“So we had this overwhelming response, whether it was an independent bike dealer or a large corporation or a foundation. People said, “Yep, NICA’s important. We’ve got to keep this thing alive. We’ve got to keep it going.””
– Steve Matous, NICA
The year 2020 will forever be defined for outdoor recreation with the word “Boom.”
That’s especially true in cycling.
In April, bike sales grew 75% year over year and in June, 63% according to Axios. Creating a more inclusive, welcoming community for newcomers has always been a focus of Steve Matous, President of NICA, but especially during the bike boom of 2020 and the pandemic.
Steve was last on the show in August of 2019 for Episode 98 and I am stoked to have him back to Channel Mastery at this critical time. Steve’s insights shed light on how NICA has spent the last nine-plus months shifting their operations and races during the pandemic.
He shares how NICA immediately reached out to partners and sponsors at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure they could still operate and continue to serve the cycling community, their initiatives to invite newcomers to the sport, the importance of their missions through the pandemic and more. You’ll be inspired and amazed at the outcome Steve and the nimble NICA team has created so far through COVID. I hope you gain a lot of inspiration from this episode, I certainly did!
Steve Matous is president of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). He comes to NICA from a broad-reaching and successful career in the outdoor industry from both the commercial and not-for-profit side, having led Outward Bound, Entre-Prises Climbing Walls, and the American Alpine Club, among other organizations. He is a strong advocate for youth participation and developing lifelong outdoor enthusiasts.
Cycling growth in the pandemic, NICA, Youth Cycling, Team Cycling, 2020 Pivots in NICA
“It’s all about the local community. You know, NICA as a national organization is a movement and has a mission, but it all happens locally at the team and league level. And our leagues and our teams are made up of communities, and those communities are unique across the country. They’re not all the same. Oakland, California and Jersey City, New Jersey, they have different cultures, different people, different thoughts, but that’s why it works is because we are so local and focused locally.”
“So when people started coming to cycling either for the first time or for the first time in 20 years under the pandemic, they saw us as something they could belong to and participate in and feel good about because their neighbors are doing it, their friends are doing. And maybe Johnny and Susie couldn’t do whatever the high school sport was, be it lacrosse, football, volleyball, golf, because all those things were shut down, but they could still get on their bike. They could still be outside. They could still be active. And then guess what? Here’s a group that you could join. Here’s some of your peers that you can go out and have fun with. Here’s some mentors that are well-trained and experienced in working with middle school and high school children, or I should say young adults. And because of that, it’s a very easy transition for most people.”
“And over the last three years, ’17, ’18, ’19, we saw an average annual growth rate of our student athletes nationwide, 28%. So if you extrapolate that number, that means that we’re doubling every couple of years in size. Under COVID, under the pandemic, remember our spring leagues got completely shut down.
“A couple of race weekends happened, some team practices happened, but then everything got stopped. So we really didn’t know what we’re coming into this summer and fall. And many parents and coaches and volunteers, as you might imagine, were hesitant. Obviously safety is the first and foremost concern for all of us of the people involved. And we made sure that we followed the rules and recommendations and guidelines that were given to us by the public health departments, by the CDC and whoever, from our civic governments who were in charge. But even with that happening, we saw a 12% growth in student participation and we saw an 18% growth in volunteers.”
“So I think that’s really important to note that under the pandemic here, the number of adults who also saw this as a venue to help them and to give them an opportunity to engage and be active and not just sit at home and not just be under quarantine.”