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Mountain Range

Update: School District in Marin County Backpedals on Disbanding High School Mountain Biking Teams

May 18, 2021

by Alicia Leggett  

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Tam High School District Cancels Mountain Biking Teams.


The Tamalpais High School District Board has summarily canceled all of the district's associations with the high school mountain biking teams, apparently claiming a desire to shed liability. Details are still slim because the district has handled this about as well as the Drake school name change. We were told to send one coach to a meeting where the hammer was dropped, without much of an explanation other than "it's over" and they don't want the liability.


I've helped coach the Drake team for the past 6 years, and while I'm not surprised, I'm appalled. The Drake team has been entirely self-sustaining since the start, and has now grown to 85 riders, more than a third of the riders girls. We have consistently produced some of the strongest young riders in the state and have dominated the state championships for years. But far more important, we've provided a safe environment for kids to get out from behind their ubiquitous screens, to get exercise out in nature, and to challenge themselves to develop their strength and endurance.


I started coaching at Drake when my son was a freshman, and stayed on because I've seen the impact participation in the sport has on young kids. I remember one freshman girl who showed up the first day of the season hiding behind her hair. She was too shy to talk to anyone, and painfully slow on her bike. It took her half an hour longer than the other kids to make it up the hill, and I doubted she would ever come back. She did come back. She consistently made the practice rides and worked on getting better. By the end of that season, she'd cut her time up the hill in half. The next season she became one of the strongest riders on the team. But the biggest change was the confidence she'd gained by what she'd accomplished. She went from being shy and retreating to gregarious and self-confident.


I've watched that same story play out now dozens of times over the past 6 years. During Covid, while many high school kids were cooped up with nothing to do, our riders got out on their own until we could coordinate cohort rides. Ask those kids and they'll tell you: mountain biking was one of the few things they could do that helped them stay sane.


The high school mountain biking team isn't just racers. About 60% of the team rides more for the social community than the racing, and we fully encourage that. We don't emphasize single-minded competition. Our mission is to get more kids on bikes, where they can replace screen time with a challenging and exhilarating sport that they can enjoy for a lifetime. As they get involved, their parents become part of our support community, and both become more involved in community activities, from working on trail maintenance to mentoring younger kids.


The student mountain biking community in Marin is literally a model for the nation, and the the District Board is now saying there is no place for that in their high schools. Redwood, Tam and Drake (Archie Williams) are all on their own, which places our ability to participate in high school leagues at risk next year.


If you're a parent of a rider, or a member of the rider community, please let the district know how you feel. Just like the dissolution of the small learning communities and the disastrous process of renaming Drake, this decision belies a bureaucracy that is wholly out of touch. They are clearly managing our high schools like a factory, not a community.

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