• MEET KATE RAU
Founder of the Colorado Mountain Bike League and advocate for getting teenagers on bikes.
In 2009, Kate Rau merged her love of mountain biking and working with kids and founded the Colorado High School Cycling League, which brings together teenage mountain bikers from across the state to ride and race several times a year as they represent their schools. The Colorado league is the first league outside California and has sparked a movement with 10 other states joining together to make up the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). Kate’s job as the Director of the Colorado League is an example of crafting your life around your passion. In 2008, Kate met Gary Fisher and they had a brief discussion about starting a league in Colorado. He told her, “Oh, that’s easy,” and sent her a documentary about the Northern California League. From there, Rau took the initiative and made high school racing in Colorado a reality just one year later. In her own words, Kate tells us about her dream job and how mountain bike racing can help young girls find confidence and passion.
Tell me about how you came to start the Colorado Mountain Bike League.
Many paths led me to starting the Colorado League. My primary motivation is to provide positive opportunities for youth to shine. My background is varied from environmental consulting to youth intervention programs to outdoor education as a ski/snowboard and mountain bike coach. I have a Masters in Education and believe that high school can be a very challenging time. We encounter so much physical, intellectual, and emotional changes from age 14 to 18 it seems like four decades of development crammed into four short years that are instrumental in establishing our behaviours and lifestyle choices.
Adolescence is a fascinating time period where you change so much and many kids get lost or derailed. The more opportunities we have for youth to develop passion, become self-sufficient, set goals, create a strong sense of affiliation and belonging, while maintaining and expanding their unique individuality the better - whether it is playing the saxophone, building robots, gardening, photography, etc. Immediately prior to starting the Colorado League, I was the training coordinator at Eldora Mountain Resort and program manager of the Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures (SMBA), a junior mountain bike program that is celebrating 21 years! I worked there for 15 years. My experience in the mental health arena guiding teens, young adults, and families in various stages of transition provided me with a lot of insight. I believe that being in nature while engaged in positive healthy activities surrounded by great role models (coaches and peers) where your parents may choose to get involved is a fantastic method to build a strong foundation during a tumultuous time period. One of the most rewarding comments I heard was from a parent who said, “The Colorado League series guarantees that I will spend 4 weekends in the fall camping and riding with my teenage son.”
What is the percentage of boys/girls?
80/20 and changing toward more parity .
I saw in a recent press release that NICA has grown 30 percent since last year. Is participation by girls growing?
Participation from girls is steadily increasing. In 2013, we hit a solid 20
percent with 120 girls racing. Obviously, I want to see this increase and more teams are actively recruiting girls. The team scoring formula requires that both genders are represented, if not you forfeit points. For example, if you are a Division 2 team of 15 or less riders and you do not have any girls, your team only earns points for three of the possible four riders who can score.
How can mountain biking help high school students?
I am biased, of course, and I think there are infinite ways interscholastic mountain biking positively impacts youth. First and foremost you are outside having fun! Oxygenating your brain is critical to healthy functioning. Three books that strongly influenced my path are: “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman, “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey, and “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv. The theories and observations demonstrated by these authors reflect the importance of establishing a strong sense of self, exercising, and being outside for healthy human development. Many student athletes and parents state how being involved in the Colorado League helped them with a variety of issues from losing weight, being more focused, becoming more self-confident, finding a welcoming community of friends, to overcoming depression.
What is the family dynamic for training and races? Is it similar to soccer or different? How?