BMX offers kids much more than bike skills

Story by Stacie Gaetz


Photos by iStock

Although Airdrie BMX races and practices are currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the head coach says riding is a great sport that allows for everyone to have fun, build friendships and get physical activity.

Mike Dowson has been the Airdrie BMX coach for two years and he was the coach’s helper before that.

He says being a BMX coach involves everything from teaching new riders to become comfortable on a bike to training expert riders to helping with minor tweaks in stance or form.

“Riding BMX in a race is basically a full-on sprint for about 350 metres while maintaining control going over different types of obstacles (rollers tabletops, corners, step-ups, step-downs) all while racing up to seven other competitors to be the first one across the finish line,” he says, adding that he also rides.

“Being a coach brings enjoyment when I see the younger riders conquer their fears, like being able to stand while riding the whole track or no longer (being scared) in the gate. When more advanced riders finally hit that jump or manual they have been eyeing for some time, that’s rewarding.”

Airdrie BMX was started in 1993 and Dowson says membership has been down in the past season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Airdrie had about 60 members that range in age from three to in their 50s.

He says the season is weather-dependent meaning some years, they are on the track as early as March and as late as October and anything in between.

“Riders learn confidence, sportsmanship and gain friendships from all over Alberta,” he says.

“A good rider needs to have a great attitude, give it their best, and most of all have fun.”

He adds that he is most proud of the number of riders that qualified for World’s from the 2019 season from Airdrie.

Last year, the pandemic cancelled all organized races at Airdrie BMX and so far this year, Dowson says the group is still waiting to see what guidelines they need to follow.

Dowson’s son Kaileb, 18, has been riding BMX since 2015 and Dowson says coaching his own son is challenging but great.

“To have my dad as a coach is a fun experience and makes for good coaching sessions since we can teach/help each other with different skills in the sport and help coach new riders,” says Kaileb.

He has been a rider for seven years and says the best part of BMX riding is being a part of a wonderful community of people that learn from each other.

“Qualities that make a good BMX rider include having dedication towards the sport, being determined to learn from your peers and gain experience to become better and to have great sportsmanship for yourself and everyone around you, no matter how you place in the race,” Kaileb adds.

“Being a member of Airdrie BMX teaches me that we are one big community even though some riders may race each other and compete with each other, we still cheer each other on at the big race events.”

As for what Dowson would say to anyone interested in trying out BMX:

“Give it a try, nothing ventured nothing gained. My boy started when he was in the 13-age group, and I started when I was in the 40+ group. In normal seasons, there are try it days, or a drop-in form.”

He adds that although he does not know when they will be able to meet and race again, he can’t wait to get back on track.

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