Updated: Jul 1, 2020
This is the story of a young rider I met when I first started coaching mountain biking at the beginning of last year. Anais was in Year 6 back then - a very quiet and shy young person who often hid behind a pair of sunglasses. She was a little bit nervous on a mountain bike back then.
Anais first came to my attention during a group skills class in March 2018. She, her mother and brother had come along to the family lesson and in this particular lesson were learning the basics of track standing. After a brief demonstration Anais promptly went and executed a track stand that went for about 30 seconds straight. As shy as she was back then it was easy to see that she would come alive when learning to do something new on a mountain bike. And it was this spark that caught my attention.
While they weren't able to come to every lesson, Anais's mother tried to bring her down as often as she could, having recognised how much Anais was enjoying improving her riding skills. And when she was shown how to do something and had the confidence to do it, Anais learnt so very quickly. But despite an apparent natural talent at riding, it seemed as though she was holding herself back.
Anais started small group lessons with a small number of her riding friends in the middle of last year. At the time she wasn't confident enough to have 1:1 lessons so learning with other kids who had similar interests and abilities was the next best thing to help Anais increase her confidence within herself. And for a time, the Young Guns lessons helped Anais to improve. But coordinating regular sessions with her friends proved challenging and eventually the lessons fell by the wayside.
The Young Guns lessons were enough to pique Anais's desire to continue improving though. So her lessons changed to 1:1 sessions as we continued to work on different techniques to help her enhance her riding skills while increasing her confidence and belief in herself. And after a time, her journey continued on under the guidance of others as she rode with new friends.
This year's MTBA Schools National Championship had 350 riders from schools all over the country compete against each other. And during the three day competition, a once quiet and unassuming young rider took her place on the podium after winning the Enduro event for her school year. In fact, in the Junior division (years 7 to 9) she was 4th fastest overall among the girls. She also came 4th in her solo XC race and 3rd with her team in the XCO race.
Anais has always had a passion for riding. But with her results in the MTBA National Schools Championship I think Anais has only just begun to realise what she is actually capable of. And that is a confidence that she now has not just for riding, but in herself.
You see, being able to ride a mountain bike well is not just an exercise of learning new skills. It's also a journey of having the faith in your abilities to overcome your fears, persisting with the challenges and difficulties that you encounter so that you can in the fullness of time discover what you're truly capable of.
It's a journey worth taking. Just ask Anais.