March is Women’s History Month, a collection of days where we honor the trailblazing women who came before us. It has been a historic decade for American women in cycling, and the NICA community has rallied around the mantra: More Girls on Bikes!
As we reflect on the challenges we’ve faced and the mountains we’ve climbed in the past, we also have the opportunity to celebrate the girls and women of today. This year, hundreds of NICA student-athletes will show up to their first practice, their first event, and their first start line. Behind them will be the coaches, parents, and GRiT Coordinators who helped them find the courage to try.
We invite you to join us in celebrating Women’s History Month by enjoying the story of Rosa and Beth Pride Ford!
Written by: Beth Pride Ford
"I'm nervous, BP!" she says.
"Do your best and have fun!" I reply. Rosa walks her bike timidly to the starting line. Her eyes are wide open, surveying the scene. She tugs hurriedly at her gloves and ties her shoelaces with shaking hands. Today is Rosa's first NICA bike race. Rosa's mom and I stand nearby, ready to cheer her on.
Just moments earlier, I was searching for Rosa. The call-up is in ten minutes and Rosa is nowhere to be seen. I find her mom lifting Rosa's bike off the car rack while Rosa is frantically searching for her gloves and helmet. I can feel Rosa's fearful tension as I check her tire pressure and race plate. She paces back and forth anxiously as her thoughts gather like dark clouds.
"I don't have any friends racing."
"It won't be fun."
"I'm not good enough."
I remind Rosa to breathe. "Remember our fun adventures biking on trails at home?" I ask. Rosa was always riding in front and excited about playing bike games. I see a tiny glimmer of light in Rosa's eyes. She almost smiles as we walk to the starting line.
"Three, two, one, GO!" The girls are off! Rosa is sprinting hard. Her anxious thoughts are quickly left behind in the excitement of the moment.
One lap and the race is over. Rosa stands tall on the podium with new friends. The girls share shy smiles. Race day ends at the GRiT tent with Rosa and her friends painting fingernails and making colorful bracelets together. "Guess what, BP?" Rosa asks me.
"Today was fun!"
"I got on the podium!"
"I made new friends!"
Now Rosa is excited about race weekends! She confidently leads on pre-rides and invites girls to the GRiT tent. She is proud of earning her starting spot and rides bikes with her heart on fire!
The NICA community shares hundreds of stories like Rosa's each season. In our GRiT programs, girls are having fun, making friends, and growing their self-confidence. This magical transformation occurs when we combine courageous girls with loving families and supportive coaches who strive to empower kids through the sport of mountain biking.
As a GRiT Coordinator, providing opportunities for girls to grow into strong and self-assured young women is a source of great personal joy. Watching girls like Rosa learn to embrace who they are and who they can become is what inspires me to support girls and women in biking.
If you are reading this story, you are likely a NICA coach, parent, or volunteer. I hope our GRiT program inspires you to help create opportunities girls need now for blazing their own trails as the women they will become. Let's work together to get #MoreGirlsOnBikes!
Beth Pride Ford
TICL GRiT Coordinator and Coach Supporter
I would like to acknowledge a friend, Chris Carter of Australia, who kindly reviewed this story and offered many helpful suggestions for improvement during the writing process.
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