June 6, 2008 (Queen Charlotte Islands, BC) – The Queen Charlotte Recreation Commission recently hosted the 10th Cycling BC Youth Team event of the year. 95 riders took part in the program. An additional 30 students took part in classroom visits which emphasized the importance of active living. The clinic was coordinated through the efforts of Brenda Hanchard (Derailleurs in the Mist Cycling Club), Karen McMurray (Queen Charlotte Recreation Coordinator) and the generosity of the Hecate Inn’s Robyn Boese.
Day 1 of the visit started at Tahayghen Elementary in Massett. This visit involved the standard Youth Team program along with two classroom visits focused on the topic of healthy living. This was a great opportunity to speak with students about the benefits that sport can bring to someone’s life. In the cycling clinic, the students were very keen with one student excitedly telling me “this is the best day of my life”. This school had never been exposed to cycling instruction at this level before. It was clear from their enthusiasm that there is a tremendous need for more programming like this in future.
In case you haven’t been to Queen Charlotte, the first thing you notice is how many eagles patrol the sky above you. During the Masset visit I saw no less than 20 eagles. Now I know why several of the kids, when asked to look at the rear derailleur on their bicycles, had no idea what I was talking about. Up here, the kids call rear derailleurs “eagles” because the mechanism spread it’s “wings” as it shifts.
The afternoon session on Day 1 tool place 45kms south of Massett. I spent the better part of lunch hour driving down to Port Clements where 40 students took part in a full afternoon of velodrome racing in their school yard. This clinic was notable because the teachers managed to include the entire school in the program. No one was left out of this one. It’s important to mention that Port Clements, as with all Youth Team events, incorporated students with special needs into the mix. It was really cool to see the kids racing around the track and including students with different skills, talents and abilities. Cycling is definitely a sport with something to offer everyone. The smiles showed how important this level of inclusion was.
I travelled another 60km south to Queen Charlotte where I stayed at the Hecate Inn. When Robyn Boese heard that Cycling BC was coming to the islands, she offered to sponsor two nights worth of hotel. This is definitely a wonderful and friendly place to stay if any of you are thinking about exploring the pristine mountain biking or newly paved blacktop (over 140km worth between Charlotte and Masset) in the Queen Charlotte’s .
Day 2 of the Youth Team clinics started at Sk’Aagdaa Naay Elementary where another 40 kids took part in a 3 hour grass velodrome racing clinic. The local RCMP detachment heard that Cycling BC was coming to town so they moved their cycling program ahead to match with our initiative. The RCMP provided the students with new helmets, locks and a stable of bicycles for the kids without bikes to ride. The best part was that each student got to keep the gear and the bike. To say that this community and the school support cycling would be a huge understatement. Look for some talented kids to come out of this school in the near future.
The program at Sk’Aagdaa Naay Elementary included the use of two large grass tracks at the same time. The group was energetic and eager to ride fast. Normally one track would be sufficient, but the energy level in this group demanded that everyone keep moving and riding hard. The class finished at noon and they kid’s energy level only started to drop at 10 minutes to go. It was a fun and extremely busy clinic.
In the afternoon I visited the Living and Learning School in Charlotte. This was a smaller clinic than the others, but no less enthusiastic. Again, the kids were amazed with all the different skills, games and races that you could learn in a school field. As always, the game of “one-foot” was the most popular.
The clinic concluded with a sharing circle lead by one of the school’s teachers where each student was asked to mention something that got them down (“a root”) and something that made them soar (“an eagle”). The majority of kids mentioned some mechanical issue with their bikes as being their root. Almost all of them said the entire visit was their eagle.
The day ended with a two hour evening clinic for the local Cycling BC club — Derailleurs in the Mist. The clinic was attended by 10 of their adult members. While offering this clinic, based on road skills and group riding, I stressed the importance of creating an even bigger cycling community in the Charlotte’s . We talked about the club taking over the school visit program and offering kids the chance to race their bikes in local events each year. Grass Velodrome racing would be a perfect fit for almost any club as the event gets lots of kids involved in racing and can be run with a minimal number (2 to 3) volunteers. It also offers all kids, regardless of ability level, a chance to race and be successful. I am confident that this club will extend their efforts to connect more kids from the region with the sport of bicycle racing in the future.
The next stop for the Cycling BC Youth Team will be the BC Summer Games in Kelowna (July 24-27th). Since January 2008, 465 riders have been taught racing and bike handling skills through the Youth Team Program. This initiative will grow the talent pool for competitive cycling in British Columbia by exposing as many kids as possible to racing in a fun and friendly environment. If you would like a Youth Team event in your community, please email Dan Proulx at firstname.lastname@example.org