By Sara Ballantyne
In the Fall of 2014, Ridgway, CO started their first High School Mountain Bike Team called the Ridgway Composite. I am the head coach. We are called “Ridgway Composite” since we live in a rural area and have 16 kids participating from 3 different counties. The Colorado League was established in 2009 with its inaugural race series in the Fall of 2010. It has grown from 183 student athletes representing 20 teams to over 800 athletes from 58 teams in 2015. The primary focus is “to develop a strong mind, body and character in an inclusive, egalitarian environment by engaging juniors in the challenging and exciting world of competitive cycling” (www.coloradomtb.org). We are in the middle of our season and riding with these young adults after a long work day is my favorite time of the week!
Not all my kids choose to race but joining a group of like-minded individuals that like to ride sweet single-track in our local forests and help build trail in their local communities is not only fun but teaches how to give back and encourage others to get outside and enjoy our great back yard. We camp out at the venues and families kick in to serve all our riders delicious and healthy camp fire meals before and after racing/riding. The League is producing confident young leaders plus fostering camaraderie from different neighborhoods across the State.
Sharing with you as though I am a proud parent of every one of these kids dovetails nicely into President Obamas proclamation that September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. It is the fifth anniversary of Let’s Move! A national program to encourage and expand access to nutritious foods and physical activity and to help our kids grow up healthy and become productive members of our society. Check out their website at www.letsmove.gov. They have lots of great ideas and recipes that you can use today.
I feel honored to be a trusted leader in my community that can empower families and communities to make better choices to improve the health of their kids. Fun is contagious and what I have noticed after my second year with Ridgway Composite is that siblings have joined on this season and new families from different communities are taking part. I have been thanked by parents for doing what I take for granted (camping, eating together, riding together). Sharing life skills as simple as this with the younger generation is something we all have the capacity to do. There is nothing that makes me smile more than watching kids cross the finish line being so stoked on their accomplishment and effort. So get out and let’s move all together towards a healthier, happier neighborhood!