I must admit to a moment of doubt as the hordes rolled in. Forty kids. All at once. It suddenly felt less like a good way to give many kids some skills and more like a recipe for disaster. This was a test of good judgement.
I remembered that this club had coached this many kids by themselves in the past, so I trusted their judgement of how the two primary tracks should be laid out. This one consideration alone turned out to be critical to the days success.
Big Things in Small Packages
The first track consisted of two turns at different levels to each other, which seemed far too basic at first glance, but what I didn’t consider was how many different things it offered. One turn was a long off camber, while the other was a banked corner. One straight stepped down from one level to the other while the other offered something of a step up jump.
Track number two was even simpler, basically a massive square that encompassed the paddock we were in. While each turn was the same way, each of these had something to offer in terms of their camber or tightness. The beauty of both track was how safe it was for people to pass each other, and the ease with which I could keep an eye on everyone with the ability to stop them all at once.
So far as skills go, we basically got two main skills done between each water/ food break. These skills varied from the basics of using their index finger on the front brake (if possible) to pushing hard on their outside footpeg when powering out of a slippery turn. And when they showed improvement they got the reward of stepping up to the next track.
The faster riders moved onto the easier half of a loop just beside where we were, while the faster kids on the square track took their place. After lunch everyone went back to their original tracks while we worked on their standing, so when the faster riders had proven they could keep low with their arms bent and knees gripping the seat, they were then allowed to use the entire loop that included more bumps and jumps to practice on.
A little motivation was needed at times, supplied by the threat of push ups to those not playing the game. This, combined with the promised reward of stepping up a track proved to be an effective combination.
Fruit of their Labour
There was all sorts of improvement by the time we were able to offer the ultimate reward in the form of a 5 minute trail loop that circled a massive gully. The entire thing was in sight of the pits, and after taking the different groups through in stages it was then their playground for as long as they had the energy to ride. Best of all it was the kind of farm tracks that you can really get stuck into, previously having been groomed for our day.
While I will take credit for the fact that most everyone stayed hydrated (that is always a battle on a beautiful day like the one we had), the Kaipara club deserves every accolade they can get for their work in keeping the grass roots of our sport healthy in the upper Auckland area.