Name: Heather Libman
City: Mercer Island
Teams: Mercer Island middle school and high school composite teams
# of years involved: 3
Why are you coaching/how did you start coaching?
I began mountain biking in the early 90s and fell in love with it. Since then I have taken more than 100 people on their first rides. It was a given that my three kids would all be mountain bikers since they were born into our family. They did lessons through Evergreen, Sweetlines and with Simon Lawton. I saw my kids’ ability improve way more rapidly than I did learning on my own. I also saw a confidence in them that I had never seen before. Living on Mercer Island there is a strong network of team sports like basketball, football and baseball. My kids gravitated to the individual sports like mountain biking, skiing, running and rock climbing. I knew there were so many lessons to be learned as part of a team. I figured if my kids were feeling left out and non athletic in this team sport environment I was sure they were not alone. My daughter was the one who helped me start the team and approach the middle school. My son is the one who continues to word of mouth market the team which is why our numbers keep growing.
How long have you been involved?
This will be my third season in the League.
What do you like best about it?
I like the supportive atmosphere of the League. Competition is great and the League does provide that, but what they do better than anything else is foster a lifelong love of riding.
What’s the hardest or most challenging part about it?
The hardest part of our team has been the rapid increase in size. We grew from 14 kids to more than 50 in one season. Trying to be no-cut team, yet accommodating all those that want to join when we don’t really have a trail network closer than a 30 minute drive is tough. We are also getting a lot of brand new riders who have never been off pavement. Starting from square one can be difficult.
Describe an inspiring moment for you.
We were riding down a technical trail and I was following behind a female rider who has a tendency to get off her bike frequently. I stayed right behind her and coached her through it, convincing her she was capable if she trusted herself. The rider got done with the section and looked so proud. We asked her how she felt and she said, “I was really scared, but I did it.” We asked her how she felt after and she said, “I feel powerful.” That did it right there. It made everything worth it.
How have you seen the mission fulfilled through your work?
Yes, we have had a lot of our riders bring their parents out on their first trail ride. We have siblings joining the team and friends joining in. It has created a riding community in our area.
Why do you think this program is important for students?
I think that this experience provides an appropriate risk for the teenage brain in a healthy outlet. I also believe that we have gotten a lot of riders who labeled themselves as non athletic to reexamine themselves and change that label. Everyone can be athletic and enjoy the outdoors. It also gives kids that are not in to traditional team sports the opportunity to be part of something bigger, a riding family.
How has coaching impacted you?
It’s a very powerful thing to see someone conquer fears or experience something like trail riding for the first time. It has been amazing to see these kids grow both physically and mentally. By watching me as a coach, I was able to pass along my love of teaching to my oldest daughter. She got her junior PNBI mountain bike coaching certificate last summer and now helps teach mountain biking to children in Whistler. It’s fun to be able to share coaching experiences with her.
What advice would you give to someone considering coaching?
Coaching in this League is a very special gift. You get to see riders grow right in front of your eyes, and see the direct effects of your coaching efforts. Don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun and remember to play. You are fostering trail stewards, life long riders and coaches of the future.
Give one word that describes your experience with the League: