Sprockids: Riding the Path of Success
SPROCKIDS RIDING THE PATH OF SUCCESS
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...