Time keeping at the recent Auckland Time Trial Championships conjured up memories of becoming a cycling parent back in 1995. My 12 year old daughter, who had just made it as a Division 1 swimmer, was introduced to school cycling. With all the best intentions to cross train, her allegiance to cycling emerged by the end of the first Auckland waterfront time trial series and the 5am trips to Glen Innes pool for training were thankfully over. However nothing could have prepared me for her foray into cycling and I quickly learned the difference between observing poolside and standing on the side of the road watching a bike race – frequently as a marshall!
There are four enduring stories from first becoming a cycling parent.
- The first was the purchase of a bike. We’d been assisted by the school cycling coach who’d sourced a bike, a pair of shoes and a computer and rang to give my daughter this exciting news. Between us we couldn’t work out why you would need a PC when you bought a bike – and were relieved and amazed to learn that the computer was a tiny device attached to the handlebars to clock the kph! The bike might have been clunky and not very flash but for a complete beginner it was ideal and certainly proved that you don’t need to rush out and buy the latest Colnago or European team clothing to create a successful bike rider.
- Another early lesson was rushing to a Club Race at Whenuapai and reaching the start area at Kauri Road discovering that the cycling shoes had been left at home!!! Any chance of there being a spare pair of Size 4s to borrow? Furious mother drove back to Eastern Suburbs for shoes - and equipment was never forgotten again!
- An “away” experience at the Bev May Tour delivered its fair share of stress and anxiety. In the third stage, a rider clipped a wheel and brought down a bunch of Under 17s including my 14 year old. Miles away on another part of the course, eagerly watching, I was alerted to the news that a chain ring had clipped the daughter’s upper lip. It was quite nasty and she’d need to go to A & E. Stitches were advised but my stoical girl baulked at any idea of treatment, settled for a plaster or two and was back on the start line for two stages the following day. This gutsy response to injuries, including a shocker in a secondary schools criterium at Mt Wellington (which was featured as one of SKY television’s worst crashes of the week), led to mother toughening up as well.
- Our first ever National Road Champs in Wellington provided further parental training. Standing with other parents at the start/finish line watching the tail enders from the Under 17 Girls race (there were no Under 15 events in those days) it became abundantly clear that something had gone seriously amiss with my daughter.
Gingerly I approached some of the officials who appeared to have not noticed her non appearance over the finish line nor to be much concerned that she was missing in action! Eventually I was informed she had crashed on a steep downhill section of the course and into a rather inaccessible ditch from which her shouts eventually attracted a passing motorist!
Having survived the full gamut of cycling – mountain biking, school cycling, road and track cycling over the past 11 years, as a parent and specially for the benefit of newcomers, I offer the following tips to ensure that you and your teenager can enjoy the sport together:
- Be supportive but not intrusive
- Don’t buy all the expensive gear until your rider’s interest has exceeded 12 months
- Never criticize or question your off spring when they don’t perform to expectation
- Don’t interfere in the relationship between the rider and coach
- You might think you are the expert but trust that the coach is working hard to ensure your child reaches his/her full potential
- Back off your rider when warming up for an event on the road or track
- Purchase good quality front and rear lights and make sure they are used
- Leave race tactics to your offspring and the coach
- Accept that your child will be training on the road so ensure that they know the road rules and how to stay safe
- Don’t be a pushy parent
- Don’t buy a set of rollers until your rider can utilise them independently
- Encourage your rider to take charge of his/her own equipment and gear
- Don’t run around fetching and carrying equipment – drink bottles are OK
- Let riders be responsible for their own race entries – they may need payment from you but let them do the rest themselves – you will be helping them in the long run
Adopting all or even some of the above ideas will ensure that your son or daughter will learn good time management and organisational skills that will be of benefit in many other areas of their lives. Cycling has proved a very good sport to pick up important life skills and you never know - you might just have a future champion in the making.