Working hard, setting goals, learning how to refocus after setbacks – life skills everyone needs. The junior development team of Revel Consulting-Rad Racing Northwest strives to teach those skills to kids ages 10-23 using the vehicle of bike racing. According to Executive Director Jim Brown, “We’re not reinventing the wheel. You can learn through any sport; we just make it a part of our mission.”
With a home base in Olympia, the nationally recognized program draws junior racers from all over western Washington. The current roster of about 30 kids include riders from Aberdeen to Bellingham and all points in between.
Revel-Rad began in 1998 as a grass roots effort to teach young people about mountain biking. Back when the program started, “It was at a very basic level. Getting some adults together, teaching the kids about the sport and getting them to the races,” that was the main objective. Brown, who had been working with an adult team, decided he wanted to dedicate his organizational skills to a junior program. “I went to the Rad Racing guys and said that I wanted to become involved. I told them, ‘These are the things I bring to the table.'” Since coming on board in 2000, Brown, who lives in Tumwater, has seen the program expand to include cyclocross, road, and track racing.
A full time paramedic with the Olympia Fire Department, Brown is paid a small stipend for his work with the team, but it is truly a labor of love for him. He enjoys seeing kids come through the program and learn to love the sport. “I’m not interested in recruiting a bunch of riders from all over the place to go win national championship. I’m interested in working with a group of riders from around here that I and the rest of the staff can have an impact on.”
He continues, “One thing that sets us apart from other (development) programs is that they recruit star riders from all over the country or region to create a team. They show up on the weekend, and all of a sudden it’s, ‘These are your teammates.’”
“Kids will call me from Oregon or Idaho and want to be on the team. I encourage them to find something local. We can’t do them justice when they live that far away. It’s a matter of feeling connected.”
Although the focus isn’t on results, the team has had more than its share of wins. Among the many accomplishments are 19 national championship titles in various disciplines and 18 riders being named to junior World Championship teams. As Brown says, Revel-Rad doesn’t recruit stars, “We can grow our own!”
Case in point is 15 year old Lacey resident, Andrea Casebolt, who started racing in 2007. That December she won the Girls 10-12 National Cyclocross Championship race in Kansas City, and she has been on the podium every year since. After taking the bronze medal in the 15/16 age group at last year’s race in Bend, Oregon, she’s got her eyes on the prize for this coming January in Madison, Wisconsin.
Five racers just returned from the Mountain Bike National Championships in Sun Valley Idaho. Among them were 15 year old Lacey resident Kyle Sweeney who raced at the Category 3 (Beginner) level and David O’Brien, a 15 year old from Olympia who made the jump to Category 1 (Expert) with only a year of serious mountain biking under his belt.
For every kid who competes at the national level, there are many others who are learning the ropes on the local race circuit. Brown has a group of riders who are nearing the end of their first road racing season. While some have made the podium with relative ease, others have struggled just to hang on to the back of the pack. That’s where the goal setting comes in. “Every kid starts at a different place. We’re here to help them figure out the steps they need to take to reach that next level of success.”
It doesn’t matter if a kid is a 10 year just starting to explore racing or an 18 year old dreaming of someday riding a Grand Tour, “The reward is being able to put kids in a position to fulfill whatever their goals are,” says Brown. Everyone has to start somewhere.
“The kids who come through our program have something to help keep them focused. They might not always get it at the time, but down the road, they realize they’ve learned some very important life lessons.”
Links of Interest
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