Here, Christine Fox, explains the background to the new entry level mountain bike leader award The Fundamentals of Mountain Bike Leadership. Due to launch in spring 2021 a leadership award with strong, academic credentials and with leadership principles that simply feel right.
Way back when (well actually 2017) in my very early days at Scottish Cycling I spent a wonderful first few months touring Scotland meeting as many of our amazing MTB Leadership tutors as I could- what a job – visiting some of the most amazing parts of Scotland to meet some of the most enthusiastic and passionate folk I have ever come across in one single cohort!
There were a couple of recurrent themes when I asked about the current award system, its benefits and indeed where it maybe was lacking. One common thread was the lack of an entry MTB leadership level award, the Level 2 British Mountain Bike Leadership Award is brilliant, a cracking holistic bit of training and assessment but quite a high entry point and for those looking to support school or club activity for example, grassroots stuff, Level 2 can technically be a bit tough. An ‘Autonomus Level 1’ was often quoted, referencing of course the current Centre Specific Level 1 Award that is exactly that – centre specific; pre-risk assessed routes in a specific location. A cracking set up but it can be too restrictive.
Now, the biggy with entry level awards as we all know, is that it is often (but not always) a starting point for those looking to begin their leadership (or coaching or instructing) journey and so here’s the conundrum; in beginning your journey you may actually not have a huge amount of experience behind you and yet arguably you are in one of the most influential positions when it comes to motivating newbie riders to carry on riding. That’s quite a responsibility.
And so began a lot of chat about just how to equip these new leaders with great leadership skills first and foremost, the need was for a leadership award where leadership skills were paramount, simply applied on a bike. At around this time the legend that is Al Gilmour recommended I chat with one of his colleagues, Doug Cooper at Glenmore Lodge who was currently delivering outdoor leadership training to their inhouse teams. I spent a day shadowing that course and was totally inspired. Simple, practical leadership training focusing on the rider needs and wants through an accessible model – vision, challenge and support. It felt right, I wasn’t having to apply or reference any specific academic model, I was simply looking at inspiring, challenging and supporting my riders. Don’t get me wrong, this model is academically robust (based on transformational leadership and the multidimensional model of leadership), we just didn’t need to reference it in those terms. We had it. Cracking leadership principles that will make up half of the award (not the 5 or 6 pages often reserved to leadership in handbooks) but we were not the experts in this, others were and so Lara Cooper, who had previously worked with British Canoeing came on board, drafting our leadership principles and assessment criteria.
It would be very remiss of me not to mention the massive role of British Cycling in this, this award is very much a joint effort with the mountain bike guru that is Dan Cook inputting, directing, advising and of course sharing the writing of this!
We are pretty much there now, covid of course impacted, the furloughing of Dan had a really big impact on the pace of development but we have also been helped along the way by our tutors, popping their thoughts and ideas in, advising from their experience and of course being enthusiastic – wouldn’t work without them!
We are super proud of this award, our tutors were inducted into the leadership principles last year over the course of 2 days, this is a UK wide award and one we hope will work for many, many folk looking to help others get out and about on their mountain bikes. And now is such an important time, more so than ever with the mental health impact of covid and many lock downs, the benefits of being in the outdoors go well beyond the purely physical. If this award helps get more folk outdoors, becomes part of our toolkit for engaging young and older with the amazing natural environment, even in a small way then that alone is a result!
We are not stopping there though, with the help of Al Seaton (Joint Service Training Wing in North Wales) we will be expanding the leadership principles into the Level 2 and level 3 awards. This should be our most accessible award too and in advising on that I have to thank Aneela McKenna, Peter Lloyd, Experience Community and David Hill at Clydesmuirsheil for their massive imput. Am I sounding a bit like an Oscars Award speech? Probably but there are so many folk have invested time in this its amazing. Many thanks to you all.