Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Learning from kids

Back in the 9-5 desk jockey stables, contemplating the week that was, and that is now just a jumble of memories, of playing support to a bunch of elite junior cyclists at national titles. The two jobs couldn’t be further removed. Both have their rewards, but not being chained to a desk, and helping support and grow dreams is an awesome kind of day job, if you can get it.

The week at Junior Nationals was a blur of planning, organising, riding, training, race prep, mental prep, mentoring kids, doing 11pm patrols to make sure everyone is where they are meant to be, making sure fluids and food are going in, nerves are not totally overwhelming, warm ups happen on time, last minute mechanicals didn’t stress out athletes too much, crash nerves steadied and riders remounted, instructional words and encouragement shouted every lap, sitting in the back of spares vans doing some extreme van surfing whilst getting incredibly emotionally involved with your riders slogging it out to the bitter end.

By Friday, I had no idea what day it was, what time it was. My perspective was the race we were focussing on for that day (ie Friday: must be TT day), how long before race start, warm up for the current rider, where my next rider was, last minute check ins with riders pre-race, post race check ins to make sure they were eating and drinking and feeling ok. Days revolved around head counts, loading bikes, bags, kids on to and off the bus and trailer, setting up in the stands, getting race order/start times implanted in my head, listing rider numbers on the back of my hand, helping sort out race spares, constantly checking in with the kids individually with simple words of encouragement or a quiet question: How are you feeling? Can I get you anything? How’s it going? The answers provided a gauge to nerve levels, which then fed into how much support the rider needed to get organised for racing. It was a learning experience, that’s for sure.

Every day, the team continually surprised and inspired me with their determination and gutsy racing. No one gave up; many kept giving more when there seemed nothing left to give. Some quietly circulated after their own races, helping support their team members during their warm ups and encouraging them during their races. Kids who were challenging and distracted off the bike, became focussed racing machines on the bike. Kids who were quiet and reserved made brave bold moves that demanded attention, and deserved admiration and praise for their audacity. For some, it was their first time competing at that level, let alone travelling interstate. It was a daunting, overwhelming prospect for those kids, but they rallied and stepped up. They gave it what they had, and then some.

I was fortunate to get to meet some talented, dynamic, interesting people, and a little sad now to simply walk away from the team, as it disperses into a group of individuals who have a shared experience of competing. I know I’ll encounter them over the coming track season, and I’ll enjoy watching them all progress now that they are no longer names on race programs and results lists, but personalities whose company I have enjoyed, and who have reminded me why we race, and, more simply, ride a bike.

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