How to be Brave – Written by Coach Meghan Twohig

Let’s be honest: even if you are an experienced rider, there’s nothing mellow about mountain biking. Especially in the mountains.

Most rides typically involve some type of climbing that will push your muscles and your lung capacity. Downhills (even the relatively easier ones) demand your full attention and offer up real consequences for any lapses. Every ride tests you in different ways and you have to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for these challenges.

 

For a new rider, it is scary, foreign and intimidating. There is so much unknown and so much potential for failure. How hard will you struggle to pedal up that challenging climb? Will you even make it? Will you hold back the group? Should you try that technical rock garden? What will happen if you fail? Just these questions can be enough to prevent many people from even trying in the first place.

And maybe this is what has impressed me the most this season. As the head coach of the Edwards team, I get to work closely with each of the ladies on our roster, many of whom are new to the sport of mountain biking. And let me tell you one thing I have noticed about our ladies: THEY ARE BRAVE. Being brave does not mean that you don’t get scared or intimidated. Being brave means that you recognize that something scares or intimidates you but then attempt it anyway.

Racing can also be scary, particularly for new riders. Despite their fears, all our ladies rise to the challenge.

I have observed countless examples of this over the course of the summer. I’ve coached girls in their first season of mountain biking up steep climbs and down the loose technical single track, surprising themselves with how much they could accomplish and wondering what else was possible. I’ve pushed timid girls to ride with faster and more experienced groups and reveled in their pride when they realize they are capable of more than they thought. And I’ve cleaned up wounds, offered hugs and wiped away tears when girls failed and then smiled as they got back on their bikes to try again.

As a team, we have worked hard to foster a culture of bravery. We recognize accomplishment as well as effort and the willingness to take risks. And we also talk about how bravery extends beyond mountain biking. It takes bravery to enter the 6th grade, enroll in an Advanced Placement class, apply for a competitive college scholarship or face challenges in your personal life. It takes bravery to dream big and then take the realistic steps to make that dream a reality. And it takes bravery to lift those around us up.

We’re stronger together. Two of the ladies celebrating at the top of a daunting hill climb.

I find myself continually inspired by the bravery of the young women on the Edwards team and it is my hope that they will continue to be brave in all aspects of their lives as they go forward. Their bravery has caused me to pause and reflect on my own life: am I being as brave as I can be? When something scares or intimidates me, do I recognize that and attempt it anyway?

It may be worth asking yourself the same question.