WI Interscholastic Cycling is Alive & Pedaling

Dirt Tester Matt here, and I just returned from the 2015 NICA Leaders Summit, held at Trek in Waterloo, WI.  This is year number two of the Wisconsin High School Mountain Bike league, and the second NICA Leaders Summit ever held in Wisconsin.  I must say I was not sure what to expect from this two day event, but I was absolutely, positively blown away by the knowledge, energy and passion from Bruce Martens our fearless leader, and all those who attended!

The conference at Trek’s cool facilities in Waterloo. Photo by Dave Reich

It was great to see a room full of mtb coaches from the previous year, as well as the new coaches excited to start programs in their respective districts.  Volunteer coaches came from all over the state to learn more about how to get high school/middle school mountain biking going in their areas.  Attendees came from LaCrosse, Milwaukee, Wausau, Madison, Menomonee Falls, Beliot, Sun Prairie, Neenah, Steven’s Point, Viroqua, Reedsburg, Boscebel….., and even a few folks from Illinois attended, as they are chomping at the bit to get their kids started in interscholastic mountain biking, in our state, because their state does not have this yet..YET I SAY!

Some interesting numbers for you;

NICA has 15 leagues, in 15 different states across the USA, and 15% of the riders are girls.

Minnesota started a NICA league back in 2012 with under 200 students, and now has around 800 student atheletes.

2014 WI leaders Summit attendance 49, 16 different teams, and 155 Students

2015 WI Leaders Summit attendance 74, 25-30 different teams (Est.), and 225 Student Athletes (Est.)

New NICA hire in 2015.  Aristotle Peters (Coaching Licensing Director of WI)

NICA uses a “bottom up” approach (vs top down) and really encourages each state league to consider what might work best for them, rather then what might work best in say California, or any other state for that fact.  That’s not to say they don’t have rules or some strong suggestions that help you coach your athletes, but NICA is focused on the big picture, not micro managing.  This allows for more personal say in what days you might practice, what location you might choose to practice, etc.  Giving each state and each team it’s own autonomy to find what works best for them, considering all the challenges of get kids and their bikes riding.

Training for NICA coaches on the Trek trails in Waterloo. Photo Dave Reich

The biggest take away for me as a father who has coached various sports for my own kids is that NICA exists for two simple reasons:

  • Give kids the fitness and skills to enjoy riding and do it safely.
  • To give kids a high school sport to enjoy, even if they have been disenfranchised from more traditional high school sports in a past.

That’s not to say some kids won’t compete at the highest level, or go on to become national, world, or olympic champions. That’s just not the goal.  Winning in this league is when a student athlete shows up, participates, and truly enjoys the time spent together on a bike challenging themselves.

Personally, it was refreshing to hear that winning was not the focus, as a matter of fact it was not even mentioned.  NICA and Wisconsin High School Mountain Biking is about HAVING FUN.  I almost feel guilty saying that, given my competitive back ground, and many years of focusing on winning, and coaching to win.  Here you get to win every day, when all that is expected is to be a positive role model, and a worthy mentor.


1) You know you are doing something right when you have more interest and participation taken place year over year.

2) I wish we would have had this when I was in High School:)

Happy Trails, Matt Gissibl

Click here to find out more about NICA or WI High School MTB

Read more about this in our MAY issue of the WI BIKE FED MAGAZINE, mailed to all members (so join the Bike Fed!) or ask for it at your local bike shop.

These smiles are what the Wisconsin High School Mountain Bike League is really all about. Photo by Richard Beachamp

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