What is NICA? The National Interscholastic Cycling Association is more than 10 years old. It was founded in California and has grown exponentially, with each state establishing its own league and race series.
How many kids are involved? Last year, 30,000 (wow!) athletes registered and competed nationally. Approximately 30 states have leagues.
What about South Carolina? This is the inaugural year for South Carolina’s own league. Simpsonville resident Carin Wolfe, the board chairman of the state’s first league, has been involved with the group for several years. She is passionate about getting kids outside. “It has a lot more to do than just racing,” she said. “We want to get more kids on bikes, build their confidence and create a lifelong love for the outdoors.” Wolfe has a son who started riding mountain bikes and now is a competitive racer.
How many teams are in South Carolina? There are 11 teams across the state, from Horry County to Rock Hill.
What is the local team called? “The Upstate Shredders” (OK, cool name) has two teams already, and registration is open.
Who can participate? Any child, from rising sixth graders to 12th graders, are welcome. This sport follows the fall sports schedule but is relatively chill as organized sports go. Kids can go to three practices per week but not be required to race. This is a great sport for the child who has not found a “ball sport” he or she likes. There is a “no-bench” team policy, so if your kid shows up and has two wheels, he rides.
How has the recent pandemic affected the sport? Wolfe said there are several doctors on the board, and all have recommended following state guidelines. In addition, good bike etiquette and road and trail safety are emphasized at all practices.
Where do they practice? There are three practices per week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays) at meetups at local parks all over Greenville County. Coaches are all volunteer parents and participate in the ride, including one parent being the “sweeper” — the last rider — to ensure everyone finishes. The riders are divided up into groups by skill level. There are girls only — G.R.I.T. (stands for Girls Riding Together) — group rides too.
What is the fee? The total cost is $300 for the season (July – November), and scholarships are available. All coaches are volunteers, but the money is used to cover team insurance, first aid kids and team equipment such as tents and bike racks. Riders need a bike, helmet and water bottle. Parents do not need to participate in rides, but are welcome.
What about technical training for trail riding? Wolfe said the coaches want to focus on fundamentals and skills to build confidence, stamina and overall health. In other words: practice, practice, practice. The more time kids are on their bikes, the more confident they become on new trails. In addition, bike maintenance techniques are taught. (Hey, changing a tire on any vehicle is good life skill!)
When does the season start? Registration opens July 1 and closes July 31. The first practice is July 8, and the last practice is at the end of November.
Happy riding, kids!