Posted by Editoress on 05/18/03
Elementary School Program Launched in Victoria to Unexpected Success
Submitted by Lister Farrar
Fifty-four kids took to their bikes at Ecole Margaret Jenkins School in Victoria on Wednesday (May 14th) afternoon. Expecting only 40 kids, the organizers were short juice boxes and coaches. But the kids, aged 6-12, didn't seem to mind. The two hours passed quickly, and more than a dozen stayed and played on their bikes after the session ended.
Head coach Dan Proulx attributes the success to a fun-based approach. "I think that the excitement was the key. Everyone was laughing. That is what brings them back. The kids will learn the skills by just doing creative games, and if they have a good time they will be back."
The students from the public elementary school were attending the first session of a school-based cycling club organized by a partnership of parents, teachers, the school administration and PacificSport junior coach Dan Proulx.
The group was about 60 % girls, a pleasant surprise for organizers who only hoped to offer a girls-only group. The kids were coached by active racers with coaching qualifications recruited by Dan. They included Erica Drew (21) (former junior national team member), Alena Radomsky (21), Keith Wilson (25) Eric Holland (18). Breanna Loster (21) and Christina Briante (24) will be added to the next session to accommodate the unexpected interest.
The club is modeled on a successful swim club at the school, organized by parents, with school support and a community swim club. The cycling club was initiated by Ros Penty, mother of 9 year old participant Claire, who saw the Sprockids web site and suggested a program over a year ago. Dan Proulx was suggested as coach from a summer camp he had offered in 2002.
The entire session was run on school property. The kids were grouped by age and sex, and put with a coach who they will remain with through the program. The five groups rotated through five activity stations, spending about 15 minutes at each.
Stations included one for descending, with a progression from smooth grass to a rocky single track 10 metres long, a slalom course, a shrinking square (to see how slow you can ride without putting your foot down), an obstacles station (logs and PVC pipe), and a jumps and stunts station (low platforms, planks, and a small jump.) "I wonder if there's going to be an Evel Kneivel-style Dad-jumping competition?" one father quipped.
After a juice break, Dan organized one lap races of a 400 metre grass track marked on the soccer fields for track and field season. Each group raced alone, then parents, teachers and coaches, then all the boys and all the girls. Amisha Parikh enthused: "I was third in the seven-year old girls and 20th out of all the girls! Her mother Margie Parikh said "Amisha is still a bit cautious, so I was really happy to see how much she enjoyed it. "
Watching parents approved. "I saw how much more confident Sierra was after the bike session. One session changed her." said mum Lori Neilsen.
5 groups of ten+ kids was a higher a ratio of coaches to kids than organizers had wished for. A last minute rush of registrations exceeded both parents and coaches expectations. The $30 fee for the club pays the coaches an above-minimum wage, and covers snacks, and materials.
The school administration was cautious but very helpful, obtaining school district approval for the activity so it's covered by school insurance, distributing info and forms to kids via teachers, and allowing use of school grounds. The swim club example of a parent/school/club partnership helped paved the way for the club.
The club has three more sessions scheduled, but a longer regular fall and spring season are being discussed.
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