Posts Tagged ‘junior worlds’

After my call for contributions a month or so back I had a cycling parent send me a blog post about Junior Worlds – more from the perspective of those kids that don’t go and what the options are for them.  Some interesting thoughts, feel free to add yours in comments section.

Before I post it though, CyclingDad wishes all the kids competing in the Junior Track Worlds which start overnight (Aussie time) in Kazakstan.  Australia has a long tradition of exceeding a these championships and the team we sent will no doubt do our country and themselves proud.  It is a big commitment to go, both financially and from a schooling/time management point-of-view… wishing them good health and good legs for the days ahead.

It must feel pretty special to pull on the green and gold skinsuit… good luck to the team representing Australia over in Astana, Kazakstan at the Junior World Track Championships.

It must feel pretty special to pull on the green and gold skinsuit… good luck to the team representing Australia over in Astana, Kazakstan at the Junior World Track Championships.  Thanks to CA for the image.

If you’re interested in following our junior team here’s a link to the results.

Thanks to the cycling parent who sent this quite topical blog piece in:

On the eve of the Junior World Track Championships kicking off in Kazakhstan, it seems like a good time to look at the event and what it does or doesn’t mean to our young riders.

This is only my opinion but I believe one that is shared by many, and an issue that could be playing a factor in the future of track cycling in Australia. We need to find a way to keep our young riders in the sport of track cycling and not make them feel that it is the end of the road if they are not selected for Junior Worlds.

I am going to use the British junior team as an example here as this is the only country of which I have knowledge on how their system works. And before I start, yes I am aware that population and our location plays a key factor, however there is room for improvement.

From the moment my teenager started racing at the age of 14, we have been surrounded by ambitious riders desperate to make selection for Junior Worlds when they reach U19. This is a major focus event, but for many it is not an option for varying reasons; whether it be ability or in fact even a financial issue. For those that want to go, and get selected, then it is fantastic but for those that don’t go there are often reasons why not, and its not necessarily their ability or lack thereof. Some riders have different goals which include longer-term goals rather than short-term results. I applaud these riders that are mature enough to look at the bigger picture and plan for a lengthy future on the bike.

For these riders, there are other pathways. For the females in particular I urge you to read a recent article by Chloe Hosking on her own particular pathway (road) which was very much an alternative one, she is one very determined and inspirational female rider.

In recent years we have seen much success by our young Australian riders at Junior Worlds but we have also seen the negative fallout in riders giving up the sport upon their return or soon after (CD: I did a story on this a year or so ago which received some outstanding comments and is worth a read) . At the same time we see riders that didn’t get selected also give up as they see no pathway ahead due to their non-selection. Wrong… there is always a pathway, you just have to find it.  Road or track, where there’s a will there’s a way.

Here’s an interesting fact, the British have not sent a team to Junior Track Worlds for the last two years. Why? You may ask, not because of lack of funds and certainly not due to lack of talent. The simple answer is (and I have this from a British team member) the emphasis of the British is on developing Britain’s young riders for future long-term success.  In other words they do not place as much emphasis on Junior Worlds as we do here in Australia.  I am guessing that that here it is in part due to the structure of funding (maybe this needs to be reviewed).  My teenage rider is fortunate enough to have dual citizenship so gets the opportunity to ride at the British Nationals on both the road and track and has already done so in 2013.

I also think that parents can play a role in the future of their teenager’s cycling ambitions, let them find their own pathways without pressure, but be there to support them when and if they need it.

In summary, if you, the rider, has the drive and ambition but don’t get the opportunities via the more popular and obvious avenues available on the track and the road, find your own pathway!  There’s one out there for each and everyone of you, you just have to find it.  And when you find that pathway, enjoy the journey.

Happy Riding!!

Thanks again cycling parent, you make some good points.  At the end of the day there only 15 riders chosen to represent their country at Junior World’s each year… that leaves a lot that aren’t selected.  Take a look at the current list of Australian pros riding at the pinnacle of the sport at the moment (Pro-Conti, World Tour and Women’s Tour) and less than a fifth represented Australia at Junior Track Worlds… they seem to have found a suitable alternate pathway to the top.

Take a look too at the seven under-23 riders riding for Australia’s Jayco AIS Academy at the moment and only two of the seven raced Junior Track Worlds… so five of those riders also seem to have found a way to keep their dream well and truly alive.  The same can be said for the women’s High5 Development Team with only two of the nine riders having competed at Junior Track Worlds.

Reading the wonderfully written story in The Saturday Age about Zac Shaw a month or so back got me thinking… is our (that is, Australia’s) fixation on performing well at Junior Worlds a good thing?  No other nation seems to care as much about results at Junior Worlds as Australia.  Why is this?  Is it just a tradition?  Are medals at Junior Worlds part of the ASC/AIS Winning Edge funding requirements?  Is it driven by a number of coaches who only work with young athletes and lose them when they move out of juniors (under-19s)?

In many ways, as the father of a junior cyclist, it doesn’t make sense!

Junior World’s comes around as young cyclists are entering year’s 11 and 12 – the two most important year’s of schooling they will face.  They can always come back and do uni if their cycling career doesn’t work out, but they can’t redo their HSC or VCE (or whatever its called now days?).  They get one shot at getting a good enough ENTER score to get into university… and if they happen to be one of the top junior under-19 cyclists, they also get the chance to continue Australia’s proud tradition of being the leading nation at the Junior World’s.

The only problem is the two don’t really go hand-in-glove and a number of our junior athletes seem to focus on the Junior World’s as the be-all-and-end-all, never looking beyond this big prize.

Perhaps this is where the problems start?  What problems you ask… well just last year, three of our most promising young cycling prospects hung up their bike.  Zac Shaw (VIC), Jack Edwards (NSW) and Kelsey Robson (WA) all returned from the Junior World’s as Champions sporting rainbow jerseys and seemingly the keys to an exciting cycling future.  Right?

Jack Edwards on his way to some rainbow stripes!

Jack Edwards at the 2013 Junior Track Worlds on his way to winning some rainbow stripes!

Sadly, very wrong… all three amazing talents have hung up the bike and are pursuing a more ‘normal’ life.   In the article, Zac says he is happy… while Jack Edwards can’t stand the sight of a bike at the moment.  Kelsey was more realistic in her reasoning stating female cyclists can’t make a living.

I know that “the powers that be” are concerned about this and are trying to work out why this is so.  Some feedback suggests that parents can have a significant impact on the outcome of a young athletes decisions.  It’s a very hard balance to be the parent of young cyclist… I’m sure that gets magnified significantly when they are selected on a Junior World’s team.

As parents, as our kids grow up, we are: coach, mechanic, soigneur, taxi, cook, psychologist and more.  There is a fine line between encouragement and falling into the category of ‘pushy-parent’.  We all want the best for our kids, but it is sometimes difficult to step-back and look at the bigger picture… and our kids need us to, as they’re living in the moment and find it hard to see the big picture themselves.

I don’t think there is any one thing that caused any of Zac, Jack or Kelsey, or a long list of juniors past, to prematurely hang-up their bike.  I think its a combination of personality, environment and opportunity that determines outcomes like this.  I guess all we can do as parents is provide the most caring, supportive environment and network possible.  We can protect them from unhelpful influences while preparing them as best we can for what can only be an uncertain future.

Or course not all who represent Australia at Junior World's hang up the bike…

Not all who represent Australia at Junior World’s hang up the bike… Jackson Law, Jack Cummings, Alex Morgan & Alex Edmondson take Gold in the Teams Pursuit in Moscow in 2011 all are still riding at different levels.

I say uncertain as no matter how good, how focused and committed they are, the reality is that they’re only one crash away from the end of their cycling career… so we as parents need to help prepare them for life beyond cycling.  Athlete welfare is one of the buzz phrases doing the rounds.  This isn’t new in cycling, with Michael Drapac the original outspoken critic of the CA high performance pathway and recent articles on the blog making claims about out how badly athletes were treated under past coaching regimes.

I’ve started to write a blog on here about the black hole that is under-19’s racing – especially for athletes (and their parents) coming from the comparatively well organised junior racing on both the track and the road.  But it actually makes sense that there isn’t as much organised competition for under-19s… as stated above: they are in year’s 11 and 12.

Any how, some food for thought… would love to hear from parents of under-19 athletes on how they’re coping with school and training.