Quick Spin with Adam Haverstock, NorCal League Coach

Adam Haverstock is the Head Coach of the Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School Mountain Bike Team in the NorCal League. The team hails from Santa Cruz, California, at a small  school with only 200 high school students. We caught up with Adam ahead of the NorCal League’s second race of the 2012 series.

Tell us about how long you’ve been coaching high school mountain biking.
I came on my role purely by accident. The former coach, a good friend, had an accident and was looking at surgery. He called and asked for help while he was off the bike. At that time, the team was small and had only been participating in races for about a year.

I went to a practice and didn’t know what to expect, very wary of making the commitment. I was hooked after that first practice.

I had a long racing career myself, but had fallen out of the sport. Riding with the kids got my soul going again. I had a way to help a younger generation find the love of the sport that he had known and the rekindled the love to the sport in me.

After a month of being an assistant coach, I was left to take the team on as head coach. I dove in head-first and haven’t looked back.

How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
Always keep it fun! That’s why we are all there, after all, to have fun.  Some student athletes have that competitive drive and want to take cycling to another level, and I have helped put them on the path. But I wouldn’t even advocate that for a student if they didn’t express the interest first.  Most kids want to just ride with their friends and have fun, even if they are really fast, and that’s ok! But when a kid comes to me and says “Coach, I want to go to the next level and really go for it” then I have a separate game plan for them that is more serious, more structured.   At the end of the day, though, all that matters is that my kids are having a blast and are establishing a great relationship with the bike and the cycling culture to make it a part of their lives for years to come.

How has the team changed since you got involved?
In 2007, when I started, the team was a rag-tag group of six kids, casually riding, occasionally showing up at races. I added a little bit of structure and helped lay a foundation of skills and fitness to make sure kids could complete rides safely and with a smile on their face. We had practices where the kids did fun on-the-bike drills that they loved, but were really intervals or skills practice in disguise.

Word spread and now we have 18 student-athletes on the High School team with only 200 students enrolled at the school. We also have a junior high team practicing with us as an introduction to the sport.  So total kids including my Junior High riders is 22 kids.

How do you explain having almost 10% of the student body on the mountain bike team?
We always start our practices from the school parking lot because the school is adjacent to a trail system. Because other students could see the team come together for every practice in full gear, shiny bikes, having tons of fun, the word quickly spread.

We also made a big effort to get more girls involved. I put together a video highlighting other female high school riders and why they ride. My Assistant Coach, Sonia Potts has also done a great job of being a mentor to the female student-athletes, no matter what their ability.  Sonia is amazing and we couldn’t have this growth without her.  We now have six girls out of 22 total team members.

How did the first NorCal race go for your team?
The race was the first event for many of our students, so it was an opportunity for them to learn what it is all about. It was an absolutely fantastic experience for everyone. Nothing horrible went wrong, but of course there were a lot of little hiccups – that’s racing. The kids, though, took a lot away from it and learned so much.

But in our post race pow-wows we talked about how they can learn from it. My message is that every race is learning experience. “What did I do well? What can I do better? How can I apply that knowledge to the next race?”  We talk about how they can improve for their next race.

What are you looking forward to at Race #2?
I always tell the kids that the race is a venue to showcase what you’ve learned. I want to see the kids connect the dots between the preparations they’ve made and the success they have. The goals they identified after the first race, and putting them to action.

I don’t care if the goals are as small as getting to the start on time with all their gear, I want to see each rider move forward and learn from their experiences.That is what I love.

What does the team do together off the bike?
Since I started coaching, the team has had a big team dinner before every race. We always go to ClaimJumper and sit at the same table. It’s great because the students come, the parents come and even siblings come. We had 50 people at the last one! It’s a great time and all the kids really enjoy getting together to talk about the upcoming race and work out their jitters!

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