North DeKalb Mountain Bike Team formed

teamFootball, basketball and baseball have always been the more popular sports with fans and the sports that children often want to play.

There are other sports that have gained popularity with children over the years such as soccer, tennis and lacrosse; and there is another sport that is gaining interest–mountain biking.

In 2013, the Georgia High School Cycling League was organized to provide competitive mountain biking programs for students in grades nine to 12. The league is under the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), which oversees all the leagues in the United States. There are 15 leagues in 14 states, including Georgia.

Dan Brooks, executive director of the Georgia High School Cycling League, organized the league to introduce children to a sport they can do for a lifetime.

“One of the biggest attractions to me is the fact that this is a life-long sport. You can ride a bike for your whole life,” he said. “One of the coolest developments we see in our league is when one student starts riding their brother or sister starts riding with them and then the family gets into it. It then goes from an activity that one of the kids will do to an activity that the entire family can do together. It’s just a great way for families to spend time together.”

The league has grown since its establishment and now has 21 teams with 248 riders. One of those teams is North DeKalb Mountain Bike. The team was formed in April by two parents, Richard Mansker and Mike Hatten.

“We have six kids on the team and they’re all middle school students,” Mansker said.

The team consists of Mansker and Hatten’s children as well as other children from the Lakeside area.

“Anybody from the central/northern part of DeKalb can easily get to us,” Mansker said. “We practice a couple of nights a week and on Saturdays we go out to one of the trail systems and do a longer ride.”pic 1The league has four races a season from September to November. The first race took place Sept. 13 at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers. The next race will be held Oct. 4 at Evans Private Farm in White, Ga.

Mansker said his team is at a disadvantage because it is based inside the city and does not have a nearby trail system to practice on.

“We have to be a little bit more creative with what we do as far as practicing goes,” he said. “We’ve gone to a few local parks where there are short trails that we can just get the kids out and just do skills training with them. But we have to do our actual riding time—where we can get some longer distance in—just for the weekends.

“Most of the teams that are out there now are kind of suburban teams, outside the perimeter where all the big trail systems are,” he added. “We have to be a little creative compared to the other teams.”

Despite the lack of a nearby trail, said this is a good sport for children because it is not a traditional sport.

“For the kids that don’t want to be on a big team sport like football, basketball or baseball it gives them an opportunity to try a different sport and compete,” he said. “Nobody is benched, there is no tryout session and everybody gets to ride.”

In the future, Brooks said, he would like to see mountain bike racing as part of the athletic curriculum in schools as other sports.

“The more realistic side of me wants to ensure that we develop this program with the proper approach and the proper guidance,” Brooks said. “We have to grow the right way and make sure we keep our programs both interesting and fun but also keep them safe.”

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