When Coco Andrade joined The Cycle Effect, a non-profit mountain bike coaching and mentoring organization, at the age of 13, she could not have predicted how mountain biking and a team of family coaches would change the direction of his life.
Born and raised in Vail and Eagle County, Colorado, Andrade attended the Girls’ Program until she graduated from high school. The technical terrain of mountain biking has taught her to confidently analyze obstacles, including the stressors of off-trail life, she says. Beyond athletics, the coaches organize community volunteer projects for the girls, which has further connected Andrade to her wider community.
Very united with her teammates, Andrade assumed a legendary role in her junior and senior years. “When I became a team captain, I learned even more about being responsible and accountable teaching young girls how to use a bike and how not to be afraid, which was one of the biggest lessons from my experience,” says Andrade, who later volunteered as a coach while earning his undergraduate and master’s degrees.
Twelve years later, and now 25, Andrade now sits on the nonprofit’s board of directors. She also works as a Behavioral Health Case Manager at Vail Health. “I’m proud to have come full circle,” with The Cycle Effect, as a Latina woman that girls can relate to and now supporting other girls, she says. “I don’t think I would be where I am today in my career. [without Cycle Effect]“I am grateful to my caring coaches who pushed me as I chose my path. »
The cycle effect: getting young women to ride mountain bikes
When longtime professional ski coaches Brett and Tamara Donelson retired from the slopes ten years ago to focus full-time on bike training, they realized they wanted to be even more connected to their community and exert a wider and deeper influence. on others. Specifically, they wanted to provide a program for children to access the sport, especially Latinx and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous of Color) youth facing barriers to entry such as lack of transportation, possession of a bike, skills advice and inclusive riding. community. This passion led to The Cycle Effect.
To date, the organization has chapters in Eagle, Routt, Summit, and Mesa counties in Colorado. And since 2013, more than 1,000 girls, from grades 5 to 12, have completed the program. And 67% of them are BIPOC athletes, with the goal of reaching 70%.
“A girl can show up with no gear or experience — the majority of girls have no experience and we help them become mountain bikers,” says co-founder and executive director Brett Donelson.
How the Cycle Effect program works
The registration process involves a 15-minute online application to provide information about the athlete, such as their preferred pronouns, team sessions they can commit to throughout the year, and any factors of stress the child has faced, such as bullying or poor physical condition. If the internet is a barrier, a team member can help interested participants apply online.
The number of girls accepted into the program depends on the resources that have been raised that year. In terms of costs, the program costs $200 per year (although it is valued at nearly $6,000 per year) and 60% of children receive full scholarships, says Donelson.
Each participant is provided with a minimum of 80 days (per year) of field training, as well as a bike, equipment, race nutrition products, race registrations and transportation. The majority have never ridden a mountain bike and almost 10% of cyclists have never ridden on any type of bicycle.
The program kicks off with twice-weekly indoor training or virtual workouts from February through April, when they begin riding outdoors through winter. In November and December, l’Effet Cycle organizes a monthly meeting or a volunteer opportunity.
When the girls graduate from high school, they can keep their bikes and have the opportunity to volunteer, coach, or apply for other full-time positions with The Cycle Effect.
To date, the organization has ten full-time employees, 50 part-time coaches and 40 volunteers. And they’re growing rapidly, says Donelson, with plans to double the number of cities they serve to ten in the next few years.
How the cycle effect helps communities
To build trust and bonds with family and friends of prospective or current students, The Cycle Effect hosts a Latin Women’s Group Ride, which includes free bikes and trainers.
There are no requirements to participate in the group ride: women do not need to be parents and their family does not need to be involved in The Cycle Effect program. But often, women’s group riding aligns with the youth program by encouraging women to enroll their daughters or nieces after first-hand experience of the joy of mountain biking, camaraderie and freedom on the trails.
The Cycle Effect also hosts mountain bike clinics 30 times a year (four to five times in different counties) with school districts and has worked with 1,500 students through these supplemental programs.
This spring, the organization also launched a bike-matching program: they collect used bikes, repair them, and match each bike to a girl, their family, Latina women’s group participants, or other community members. the community in need.
Inviting more women from diverse backgrounds into the sport not only grows the sport, but also creates a healthier, more innovative and more cohesive cycling community and industry, says Donelson.
“My parents didn’t know anything about bikes or the cycling community. Within my family, cycling has brought us closer,” says Andrade. Her younger sister, Lilo, now 19, joined the girls’ program when she was in grade 5 (aged 11) and graduated last year.
“The program also brought us closer to the Latino community and the cycling community,” adds Andrade. “The girls came out of their shell: At first some were terrified of riding the bikes and towards the end they were super fast downhill and placed in the top five in the race which was awesome. “
How to Get Involved in the Cycle Effect
To join the mission, consider applying for a coaching position or volunteering with the organization. Volunteer positions correspond to skills that candidates would like to provide, such as helping with office work, marketing or assisting in the field with the girls’ program. As a growing organization, The Cycle Effect is also recruiting for other positions.
People can also donate online to support the runners, including matching grants or stock donations. Companies and individuals can match employee donations or provide in-kind gifts: products (little used or new) or services that help offset costs and support cyclists. The Cycle Effect accepts donated bikes, clothing, eyewear, gloves, shoes and helmets.
Follow The Cycle Effect Facebook page, @thecycleeffect on Instagram and TheCycleEffect on YouTube.
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