The Georgia Interscholastic Cycling League (Georgia League) provides youth development programs for students through cycling in the great outdoors. The league’s mission is to enable every sixth- through 12th-grade student in the state to strengthen their body, mind and character through the lifelong sport of cycling in an equal and inclusive environment. As a Georgia Shape partner, the league works to provide more youth in Georgia the opportunity to learn about healthy and active lifestyles through cycling.
Through their Youth Development programs, the Georgia League has been successful in getting students outdoors, away from computer games, smartphones and TV screens, and onto bikes. Their programs give students the opportunity to forge in-person relationships with their teammates and coaches, which helps build their self-confidence. A key value of the Georgia League is lifelong health, not just today’s win. Athletes show improvement in fitness and academics while learning team building.
The impact of their programs is evident through feedback they receive from their student-athlete scholarship recipients as well as parents.
"The league isn’t just about racing,” said one Georgia League student-athlete. “I have made so many friends. It also taught me perseverance, hard work and social skills. Racing with the Georgia League has taught me to never give up, no matter what happens."
A Georgia League student-athlete parent, found that the Georgia League has helped his son’s attitude and self-esteem:
"My son often struggled with finding his ‘thing,’ and his self-esteem suffered as a result. He did taekwondo and excelled until his school closed. He tried basketball and worked for hours every day. However, no matter how hard he worked, he couldn't get past being average on the court. When he started racing, though, he fell in love with the training, the team, the community, the competition and the camaraderie competitors share. He smiles at the end of a race, whether he's first or forty-fourth.”
The organization is having an impact, not only the students, but on the families as well. Often, parents become more interested in cycling as a result of their child’s participation in the league, and some even go on to be coaches and leaders in their league.
“My wife decided that she was not content to let the boys have all the fun, and she bought herself a bike after saving money for years—but not exactly knowing what she was saving for,” said a student-athlete parent. Jason. “Now we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves, a community we would be lost without. Now we are fully committed to getting more kids (and parents) on bikes!"
In just five seasons, the Georgia League has trained 1,381 student-athletes and over 674 coaches through their Mountain Bike Youth Development programs. In 2017, they awarded over $19,000 in scholarships and $22,000 in loaner bikes to deserving athletes and coaches.
The Georgia League wants to expand into inner city and rural areas inside and outside of Atlanta. Through additional funding from the Arthur Blank Family Foundation and their partnership with Georgia Shape, they plan to add resources and efforts to increase the number of female middle-school student-athletes and coaches participating in the league through their GRiT (Girls Riding Together) program.
The Georgia League is one of 22 leagues in 21 states overseen by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) established in 2009. NICA has quickly grown to 14,394 student-athletes and 6,453 licensed coaches across the nation, with state leagues added every year.
For more information on the Georgia League, visit www.georgiamtb.org, or connect on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/georgiamtb, on Twitter at @gamtbleague, on Instagram at georgiamtbleague, on YouTube at Georgia Interscholastic Cycling League and on LinkedIn at Georgia Interscholastic Cycling League.