Happy New Year! Spring Leagues are ramping up! Texas will hold the first race of 2022 this month in Troy, Texas! The Kansas League is embarking on their second full season! Student-athlete registration is up 39% from this time last year. Athletes and families understand the value of the programs you have created. Keep up the great work.
January typically makes us think about creating new goals and changing something about ourselves that we aren’t quite happy with at the moment. With the continued stress of living in a pandemic, I challenge you all to focus on taking care of yourself physically and mentally. No matter how pure our intentions are we will struggle to be our best for our athletes if we are not taking care of ourselves. I’ve set the goal to focus on getting the exercise I need to stay physically and mentally healthy. I am also giving myself and others grace; I’m trying to be as empathetic as possible. I believe that we all want to do well and will do well if we have the opportunity to do so. We bring our best everyday. Sometimes our best isn’t the best and that is okay.
Give yourself grace, give the people around you grace, and focus on being your best self. I believe that most of our individual goals can fit into that framework.
-Mike McGarry and the NICA Coach Licensing Team
In This Issue: – Game of the Month – 2022 NICA Online Leaders’ Summit Schedule – Self-Care Practices for NICA Coaches – 2022 Trek/NICA Coach and Student-Athlete Discount Program – NICA Handbook Spotlight: Passing Slower-Moving Student-Athletes – BIEA NICA Bicycle Technician Scholarship – GRiT Corner – TrueSport: 8 Tips to Help Young Athletes Perform in Extreme Environments
Send us images of your teams playing games! Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Where: Flat to slight downhill open space Objective: I can have fun. I can build timing, coordination, and pressure control. Setup: Designate a start point or line. Put a square of cardboard about 20’ feet away. OTB 101 Skills: Bike-Body Separation, Braking, Neutral/Ready Position Rules: Riders ride towards the cardboard and over it. When the rear tire is on the cardboard, lock the rear brake and slide on the cardboard while remaining balanced. Who can slide the furthest? Optional: Relay Race – Create teams, each team member slides as far as they can. Next team member continues towards the finish line. First team across the finish wins, or each team scores one point each time gets the cardboard across the finish line. First team to five points wins. Progression: Play as a tug of war, with teams on opposite sides taking turns. Establish an end line for each team. Teams take turns attempting to move the piece of cardboard over the opposing teams line. Reflection Question: What positives can you take away from the game?
This year, the NICA Coach Licensing Staff is offering 9 full weeks of live, online Leaders’ Summit sessions so that you can get the necessary core requirements for your Level 3 Coach License or the continuing education units needed to maintain your current coach license. Please see below for details about the online leader summit program:
▪ The schedule with registration links is listed below. ▪ Online Leaders Summits will be held live via Zoom video conference. ▪ Sessions will be presented by NICA Coach Licensing staff. ▪ They will consist of the 5 Core Required sessions to get your Coach License Level 3 or count as CEUs to maintain your current Coach License Level 2 or 3. ▪ Sessions will be offered in 5 one hour sessions on weekdays. Times will vary each week to accommodate your schedule as best we can. ▪ Please use the same email address you use for Pit Zone to register for the Zoom sessions. (If you use a different email automatic updates to your Pit Zone cannot happen) ▪ Pre-registration is required to attend each online leader summit session.
The schedule with registration links is listed below.
Online Leaders Summits will be held live via Zoom video conference.
Sessions will be presented by NICA Coach Licensing staff.
They will consist of the 5 Core Required sessions to get your Coach License Level 3 or count as CEUs to maintain your current Coach License Level 2 or 3.
Sessions will be offered in 5 one hour sessions on weekdays. Times will vary each week to accommodate your schedule as best we can.
Please use the same email address you use for Pit Zone to register for the Zoom sessions. (If you use a different email automatic updates to your Pit Zone cannot happen)
Pre-registration is required to attend each online leader summit session.
As a NICA Coach, your student-athletes look to you to model and provide the motivation, focus and clarity they crave.
If you’re constantly running around like a chicken with your head cut off, then it’s going to become increasingly difficult to follow through on these expectations. What’s more, at a certain point your student-athletes will be able to sense that you’re not practicing what you preach and that can diminish your legitimacy in their eyes.
Self-care is not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity for combatting stress, preventing burnout and enabling you to remain calm, focused and centered, all of which is essential for doing your job well.
While self-care manifests differently for everyone, here are three practices that every NICA Coach can incorporate into their routine.
Be mindful You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of mindfulness, which include stress and anxiety reduction, greater clarity and self-awareness, a heightened sense of equanimity, healthier relationships and boundaries, enhanced resilience, improved cognitive function and more. But are you taking the time to practice them yourself?
It’s easy for these practices to slip off the schedule when you’re juggling appointments, phone calls and other work obligations. But it’s essential that you commit to practicing mindfulness on a daily basis in order to maintain the clarity, focus and calm that is essential for coaching well.
Eat well We all know it’s important to eat a healthy diet, but when we’re feeling overwhelmed our food choices are often the first to slip. We may stop preparing meals at home, reach for processed foods and/or eschew fruits and vegetables for greasier, less-nutritious fare. This is understandable. But, nevertheless, it can have negative consequences on both our physical health and mental wellbeing. In fact, an unhealthy diet can affect everything, from diminishing our immunity to dampening our mood and reducing our productivity.
That’s why it’s so important to invest in eating nutritiously. Whether that means cooking up a big batch of food on Sunday to enjoy leftovers all week long or drinking your greens on the days when whipping up a big salad just isn’t possible, commit to making healthy eating a priority in ways that work for you.
Take time off If you’re a NICA Coach, then odds are you have a full time job/career and/or family. Taking breaks and a vacation you must. Research consistently finds that taking time off is critical for maintaining your physical health, your emotional well-being and your productivity. This is especially true for NICA Coaches: As someone who spends your workdays investing your emotional energy in other people’s needs, it’s essential that you turn that energy toward yourself on a regular basis in order to replenish your well.
Summary In addition to these big-picture practices, it’s also essential to remember that self-care is a moment-to-moment practice. Take the time to check in with yourself throughout the day, every day, in order to make sure you’re meeting your needs. Listen to your body if you need to get up and stretch, take a walk outside, unplug from screens for an hour or simply breathe for a few moments. Tending to yourself in smaller moments will set a foundation of self-care that will make it that much easier to adopt these bigger habits.
NICA events are family events, and you should count your local Trek retailer as a grateful member of your NICA family. Your Trek retailer is where you’ll find local bike experts who can answer technical questions, give you guidance about trails, and talk endlessly about the best new Trek and Bontrager gear for NICA. Plus, your local Trek retailer can be a free meeting space for clinics, practice planning, and more. If you’re a NICA Coach, you can also take advantage of a generous discount on Trek bikes and Bontrager gear.
In 2022, Trek is proud to offer a product discount program once again to licensed NICA Coaches and Student-Athletes. Because of the continuing difficulty with inventory, and the wait for backordered bikes, the biggest change to the program is that the discount is now available on in-store inventory, and to help our retailers, the discount is the same across the board for every license level.
The Discount – 25% off MSRP at participating Trek retailers – Shipping and assembly are not included
Who Gets the Discount? – All practice-ready NICA Student-Athletes (must provide license at time of purchase) – Current Licensed Level 1, 2, and 3 NICA Coaches
Bikes: – Limit 1 bike per year – Marlin, X-Caliber, Roscoe, Procaliber, Supercaliber, Top Fuel, and Fuel Ex – E-bikes are available for every license level and Level 3 coaches only (E-caliber or Rail only)
Products and Accessories: – Bontrager MTB shoes (limited to two per year) – Bontrager Blaze, Rally and Circuit helmets (limited to two per year)
Due to ongoing inventory shortages in 2022, Level 3 Coaches are being offered the same in-store bike and product and accessories discount as Student-Athletes and L1 & L2 Coaches. However, if you received a Level 3 discount code for a bike in 2021 and were not able to use it due to lack of inventory, we will honor that code in 2022 if and when there is inventory online only at trekbikes.com. Unfortunately, Trek cannot offer 2021 Level 3 discounts in-store. This includes bike purchases made at retailers locally. A local purchase qualifies as an in-store purchase.
2.16.A: When overtaking a rider on the race course, the passing rider should do so respectfully and must: 1. Pass only when safe to do so and without rider contact; 2. Call out “On your left” or “On your right” or use other similar language to indicate whether the pass will be on the other rider’s left or right side.
2.16.B: Passing in a manner that compromises the safety of other riders will not be tolerated.
NICA is excited to partner with the Bicycle Industry Employers Association (BIEA) and announce the BIEA NICA Bicycle Technician Scholarship. This scholarship will recognize and support two graduating NICA student-athletes from the Class of 2022 who plan to pursue a professional career in the bicycle industry.
Through this scholarship, recipients will receive financial assistance and the opportunity to attend BIEA-accredited programs at either the Minneapolis Community Technical College or the Northwest Arkansas Community College. Both schools offer programs that will prepare students for immediate employment in technical positions in the bicycle industry.
Information on the qualifications and application materials for the BIEA NICA Bicycle Technician Scholarship are available via the button below. Applications will be accepted until February 1, 2022.
As we enter a new year, our theme this month is self-care. In addition to the three practices shared above, I wanted to share a few thoughts specifically for our female coaches.
I’ve spent the better part of the past decade working with and coaching women. My conclusion? We can be lousy at prioritizing self-care.
While certainly not always the case, women often carry much of the physical and emotional burden of family responsibilities. Moms, especially, often feel responsible for making the doctors appointments for kids, caring for ailing parents, meeting with teachers, planning meals, organizing carpools, caring for sick children, etc.
We take on the mental weight of thousands of small tasks, not realizing how much the stress can add up over time. We feel that we can’t take the time for ourselves, because there are too many people counting on us and we don’t want to let them down. And then, eventually, we may burn out and be forced to step away from things we care about.
Just like on a plane, where we are asked to put on our own oxygen masks before assisting others, we must take care of our own physical and mental health in order to be our best for everyone who is counting on us. We must make the time for things that fill our cup, bring joy, and support our physical and mental health. This is the key–not only to making sure we are at our best for our families and those who most need us–but also to enabling us to continue to serve as coaches, helping to get #moregirlsonbikes!
The bottom line is that we–NICA–need you to put yourself first so that you can be part of our community for the long term. We don’t want to lose your passion, energy and contributions to the student-athletes involved in our programs!
Please reach out to me at email@example.com if you want support in this area, beyond the ideas listed above. I’ve spent a good chunk of my career helping women learn to put themselves first and I’ve seen the difference it can make in someone’s life.
Stay tuned next month as we dive into specific tactics you can use this year to build a strong female coach community on your team!
The author practicing self-care in Nevada. Photo: Emily Green
TrueSport: 8 Tips to Help Young Athletes Perform in Extreme Environments
If your high school team is from Florida where you train at sea level year-round, you might be feeling intimidated when you hear that the National Championships will be held high in a mountain town in Colorado. On the other hand, players from Northern California may start to feel nervous when competing in championships in the hot, humid Midwest after training for months in mild, dry weather.
Whether the extreme environment your athletes are headed to is hot, cold, or at high altitude, you may be tempted to look for a supplement or treatment that can help them quickly adapt and adjust. But Laura Lewis, PhD, Director of Science at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, says there’s no pill out there that can help an athlete adapt. However, she does have some advice for performing in adverse situations like heat waves, blizzards, and high altitude.
1: Your body is built to adapt “Our bodies are amazing, and they can respond to each of these different environments that we expose them to,” she says. “It just takes time. There’s no magic pill. Respect the environment that you’re in and adjust your training or your level of exertion accordingly, and then make sure that you’re allowing your body to recover while you’re in these different environments.”
2: Early is better The gold standard for athletes is to go as early as possible to the location that has different conditions in order to get acclimatized. “Your body does adapt quite quickly: for example, just an extra week in a hot environment can make a big difference to how you’re going to feel and perform,” Lewis adds.
It will feel harder when you first arrive. “If you are able to go to a location a few days before and do some acclimatization, the first time you go and do a run, you’re going to notice that your heart rate is really, really high,” Lewis says. “But then the body starts to adapt to that. By the fifth day, it’s going to feel a lot easier doing that same exercise, because the heat has stimulated a number of adaptations within your body that allow you to cope better overall.”
3: Prep at home for heat “Obviously, early travel to event locations is not going to be accessible for everybody,” Lewis admits. But you can still prepare at home for the heat. “If you’re a track athlete, do some more runs on a treadmill in a warm environment, or even just without a fan in the gym,” Lewis suggests. “The more you can raise your core temperature and stimulate your body to adapt that way, the better.”
But be careful, she adds. “It’s obviously really important to be safe, because high schoolers are not going to have the same level of monitoring and support as an Olympic athlete would have doing these various trial sessions.”
4: Stay cool “If you’re not doing much acclimatization work, particularly when going into a hot environment, then you just need to think about your strategies when you’re there to try to keep yourself as cool as possible,” Lewis explains. “Stay in the hotel or in the air conditioning until quite close to the game, making sure that you’re adequately hydrated and that you do have access to drinks during and after.”
Essentially, Lewis recommends pre-cooling your body. If your body starts at a lower core temperature before your event, then it’s going to take longer for your body temperature to reach that critical temperature where it can’t perform, or where you’re going to struggle. “Drink a slushy or have some shaved ice,” she adds. “Have something like that where the drink is in ice form, and then has to change from ice to a liquid inside of you. That change of state actually takes away body heat from your core and cools you down.” Other tactics include wearing an ice vest or using cold towels that are dipped in ice on the back of the neck. “Do what you can to lower your core temperature in advance of the event to buy yourself a bit more time when you’re actually playing the game.”
5: Cold weather is all about clothing choice Adapting to cold isn’t too difficult for most athletes, but the clothing can be tricky. “Clothing choices are obviously going to be your big friend here,” Lewis says. “There’s not too much body adaptation: Dress appropriately to try to keep yourself warm. It’s important to test the clothes you’re going to wear though, because running in gloves and tights versus shorts and a singlet has a different feeling. And if you’re wearing gloves, having any drinks or fuel during a race will impact your dexterity.”
6: Altitude is worth the early arrival “The longer you can be at altitude before an event, the better. If it was a really important event for an elite athlete, you’d be getting there at least three weeks before, but obviously, that’s not going to be practical for most of us,” says Lewis. “Even a couple of days can help, though. And for most high school and college level athletes, it’s better to spend money to go to the place a few days early rather than investing in expensive altitude training equipment,” she adds.
There are different stages of adaptation to altitude. “In the first day or two, your body’s just trying to go into survival mode,” says Lewis. “Your breathing rate increases, you’ll end up urinating a lot in order to concentrate your blood. You haven’t made any more blood, but you’ve just really concentrated it so that it can carry oxygen around the body a bit more efficiently. Sleep is often quite disrupted. It’s not uncommon to wake up in the middle of the night gasping for breath, but that’s just your body adapting and trying to work on a short-term solution.”
Then, it gets easier: “The longer you spend at altitude, the more those acute responses calm down and the adaptive responses take over. Your body actually starts to make more red blood cells, you have more blood to carry oxygen around your body, and everything gradually starts to feel a little bit easier.”
7: Pay attention to nutrition in extreme conditions “After really hot games, you might not feel like eating,” Lewis warns. “But if you’re at a tournament, it will be really important to restore your energy sources. You might just need to think about different ways to get the nutrition in, maybe using liquid-based energy. Even if you really can’t stomach anything solid to start with, don’t neglect the recovery and the restoration of nutrients just because you don’t feel like eating.”
In cold environments, athletes may find that the body is using more energy to keep itself warm. “When it’s cold, you may find that you need to fuel yourself a bit more than normal,” says Lewis. “Prioritize having a little more food around your training session or your event.”
Hydration is also key at altitude. “Because of the increased breathing rate, you actually get a bit more dehydrated because you’re losing water every time you breathe,” Lewis says. “So, you need to think about hydration. You might also need a bit more fuel because you’re burning carbohydrate, not fat, which means you can run out of energy a bit quicker.”
8: Manage expectations “It’s really important for athletes going to altitude or any extreme environment to realize that it is going to feel hard, so their pacing and performance is going to be lower to start with,” says Lewis. “Athletes also need to respect that they’re going to need longer recovery in between efforts.”
TAKEAWAY Extreme environments present major challenges for athletes who can’t go early to acclimate, but with some early interventions like hotter training indoors, choosing the right clothing, or understanding how the body responds to altitude, it’s possible to have a safe and healthy performance.
TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, while also creating leaders across communities through sport.