Mountain Biking is hard. We will often face our fears, hard things, disappointments, crashes, and more. Building toughness in our riders will help them overcome these obstacles and get to the next level.
Recognizing achievements and improvements
Repeating hard things
Having group/team, and individual discussions about what we face
Team building activities
Recognizing and managing riders to ensure they are constantly challenged.
2021 TRAINING GOALS
Maintain and Build on our Culture - Have fun - Be inclusive - Mix the team more (less confined group rides) - More team rides and activities that are scaled to rider levels
'Raise the Average” Philosophy - Improve all aspects of MTB: skills, speed, conditioning, etc - beak it down into tangible, consumable workouts - Gear training to help the individual: use assessment more, tracking data and notes on riders - Deliverable in a group setting with varying levels
Be Well-Prepared - Know our practice schedule - Have purpose - Coaches and ride leaders well-trained - Designed locations and exercises