During the summer months (June - August) I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Bend Endurance Academy as a cycling coach for 8-12 year old kids. This was a chance for me to help young athletes learn more about the sport of mountain biking and to teach them some new skills. The program that I was coaching was called The Mighty Bikes.
I didn't know what to expect for the first group ride with the kids. However, I was very pleased with my experience and hope to be able to do it again next season. There were roughly 10-15 kids that showed up each session (Tues and Thurs) for 2 hour rides. Besides myself, there was usually 1-2 other coaches to help split up the kids into two to three separate groups. This allowed the coaches to keep the kids matched with similar riding abilities. I was amazed at how skilled and fearless these kids were.
Each session I had about 6 kids in my group, and all were very eager to ride more technical trails than the previous sessions ride. We met at the same two locations each week, so the trails we rode were limited. However, there were still plenty of trails to show the kids. Some of the skills that we worked on included:
**how to start on steep ascents and descents
**how to ride over obstacles (such as logs)
**how to balance your bike for 5 seconds
**how to position yourself on the bike for climbs and downhills
**how to properly use the front and rear brakes, and when not to use the front brake
Most of the kids had clipless pedals so they seemed to have already grasped how to clip in and out of the pedals pretty easily. We taught them proper etiquette while riding on the trails and even how to fix a flat (more than once). It was fun to see them really paying attention to what I was telling them and to see each of them progress each week. The Bend Endurance Academy provided "skills cards" for each rider that the coaches used to track the progression of certain skills. Most of the kids in my group completed every skill and will be ready to join the Development Program; which utilizes both mountain biking and road cycling.