If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll know I’m a passionate advocate for getting young people active and involved in sporting competition. The reasons for this are obvious, but I also believe getting them involved in sport at an early age goes far beyond mere health benefits.
It teaches them about respect, determination, commitment and hard work alongside many other valuable traits that will stand them in good stead as they mature into adults.
Both my kids participate in lots of different sports and, thankfully, they also enjoy the odd bike ride or race on occasion too.
As a parent it is hard not to confuse my excitement at getting them involved in bikes and racing with their own choices, but so far they are eager to be involved in as much as possible.
So if you are a parent who wants to get your children involved in cycle sport where do you start?
It can seem bewildering with lots of different disciplines, but British Cycling have worked really hard at grass-roots participation in cycling and cycle sport and it has paid off with hundreds of volunteers across Scotland giving up their time for youth cycle sport.
The vast majority of these volunteers are linked with a club and around Courier Country we have several, including Discovery in Dundee and the Tay Titans in Perth, as well as several in Angus, Fife and Stirlingshire.
Getting your children involved in these clubs is the best, first step to get them involved in cycle sport. The clubs offer coaching, race opportunities, group-led rides and the existing parents and coaches will have a wealth of information to answer any questions they may have.
As one parent told me recently at the velodrome in Glasgow: “The best source of information for what to do at a race is another parent. You can guarantee they have had the same questions before and been there, seen it and done it.”
In the clubs you can also be assured of lots of old kit being sold and swapped through the age groups as riders grow, meaning you don’t have to fork out a pile of cash for clothing and equipment.
Andy Murray recently criticised the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) for a failure to capitalise on his success and he said participation levels are dropping.
Compare that to cycling where there are a myriad of opportunities for young people wanting to get involved.
We have tracks at Caird Park in Dundee and the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, mountain bike parks at Kinnoull Hill, Templeton Woods, Comrie Croft, Lochore Meadows and Middleden in Kirkcaldy, among lots of others, and there is even the new closed-road cycle park at Lochgelly in Fife.
All these venues are open to the public, but often host races for all ages. We’ve literally never had it so good.
As one colleague said to me recently: “I wish we’d had all these opportunities when I was a kid starting out on a bike” – and I couldn’t agree more. It’s an exciting time to be involved in cycling.
Our young people have successful British professionals to look up to, as well as lots of their peers riding bikes too. Long gone are the days when I was the only kid at my school with a racing bike – lined up against all the Grifters and Choppers, I was seen as weird for wanting to join a cycling club. At my kids’ school, they have a European Youth Mountain Bike Champion in Charlie Aldridge to look up to.
With so much on offer it’s hard to think of an excuse why your kids wouldn’t be involved in cycling. And even better, if you ride, lots of the races have youth and senior races running on the same day. Although the last time I did that was at a Cyclo-cross race and my daughter Maisie’s words still haunt me. As I rode, lungs bursting, past Maisie who was spectating, she called out to me in a withering tone: “Come on Dad! We know you’re trying your best.”
Perhaps cycle racing is best left to the young.
Join the Blazing Saddles Strava Club at: www.strava.com/clubs/BlazingSaddlesWeekendCourier
Where to Race? The Scottish National Youth Series #1
Where: Fife Cycle Park – Lochgelly
When: Saturday March 23 2019
Details: Edinburgh RC Juniors are running this event as part of the Scottish National Youth Series event in honour of Ben Forsyth. Ben was the first Edinburgh RC winner of a British Championship Circuit Race in 2013. There will be youth, Junior and Adult races n the day.
Enter at: https://goo.gl/dTNmxo