Oregon Interscholastic Cycling League (OICL) provides programs and events to help Oregon kids develop and grow a love of mountain biking. Learn more about this incredible organization in this Q&A with OICL’s League Director, Heather Wolfgang.
What is the Oregon Interscholastic Cycling League?
On a mission to create strong bodies, minds, character, and communities, the Oregon Interscholastic Cycling League, or Oregon League, focuses on youth development through the sport of mountain biking. The league produces mountain bike races, clinics, and camps for middle and high school students across the state. In addition to producing events, we train adults how to coach youth mountain biking so they can start and manage local teams.
Can you share a bit about the history of the organization?
The Oregon League is one of 29 leagues across the country, all under the umbrella of the National Interscholastic Cycling League (NICA). A group of Oregonians put together a bid back in 2017 to get a league started here and it got approved! Since then, the league has seen some steady and exciting growth in yearly student-athlete registration and has been able to produce a race season (save for the pandemic year), skills clinic camps, GRiT (Girls Riding Together) events, coach skills clinics, and a bikepacking camp.
What is the most important work OICL does?
I believe the most important work the Oregon League does is connecting people to their bodies and nature. Obesity and diabetes, not to mention mental health issues like anxiety and depression, are something our youth are facing more and more. Our planet is sick, too, and I think that’s because a lot of people don’t have experience with the beauty of nature to want to preserve, respect, and care for it. The mountain bike unlocks two things; self-discovery (mental, physical, emotional, and downright spiritual) and connection to nature.
What plans/goals does the Oregon League have for this year?
With things slowly starting to open up, we’re hopeful for a race season this fall! We’re also planning four skills clinic camps this July and August. Fortunately our Oregon teams were able to still ride together last year, so we know that even if there are restrictions in place for gatherings, students will still be able to ride together regularly every week starting in July. That’s a big win for our sport.
What is the Oregon League’s long term vision/goal?
Our long term goal is to see students and families building stronger communities through all avenues of biking, such as trail advocacy, group rides, racing, and outdoor social gatherings. We want to create lifelong cyclists. Because of the nature and variety of cycling, we are confident that many, if not most, of our alumni will be riding for the rest of their lives.
What programs does the Oregon League offer?
The league’s marquee events are our races. The races are where student-athletes, coaches, and families from all over come to participate, and we produce 4-5 of those typically from late August through October. The league also offers skills clinics, GRiT fun rides, and bikepacking camps.
What do kids gain from participating in OICL programs?
Community, self-discovery, mental strength, and overwhelming support!
What is one of your favorite memories from working with the Oregon League?
We held a race down in Medford in 2019 and the course had this long demanding climb. At one point, I’m over at the hill watching students ride up and there’s this coach jogging alongside this middle schooler just encouraging him along, saying all the right things at the right moment. You could see this student was really struggling and totally wanted to pull the cord, but this coach’s energy and belief in this rider was something he adopted in that moment, and he went on to complete his race.
Why did you get involved?
I first got involved in NICA back in 2012 to help coach the San Francisco Composite team. Back then, I thought I was just going to ride bikes with kids, which is what I was doing but I realized there was way more impact with it because of the transformative years of high school. My journey led me to volunteer with the NorCal League and later turned into working for them for a few years. In 2017, I moved up to Oregon and was approached to help the budding league. I’ve felt so much gratitude for the opportunity to build this league; we have an amazing crew of coaches and volunteers and our students are simply stellar. And the trails here are incredible!
How has Burley’s support impacted the Oregon League’s programs?
Burley was our first league sponsor, and that support on its own was a huge boost to the overall morale. It demonstrated that this youth mountain biking thing was something Oregon wanted and needed. Since then, Burley’s support has helped fund our scholarship opportunities and given students and coaches the financial support to join our programming – a huge help to us in reaching families that may not be able to participate otherwise.
What makes OICL programs unique?
The one thing that stands out about our programming is that every student gets to participate. There aren’t any teammates on a “bench” waiting to get their turn to ride and there aren’t any special skills or talents that a student has to display to secure a spot on a team.
Where can people go to learn more about the Oregon League and how to support your programs?
Our website has all the info: www.oregonmtb.org