Here in the United States, children in the millions take part in organized sports every day. Little league, youth soccer, swimmers, and pee-wee football all have organizations ranging from casual, neighborhood games up to state and national competitive clubs. At the higher levels of these organizations, talent is identified, developed and groomed from a very young age. These programs often feed right into college level athletics, and then on to the pros.
However, one sport that is not so common as an organized youth activity is cycling. Pop culture acceptance of competitions such as the X Games have helped bring exposure and acceptance to Freestyle and BMX type cycling events. However, for kids who like road or track racing, it can be nearly impossible to find others that enjoy the same thing that aren’t 20 years older then they are.
However, there are some that are actively trying to address this apparent lack of support..
I had an opportunity to take my daughter out to another great Savage Sprints race at Hot Italian in Sacramento this past Sunday. Dean Alleger has now got some smaller 43cm frames and has started getting kids out there. Given that Savage Sprints are, among other things, events intended to help raise funding and awareness for the Sacramento Valley Velodrome Association, getting children involved seems to be right in line with Alleger’s goals for bicycle racing in the Sacramento region.
My goal from day one has been to get kids into the pipeline of the Olympic movement. The Savage Sprints are a great way to get folks exposed to and involved in track racing. Why not involve children of all ages? Ideally you get them coming over with highly developed motor skills from a lifelong variety of other sports activities. Most kids seem to get the 360 degrees perspective necessary for safe navigation somewhere between nine to eleven years old. You want to get them hardwired for bike racing before the growth spurt. The bikes we have for our little Savages are 43cm Fuji 650 Track bikes that we got in a special deal through the Bicycle Business. Steve Rex helped modify our platforms so we can switch them out in less than five minutes! The feedback so far has been awesome!!! Emily Hughes, a Hellyer Velodrome junior racer, has come to all the events so far, and is a great ambassador for the sport. We are hoping to take a group of ten to twenty kids aged 8-25 down to Hellyer for a special Sactown session. Stay tuned!
— Dean Alleger
Track racing can be particularly difficult to get children involved in. There are relatively few velodromes in the US, resulting in small clusters of youth track racing surrounding the facilities. Efforts like the Sacramento Valley Velodrome Association are attempting to address the need for facilities, while indoor roller racing events like Savage Sprints help introduce the concepts of the sport to wider audiences geographically distant from existing racing facilities.
While much press is given to the sedentary nature of children’s lives in our modern society, and the childhood obesity epidemic is described as one of the major health crises of our time, there seems to be very little effort given to providing alternative activities from the standard baseball or soccer for youth sports. As popular culture has begun to pick up on fixed gear or single speed bicycles, many more children are being exposed to the foundations of track racing without even realizing it. All indications are that the time is right for the efforts of Dean Alleger and folks like him to begin to build a foundation for youth cycling at the competitive levels.
Dean Alleger is Executive Director of the Sacramento Valley Velodrome Association.