I was sent an email asking “I have a junior that races BMX and would like to explore racing road, criterium and cyclocross. How do we get started?” I have just returned from USAC Junior / Elite Track Nationals so my opinion on what you should do has a lot with what I saw at Nationals this past week.
Junior Race Team: The first item on the list for a junior exploring racing is seek out the local cycling clubs and see if they offer a junior race team and ask the following questions:
- What is the team’s philosophy?
- What disciplines does the team stress – road, criterium, cyclocross or track?
- Do they have a team coach?
- What is a typical week of training?
- Where do they normally train?
- Does the team train together?
Have your athlete go on a ride with the team and see if they click, if the athlete feels uncomfortable or does not like what they see or hear, look for another team.
A good junior team will expose the juniors to all types of racing. Road races in early spring, Criterium in summer, Track racing spring through fall and Cyclocross fall through winter.
Do not let free equipment cloud your decision. It is my experience that athletes that jump from team to team because of free equipment, usually do not stay together. Your junior should be working on developing his skills, his endurance and his speed vs. getting a free equipment.
Benefits of training with a Junior Race team is:
- The juniors are having fun while learning.
- Juniors prefer to train with other juniors
- Since training with other juniors is more fun your athlete will be more opt to go train.
If the team does not have a coach, then the second item on the list for a junior exploring racing is hire a coach. At the age of 14 they will need help to get ready for next year, the 13/14 year olds I saw racing this past weekend were fast and 15/16 year olds were even faster.
Private Coaching: If you start looking for a coach ask these questions:
- Are they a USAC certified coach? Certified coaches have the education, the insurance and participant in Safe Sport program.
- What tools do they use to monitor the athletes data?
- What experience do they have working with juniors? Juniors are not just little people nor does a junior have the same mental capacity as an adult. Again they are all over the board.
- How often will they speak or see the athlete?
- How often will they produce the training schedule?
- Will they help the junior develop a goal to work toward?
Cycling is a great sport for juniors to participant in. The sport teaches discipline and commitment that the junior will use throughout their life time. Working with a team or having a private coach will be the junior’s support system, so make sure it is a good fit.