The Waterville Mountain Bike Club is all about the kids, period.
The club’s founder, and coach Joe Misiaszek Jr., who’s spent the past 29 years coaching many different sports like Little League baseball, Pop Warner football and high school skiing, has always loved the freedom and ease of riding a bicycle and said it’s great because just about everyone can do it, and you don’t age out of it like football, baseball or so many other high school sports. You can cycle for life.
“When I founded this club I wanted kids to be out on bikes,” Misiaszek said. “I wanted kids to be doing something other than looking at their phones all day long, playing video games and what not. Cycling helped me a lot as a kid, and it helped me as an adult too. This, I think is a great way to give back.”
Misiaszek said it was actually his children, Joseph III and Logan who “lit the fire under him” to find out about this type of bike racing.
“I actually googled it because of my boys,” Misiaszek said. “My sons wanted to race BMX, so I looked into mountain bike racing and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, or NICA, came up, and I contacted Jason Cairo, the head of it, and he called me back. He was really excited to hear there was someone outside of Syracuse interested in starting a team.
“There were courses you had to attend and I did and I had some help along the way,” Misiaszek admitted.
Misiaszek explained he developed the team initially with his two sons, and in conjunction with the coach from the Galena Growlers (Norwich/Sherburne), Rob Baker, and the first NICA team in the Mohawk Valley was born in 2017.
NICA- (pronounced like FICA) was established in 2009 by California bike racer Matt Fritzinger out of Berkley High School. It started out with only four kids riding bikes and over the past 10 years has grown to 25 leagues over 24 states, now including the Central Upstate New York area that race within the NICA organization as the New York Interscholastic Cycling League.
NICA President Steve Matous said this is a sport that is family friendly, and the majority of team members have their entire family involved.
NICA race parking lots look similar to NASCAR race parking lots in terms of RV’s that haul families who attend. Many parents are coaches and those who are not, are typically still fans, according to the NICA:The New Normal video available on Youtube.
Misiaszek said his team really took off during its second season in 2018, for one reason- “Clinton Central High and Athletic Director Doug Fiore.
“ Both my sons played lacrosse at Clinton High School,” Misiaszek said. “I knew Doug from that. One day I walked into his office and handed him all the research I found and he said he would give it to the PTA.”
Misiaszek said the next thing you know, phone calls started to come in and when they stopped he had five new kids from Clinton.
Misiaszek said Dick Sonnies Cycles helped him get the word out and Trek Bicycle of New Hartford pitched in too. Trek is the national lead sponsor of NICA according to the NICA website.
NICA influences teams to be school affiliated, however, they also allow “composite” teams. Composite teams include home-school kids, and kids from different schools in any given area on the same team. The Waterville Mountain Bike Club has team members from Waterville, Clinton, New Hartford and maybe Sauquoit, they also have at least one home school team member, according to Misiaszek.
The season runs from December 1 through mid-June, which Misiaszek admits is a challenge. However, Misiaszek said he constantly looking for activities that will help develop his team members riding abilities. Activities like stationary bike workouts that keep the kids in shape.
And other stuff too.
“They do learn skills, skills slow moving skills,” Misiaszek explained. “They learn balance, how to stay on your bike without putting your feet down. Being able to move your bike at the slowest speed possible...balance. They learn cornering, starting, stopping, climbing, shifting gears going uphill, going downhill, crossing bridges - in short, safe riding practices.”
The season schedule consists of four to five races per year with the last one for Waterville on June 9 at the Windham Ski Mountain Resort just south of Oneonta N.Y..
Misiaszek said he receives a lot of satisfaction working with the kids who get a chance to be a part of a team. Kids who might not otherwise get a chance to participate in a team sport because they don’t have the chance to play for the their high school. Nobody sits the bench on a bicycle team, everyone gets to participate and the satisfaction for Misiaszek is for life.
“You know, there’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you work with these kids,” said Misiaszek, with a tear in his eye and a lump in his throat. “It’s all about building a sound mind in a sound body and teaching them good character traits. I know these kids all have parents, but on race day, these are my kids and I want what’s best for them, just like their folks do, to have fun, be active and develop camaraderie with there teammates. Also, nothing beats having a kid turn around on his bike just before he leaves for a race and say, ‘Thanks, Coach.’
For more information on how to get your child involved in the Waterville Mountain Bike Club Misiaszek said you can call him direct at 315-525-1789. He asks you check out their Facebook page and to remember “BIKES = LOVE.”