Growing the Sport of CO Mountain Biking

*This is a recycled article in honor of Saturday's Cyclefest (the yearly fundraiser for the CO High School Cycling League). If you'd like to support this organization, join us this Saturday for a ride with Georgia Gould, followed by a fantastic fundraiser at Yeti Cycles (Golden). It's going to be epic--just like the smiles on the kids' faces. first heard about Golden High School's Mtb team last fall. They made the local and national news for being one of the first schools in Colorado to letter in Mountain Biking. Personally, this blew my mind. I didn't even know kids COULD letter in Mtb these days. I tracked down head coach, Scott Burcar through Golden's Middle School Mtb club coach, Jesse Swift. Like Jesse, and so many others in their field, Scott is a teacher who does way more than "just teach". He motivates, he inspires, he rallies, he hangs it all out there all for the love of his kids and the love of the bike. I was pleased to get this humble, humorous, not to mention long-overdue interview from him.

[303 Cycling:] First off, could you tell our readers about yourself?
Coach Burcar: I am going to get this out of the way right up front; I am old. I have been mountain biking basically from the beginning. There was a time BMTB (before mountain bikes) and I was there. I owned the second mountain bike I ever saw. I was working in Creede Colorado in the summer of 1983, I saw a gentleman ride by on ‘this bike’ (unlike any bike I had ever seen), I asked him what it was and he told me that it was a mountain bike. I owned one within the week.

When I returned to Fort Lewis College campus in Durango that fall (beginning of my Senior year there) my bike was a novelty. Beyond that I have competed on mountain bikes for 30 years. I have competed mostly for the experience, I
have always raced Sport class and finish somewhere in the pack. I competed in the 24-hours of Moab several times, I raced at the Winter Park series last summer, and hope to have more races in my future.

[303 Cycling:]The Golden High School Mtb team started in 2011. But how long was the team in the making before that?
Coach Burcar: I originally organized a mtn bike club here at Golden High School in 2008 at the request of a hand-full of interested boys. It was very loosely organized and we tried to meet for weekly rides in the fall. We would meet at the bike rack at school, occasionally there would be 6 of us, sometimes I rode by myself. Most of these boys had graduated and moved on just prior to the creation of the current ‘team’.

In February 2011 a former GHS graduate, Tim Hoppin, contacted me through my bike club information on the school web site and he inquired about my possible interest in teaming with him to start a school team within the newly formed Colorado High School Cycling League. Tim and I originally met with Kate Rau in February 2011 and our team was ready to race that September. So, the team, in its entirety (conception of, recruitment, soliciting sponsors, coaches summit and associated requirements, kit design and manufacturing, and team training) was formed between February and September of 2011. It was a huge initial effort but if there are teams currently considering racing this coming season, it is not too late.

[303 Cycling:] What obstacles did you, the kids and the parents face when trying to start this team?
Coach Burcar: The biggest obstacles were getting the word out to potential participants and the time involved. I believe it is similar for most teams but things started fairly slowly as far as rider numbers is concerned,
we just kept at it (organizing and riding, that is) and the word slowly spread to the right kids. We still work on rider recruitment. I know there are still a lot of students that would like to participate but for some reason don’t, we work on finding these kids and personally talking with them about this exciting, fun opportunity. The time commitment is another potential obstacle, you need to go into it fully committed to do whatever it takes. With that said, all the time spent is handsomely rewarded through the experience with the kids, their parents, and the league. I have met so many outstanding people through this experience.

[303 Cycling:] Did you have any assistance?
Coach Burcar: Yes, I absolutely had help. As I mentioned earlier, a GHS grad, Tim Hoppin initiated the conversation with me that lead to the creation of the team. Tim and I have worked side by side over the past 3 years
of racing in the league with the Golden High Team. Kate Rau was also a tremendous help throughout the process.

[303 Cycling:] How many riders did you have your first year (boys/girls)?
Coach Burcar: Our first year we had 15 racers, 11 boys and 4 girls. We finished our first season (2011) with a third place team finish at the State Championship race in Castle Rock.

[303 Cycling:] In 2013 you were the 2nd largest High School Mtb team in the state. To what do you attribute that growth?
Coach Burcar: I think part of it is by creating a fun and safe ‘team oriented’ environment within which everyone feels welcome. One of the great things about the league and our team is that all riders are welcome
regardless of ability on a bike. One of the biggest challenges of managing a large team is to meet the needs of a very diverse group of riders. Through the three years of our teams existence we have only had three students not return the following year (excluding graduates, that is), two of which were committed to training with their ski teams.

The league also plays a big role in keeping kids coming back as they put on a spectacular show at all of the league’s four races. Once kids ride in a race they are hooked. I also think that our community, the city of Golden is prime for supplying our team with kids that like to ride mountain bikes. Golden is surrounded by many miles of biker friendly Jeffco open space. Golden is an exciting community with a large percentage of outdoor adventure minded people. The kids are growing up in families that bike, ski, hike and generally like being outside.

[303 Cycling:] How do you attract and keep girls in the sport (the age-old question)?
Coach Burcar:#6. Predominantly by creating and supporting a fun, safe team environment and by having female ride leader/coach support to help mentor the girls. We have three great female ride leaders that provide
outstanding support to our girl riders. It helps that I teach at the school which allows me to identify potential female riders and personally recruit them. The league helps us hook the girls by creating such a great racing experience for them.

[303 Cycling:] Your team goals (listed on website) are as follows:

  • Introduce students to the excitement of mountain biking in a safe team environment.
  • Teach riding skills, proper trail etiquette and simple bike mechanics.
  • Develop riders that are successful in league races and in life.
  • Introduce students to and get them involved in volunteering and community service.
  • Most importantly, to have FUN!

...In regards to your goals. Are any of these particularly challenging in the High School environment?
Coach Burcar: Goals directly associated with team practices and having kids on bikes are not difficult to meet. With busy teenager schedules it is often difficult to organize and coral them for community service opportunities. Tim and I are working on developing a cleaner, more direct connection to some of the volunteer opportunities in the community.

[303 Cycling:] How many ride leaders/parent volunteers did you have involved in the 2013 season.
Coach Burcar: We had seven ride leaders registered through the league last year to help us out. We have outstanding parent/community support and involvement.

[303 Cycling:] What would be your top three suggestions for a High School in Colorado (or Nationwide) for getting a team started?
Coach Burcar: 1. Head into it fully committed and with a full head of steam, it will all be rewarded. 2. Stick with it. 3. Seek support and get others involved.

[303 Cycling:] Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Golden High School Mtb Team?
Coach Burcar: I would like to recognize the administration at Golden High School for being so supportive of what we are doing. As a result of this support the GHS Mtn Bike team has its own on-campus short track and we were one of the first schools in Colorado to award activity letters for competitive mountain biking. I would also like to recognize our outstanding sponsors, without their support we would not likely exist.

A HUGE thanks to Coach Burcar and his team. As well as Jesse Swift and Chris McGee for giving the story lead and making the connections.

For more info.visit these pages:
Golden High School Mtb Team Home Page
Colorado High School Cycling League Home Page
*Photos provided by Colorado-based freelance photographer, Jeff Warner, (also a parent volunteer for the Golden High Mtb team).

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