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Old 04-15-10, 11:23 AM   #1
MDcatV
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advice on mentoring a junior

i have a neighbor kid who is about 14 and is interested in racing his bike. he is on a team in the Wash DC area, and his coach, who is also our district's jr. coordinator has asked me to help him (the jr.) with his development since i live next door.

the kid hasnt yet raced and i dont think has done many group rides, so he's really green. i do alot of interval work on a local recreational park loop, and tonight i'm taking the kid with me, and his dad is tagging along. might be kind of awkward.

anyway, does anyone on here mentor juniors? any advice?

i've informally mentored other adult bike racers who are/were newish, and know that i can go about things a certain way, but i dont know what the eff to say to a 14 yr. old aside from, ok, ready to ride?

i plan to talk to his dad/mom on what he's permitted to do ride wise, and will not contradict anything his coach assigns to him, but honestly i'm not really sure how to best balance helping the kid out vs. intimidating him vs. keeping him from screwing up my training.
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Old 04-15-10, 12:05 PM   #2
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If it were me, I'd just expect to do rides with him every so often and let him know you're available if he has any biking/racing related questions. Offer advice based on your observations while riding with him? Maybe plan one day a week to do a ride together? Could always be a recovery day for you if he's significantly slower than you are. Just a few thoughts.
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Old 04-15-10, 12:15 PM   #3
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I would focus on handling, cornering, bumping drills, etc. Knowledge & skills are easier to teach than speed.

Or are you planning on "whipping him into shape"?

Btw there was a 14-year old kicking ass in big Cat 3 crit here last weekend - leading the pack, attacking, etc. It was awesome to watch, and I think he came out in the top 10. So you never know..
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Old 04-15-10, 12:22 PM   #4
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^thanks, his coach told me they do "skills" clinics, and prescribes workouts for him, so I dont want to contradict anything he's already getting. his coach just asked me to kind of take him under my wing a bit, and encourage him, keep him accountable for his training by asking him if he got his workouts done, how they went, etc., and try to connect him with some others he can ride with who will push him but not leave him out in a ditch somewhere.

i've got some ideas on what I should be doing, but just wanted to get some input from others so that I can do things well.
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Old 04-15-10, 12:27 PM   #5
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Keep it fun, and encourage him. Teaching him skills will help him more than anything. That and find out if any of your workouts are close to his, and ride with him.

Kids who start early get in trouble when they get too serious. I can't even count how many fast juniors I've seen fizzle out a year or two after they get into the elite ranks. They go from dominating pre-pubescent kids (fun) to getting owned themselves (not fun), and just stop. Do whatever you can to help him keep the sport in perspective.
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Old 04-15-10, 12:29 PM   #6
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Keep it fun, and encourage him. Teaching him skills will help him more than anything. That and find out if any of your workouts are close to his, and ride with him.

Kids who start early get in trouble when they get too serious. I can't even count how many fast juniors I've seen fizzle out a year or two after they get into the elite ranks. They go from dominating pre-pubescent kids (fun) to getting owned themselves (not fun), and just stop. Do whatever you can to help him keep the sport in perspective.
Can you teach most of us that too
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Old 04-15-10, 12:33 PM   #7
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Keep it fun, and encourage him. Teaching him skills will help him more than anything. That and find out if any of your workouts are close to his, and ride with him.

Kids who start early get in trouble when they get too serious. I can't even count how many fast juniors I've seen fizzle out a year or two after they get into the elite ranks. They go from dominating pre-pubescent kids (fun) to getting owned themselves (not fun), and just stop. Do whatever you can to help him keep the sport in perspective.
Totally agree. To put some perspective on it, the person who competed in the most ACA races last year --66-- was a Junior. IMHO, that's nuts.
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Old 04-15-10, 12:34 PM   #8
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if his dad gets annoying i'm giving him the jake keough treatment!!!

perspective is good. i think lots of jrs. get soured on bike racing because it's a brutal sport on a fragile ego. in this day and age of self esteem building, participation trophies, and everyone's a winner, participating in something where you have to work really hard just to suck, get dropped, and crash occaisionally can be tough.
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Old 04-15-10, 12:42 PM   #9
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if his dad gets annoying i'm giving him the jake keough treatment!!!

perspective is good. i think lots of jrs. get soured on bike racing because it's a brutal sport on a fragile ego. in this day and age of self esteem building, participation trophies, and everyone's a winner, participating in something where you have to work really hard just to suck, get dropped, and crash occaisionally can be tough.
Actual evidence suggests that today's kids have much more resilient ego due to not being constantly informed that they are losers. The whole point is getting them to understand that not winning every time does not diminish their value as human beings. It seems to work. But damn those educators and child psychologists and their actual research - what the F do they know?

Road cycling is pretty hard on adults, too. The important thing for any kid getting into racing is not getting burned out, which is something that can happen completely independent of actual talent.
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Old 04-15-10, 12:42 PM   #10
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Be patient.
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Old 04-15-10, 01:16 PM   #11
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Hi, I normally only lurk in the 33 but I feel I can comment on this based on my experiences outside of cycling.

Remember you're not his coach - he has one of those. I don't know what your conversation was like with his coach, but I wouldn't think you need to be coming up with drills and training programs for him. You're the guy who knows about training and racing and being a cyclist and can talk to him and answer questions, keep him accountable by showing interest, and generally expose him to cycling culture.

If it were me taking him on the first ride I'd worry less about what intervals to do and more about talking to him about what he likes about riding his bike and why he wants to race and if he's ready to suffer and lose and crash and give up time playing xbox and hanging out with friends. Then talk about the stuff his coach has told him to do and find out if he has any questions and try to make sure he understands exactly what to do and why he's doing it. Establish yourself as a safe source of knowledge, perspective and commiseration. Then school him on the basics of group ettiquette. In about that order.
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Old 04-15-10, 01:26 PM   #12
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Staarkhand, thanks. great post.
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Old 04-15-10, 06:19 PM   #13
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While I've never had any experience with juniors in cycling, I've coached swim teams where kids were in similar situations. I had some summer pool swimmers who had other coaches and were just coming to me for fun and more pool time.

I'd think what the junior is really missing out on is teamates and friends at races and group rides. When I and my team get new adults into the sport, I've coached them through easier rides, and take them out for tougher ones with the understanding that if they get dropped, we'll stay back and show them the way home. Imagine how scared that 14 year old would be to get dropped out in the middle of the 10 AM ride and not know the way back. Maybe as a mentor you could introduce him to harder workouts and more competitive rides every once in a while with the idea that if you have to bag a workout and pull them home it could still be a good ride for you.
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Old 04-15-10, 06:35 PM   #14
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Keep it fun, and encourage him. Teaching him skills will help him more than anything. That and find out if any of your workouts are close to his, and ride with him.

Kids who start early get in trouble when they get too serious. I can't even count how many fast juniors I've seen fizzle out a year or two after they get into the elite ranks. They go from dominating pre-pubescent kids (fun) to getting owned themselves (not fun), and just stop. Do whatever you can to help him keep the sport in perspective.
+1
As a junior, one thing I've learned is that you have to balance cycling with life with school and work (when he gets old enough). Cycling is such that one can easily get wrapped up in riding so much that everything else falls to the wayside. Make sure this kid doesn't sacrifice his social and scholastic life for cycling.
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Old 04-15-10, 10:03 PM   #15
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Actual evidence suggests that today's kids have much more resilient ego due to not being constantly informed that they are losers.
Actually, that's the problem. You can call it a 'resilient ego' if you want, but mostly I call it "thinking their poo comes out shrink-wrapped". It's hard for anyone to accept that they can work really hard at something and still suck. Losing is sometimes exactly what a child needs. It teaches them reality. While that might be a tough pill to swallow, it's one that needs to be choked down eventually.

As far as workouts go, I'd say keep it real simple and relatively low intensity. Teach him to enjoy the activity and later he can work on the sport.
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Old 04-15-10, 10:05 PM   #16
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staarrkhand and gwchem have it right: he's got a coach. He needs some sort of "riding buddy" or friend. Take him on rides. Find out his training schedule and have him go with you when your schedules match up. Introduce him to local riders/clubs. Help him become friends with others. My 12-yr became fast friends with local club riders and loved racing. Have him over to your house for lunch/dinner after rides. Show him you have a life outside racing. He's got a coach.
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Old 04-15-10, 10:19 PM   #17
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Help him find kids his own age he can ride with and serve as a mentor.

There have to be other kids in the area who like riding their bikes and want to race or ride hard. Help him find those kids.
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Old 04-16-10, 08:40 AM   #18
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Teach skills. Strength will come. I'm an adult and I think more than one structured workout per week burns me out. He has a coach before he has even raced? I wish I didn't miss out on the junior years.
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Old 04-18-10, 02:48 AM   #19
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What's his dad like? Is the coach subtly trying to tell his old man to pull his finger out?

Give him some dvds and magazines to borrow. Make the first gesture but dont over do it. You're not moving anywhere are you?
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