Senior Molly Kaplan recently won the Teen Trail Corps Captain award for her work in the Pennsylvania NICA league. She went from knowing absolutely nothing about mountain biking to becoming a passionate biker and advocate for trail maintenance. She led her team on several trail clean ups, and passed along her newfound knowledge with the hope of inspiring others to care for the trails and environment as much as she does.
Written By: Molly Kaplan
When I first started mountain biking, I knew almost nothing about the sport. Over the past four years, I’ve had the privilege to learn about it and become a part of the mountain biking community. Now, as one of the older members on the team, I’ve played an active role in preserving great mountain biking experiences by encouraging younger riders, leading trail cleanups and organizing group rides.
I remember when I was new on the team. My lack of skills and knowledge made me nervous. And being a girl on a male-dominated team was almost as intimidating as being new. Because of this, I always encourage new riders during drills and rides. I always make the effort to talk to everyone on the team and cheer everyone on during their races. I know how much this can mean to people and it makes our team closer.
Serving our community off the bike is just as important as riding, so as a leader on the team, I’ve organized team trail clean-ups. I reached out to Trail Spinners, a local group for the White Clay area, and they were willing to come out with our team and help us. They brought equipment that made the efforts much more effective. I met the leader of the group, and I introduced myself and explained our mission. I talked about how passionate our team is about giving back to the trails we love to ride on and the importance of trail maintenance.
Our entire team is now aware of the Trail Spinners, and several riders have done trail clean ups with their group since! For many people on the team, this was their first cleanup, and the coaches used it as an opportunity to teach our team how to properly clean up and maintain the trails we ride.
Even when the team is off season, I organize weekly group rides so we can all stay in touch and go outside. For some of the kids, these rides are the only way they’re able to get on the bike, so it’s really important to me that we have rides in the off season. We often meet on Saturday morning and ride for an hour or two around White Clay or Brandywine. The rides have been a lot of fun and I’m really glad that they’ve been able to happen. We hope to keep the rides going all through the year.
As a senior in high school, this is my last season, and it was definitely my favorite. Mountain biking has given me the opportunity to meet people I never would have otherwise. Even when I leave for college, I will never forget this experience and the friends I have met.
Through Teen Trail Corps, NICA teams have an opportunity to showcase their commitment to the trails and develop a good reputation within the local trail community. Beyond developing community relationships, Teen Trail Corps also opens up land steward relationships and provides a pathway for leagues to work with land managers in developing new locations for team practice and potential event venues.
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