Sprockids: Rid­ing the Path of Suc­cess


Pedal Magazine - - Contents - by Paul Ne­witt

Sprockids, a renowned youth-devel­op­ment moun­tain bik­ing pro­gram founded by B.C.'s Doug Detwiller in 1990, con­tin­ues to make great strides and cy­cling's re­cent suc­cess as a life­style choice in cities around the world is mu­sic to Detwiller's ears. What started more than 26 years ago as a pro­gram to em­power young peo­ple with the knowl­edge, en­thu­si­asm and con­fi­dence to make pos­i­tive choices, both on and off the trail, has be­come a world­wide moun­tain-bik­ing phe­nom­e­non with no signs of slow­ing down. The Sprockids pro­gram has helped guide hun­dreds of thou­sands of kids in 21 coun­tries to lead health­ier, hap­pier life­styles while si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­vel­op­ing per­sonal skills to help them suc­ceed in all as­pects of their lives.

“Sprockids is an en­tity that has taken on a life of its own and has con­tin­ued to evolve and ex­pand over the last quar­ter of a cen­tury,” says Detwiller. “Many moun­tain bike pro­grams, camps and or­ga­ni­za­tions have come and gone over the years, but Sprockids just keeps on rolling.” He says the flex­i­bil­ity of the pro­gram and those that get in­volved is crit­i­cal to its suc­cess. “They make it their own and adapt it to work within the frame­work of their own or­ga­ni­za­tion, whether that be a high school pro­grams:, a spe­cial needs group like the Canucks Autism Net­work, or an or­ga­ni­za­tion such as the Abo­rig­i­nal Sport Rec- reation and Phys­i­cal Ac­tiv­ity Part­ner­ship Coun­cil.” Detwiller points out that Sprockids does no ad­ver­tis­ing yet con­tin­ues to ex­pand world­wide thanks to the pas­sion­ate peo­ple who get in­volved.

You would think that 26 years of run­ning a cy­cling pro­gram for kids might slow you down a bit, but Detwiller shows no signs of fa­tigue. In fact it's the op­po­site. Detwiller dis­cusses the lat­est ac­com­plish­ments and fu­ture plans of Sprockids with the same en­thu­si­asm he pos­sessed when he first launched it in 1990. “So much has hap­pened over the last three years since I re­tired from full-time teach­ing. I have moved from the Sun­shine Coast of B.C. to North Van­cou­ver, we have part­nered with Gi­ant Bi­cy­cles Canada, trained 441 new Sprockids lead­ers world­wide, ex­panded east into Newfoundland and into our 21st coun­try, Panama, set up pro­grams with Tim Hor­tons, the Canucks Autism Camps and Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties, and we are be­gin­ning to work with the med­i­cal community.”

Ac­cord­ing to Detwiller, Gi­ant Canada has been a huge sup­port to Sprockids, help­ing to cre­ate a new logo for the or­ga­ni­za­tion and pro­duce new man­u­als in both English and French. It seems the sup­port from Gi­ant has taken Sprockids to a new level and al­lowed Detwiller to ex­pand the pro­grams lo­cally and glob­ally.

“We just want to get kids on bikes and fall in love with this sport. We want them to feel that sense of free­dom and be ac­tive. Rid­ing in the woods is truly mag­i­cal,” said Sarah Sang­ster from Gi­ant Canada. “Gi­ant's part­ner­ship with Sprockids is also the per­fect way to strengthen our ties as well as dealer ties to community, while ac­tively and pos­i­tively en­gag­ing youth in the sport of cy­cling.”

One of the high­lights of that ex­pan­sion, over the last three years, took place in East­ern Canada.

Detwiller, de­scribes Newfoundland as “a moun­tain bike cul­ture sim­i­lar to B.C. 30 years ago.” In Novem­ber 2014, thanks to the gen­er­ous sup­port of Bi­cy­cling Newfoundland and Labrador along with Parks Canada (Terra Nova Na­tional Park), a small group of bik­ers nes­tled away on the East­port Penin­sula on Newfoundland's north­east coast were treated to a Sprockids train­ing camp by Detwiller.

Phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher Andy Poole was key in in­tro­duc­ing Sprockids to his stu­dents. “It is be­com­ing ever-ap­par­ent to par­ents, teachers, health care providers and gov­ern­ments that our youth are in­creas­ingly in­ac­tive and sub­se­quently un­healthy,” Poole says. “The idea is that through the Sprockids pro­gram we can bring moun­tain bik­ing to our towns and watch it grow – grow par­tic­i­pa­tion, community devel­op­ment, youth en­gage­ment and in­ter-gen­er­a­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties. Maybe in the fu­ture, even tourism, em­ploy­ment and so on.” All im­por­tant goals con­sid­er­ing that Sta­tis­tics Canada iden­ti­fies Newfoundland and Labrador as hav­ing one of the high­est obesity rates in Canada.

The year 2014 also saw the new Sprockids-Gi­ant part­ner­ship team up with Tim Hor­ton Chil­dren's Foun­da­tion to of­fer the Sprockids pro­grams to the five Tim Hor­ton Chil­dren's Foun­da­tion camps across Canada. “Sprockids is all about changing the role and def­i­ni­tion of sports in our so­ci­ety,” says Detwiller. “Sprockids is all-in­clu­sive. No­body sits on the bench in our sport. The pro­gram ap­peals to a large seg­ment of young peo­ple, in­clud­ing those youth who would never con­sider them­selves ath­letes. Moun­tain bik­ing is all about hav­ing ad­ven­ture, fun, adren­a­line and dis­cov­ery. For these rea­sons, the Sprockids pro­gram is a per­fect fit with the Tim Hor­ton Chil­dren's Foun­da­tion.”

Detwiller also took that mes­sage to the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties last year. Dur­ing Oc­to­ber 2015, a Sprockids leader train­ing ses­sion was hosted by the Kwak­i­utl Dis­trict Coun­cil Health Cen­tre lo­cated on the We Wai Kai First Na­tion in Camp­bell River, B.C. The event was a joint ven­ture funded by the Abo­rig­i­nal Sport Recre­ation and Phys­i­cal Ac­tiv­ity Part­ner­ship Coun­cil and Pa­trick Lu­cas's Abo­rig­i­nal Youth Moun­tain Bike Pro­gram. Dur­ing the week­end, Detwiller trained 16 new lead­ers to work specif­i­cally with First Na­tions' youth. “The Sprockids pro­gram was very well re­ceived with lead­ers do­ing a fan­tas­tic job of en­gag­ing these young rid­ers and teach­ing them a va­ri­ety of rid­ing skills,” says Detwiller. “The cy­cling al­lows a re­con­nec­tion be­tween gen­er­a­tions and gets the kids re­con­nected with na­ture, which is so im­por­tant.”

Closer to home, Detwiller and Sprockids teamed up with the Canucks Autism Camps. In March 2016, staff and vol­un­teers from the Canucks Autism Net­work (CAN) gath­ered at their head of­fices in Van­cou­ver to take the Sprockids leader train­ing.

CAN pro­gram co-or­di­na­tor Cait­lyn Van Dijk said the pro­gram “of­fers an op­por­tu­nity for in­di­vid­u­als to learn new skills in a safe, sup­port­ive and col­lab­o­ra­tive set­ting. CAN also sees the po­ten­tial for teach­ing par­ents how to moun­tain bike, which would pro­vide them with the nec­es­sary skills to be able to ride and ex­pe­ri­ence cy­cling with their chil­dren.”

“These are ex­cit­ing times,” adds Sang­ster. “To­gether with Doug we've built a vast col­lec­tion of re­source ma­te­rial that we pro­vide to peo­ple who then take it and make it their own. Com­mu­ni­ties through­out Canada and the world are em­brac­ing moun­tain bik­ing like never before, and the de­mand for the pro­gram just keeps on grow­ing.”

Con­nect­ing with kids and al­low­ing kids to gain con­fi­dence and life skills both on and off the bike is what Detwiller and Sprockids con­tin­ues to be about. Poole, the Newfoundland phys-ed teacher, tells the story of Tyler, a “spunky, fun, and ac­tive” pri­mary stu­dent. Tyler had unique phys­i­cal chal­lenges that made it dif­fi­cult for him to take part in many ac­tiv­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly those that may re­sult in a bump or fall. A spe­cial bike and pro­tec­tive equip­ment that fit his abil­i­ties and phys­i­cal chal­lenges was de­signed, and Tyler was able to take part in a week-long sum­mer Sprockids camp, with rec­og­niz­able ben­e­fits. Ge­orgina Butt, Tyler's mother, was quoted as say­ing “Be­ing in Sprockids has been a tremen­dous ex­pe­ri­ence for Tyler. When asked what he thought of the pro­gram he said what any eight-year-old would say, `It was re­ally fun!' My thoughts on it are that it has been ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial phys­i­cally as well as so­cially; phys­i­cally in that it has helped strengthen his legs and so­cially in that it has given him more time in­ter­act­ing with others and im­prov­ing his self-es­teem.”

With so many kids and adults en­ter­tain­ing them­selves in an aug­mented virtual re­al­ity, it's com­fort­ing to know that there are in­spi­ra­tional in­di­vid­u­als like Doug Detwiller and healthy pro­grams like Sprockids still teach­ing kids and adults how to con­nect with each other off­line and cap­ture real-life ex­pe­ri­ences. For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.sprockids.com.

(op­po­site) Sprockids founder Doug Detwiller has been em­pow­er­ing kids through his in­no­va­tive cy­cling pro­gram for 26 years. (top) Kids learn new skills in a safe, sup­port­ive, fun and col­lab­o­ra­tive set­ting with phys­i­cal, so­cial and self-es­teem...

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