“Mountain biking is the vehicle we use to help kids grow into healthy, empowered adults, through positive outdoor experiences,” says Lisa Miller, executive director of the Washington Student Cycling League, which offers a statewide team mountain biking program for student-athletes in grades 6-12.
Currently, the league’s northeast Washington region has 100 student-athletes and 8 co-ed teams, for both middle school and high-school levels—6 teams from Spokane and 2 teams from Coeur d’Alene (bordering states can participate).
The regional teams are currently “composites, versus school-based teams, in order to build up enough of a student-athlete community,” says Miller. “We want to bring mountain biking out of the fringes and into the mainstream so we can spawn more collegiate teams and scholarships.”
The league is an all-inclusive team environment, welcoming all fitness, skill, and ability levels. Scholarships, community partnerships, and coaching networks help students acquire mountain bikes and other gear. Miller says the league is also developing an “earn-a-bike program.”
“The kids we try to reach, and the ones we draw to our program, are non-mainstream sports students. With lot of other sports, you can’t join a team unless you have been playing since you were young,” she says. “We want to reach those kids because [they’re who] might otherwise not be getting outdoor activity.”
The league hosts four competitive events, which are all optional. “We strive to have fun and create lifelong cyclists,” says Miller. “We like to say that ‘Lessons learned on a bike are lessons learned in life,’ and ‘not all classrooms have four walls.’
“One of the most awesome things about what we’re doing is that though it’s a youth program, it’s also a family program. We’re getting a high-level of participation from parents…getting parents off the couch as well as students.”
For more information, visit Washingtonleague.org. //
(Editor’s Note: More volunteer coaches are needed for this program.)