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Becoming Kind

Competitive Biking Teaches Life Lessons Far Beyond Metals & Trophies

By Susie Marcks, Marketing Manager at Strider World Headquarters

When my son Adam was just three years old, he was the size of an average six-year-old. At almost 6” tall myself and a husband who is 6’2’’, our offspring tend to seem like giants. As a mom, I worry about my kids being accepted and becoming capable, respectful, confident, and kind.

Given his size, when it comes to Adam and sports, I feel like I need to choose wisely. When I looked into football, the top of the sign-up sheet read, “We group kids by size not age, so no one gets hurt.” That means Adam would likely be getting tackled by ten-year-olds. Not going to happen. Wrestling goes by weight, so he would probably be, again, grappling with ten-year-olds. No, thank-you.

We tried soccer, and he hated it. He is what you would call a “lover, not a fighter,” so when someone wanted the ball, he would kick it to them… no matter what team they were on.

The one thing Adam really loves is riding his bike. Who can argue with that? Riding a bike IS fun. My little (big) guy can go on long rides with Gramps to find geocaches, get dirty at the dirt jump park, or circle endlessly around the car in the driveway. Whatever it is, it’s always fun.

After I started working at Strider, I discovered USA BMX. Talk about an intimidating sport – full-face helmets, giant jumps, a loud gate that crashes down and sends your child zipping onto a dirt track – but it seemed like the best option for Adam. On his first day, some moments of watching him at the track were painful for my mama heart. He walked up almost every hill, and many times didn’t have enough pushing momentum and just fell right over. But, he stuck with it.

Before a race begins, all of the ages and abilities ride together—the young kids in the Strider class right alongside teens and adults. On this particular night, I sat and watched my son go around the track, slow, crashing more than riding when the gate dropped for the second practice heat. Adam was only halfway to the finish line. Ten and twelve-year-old boys were going fast, jumping, and highly skilled. Adam was in their way. I was terrified he was going to get run over, or that the older kids would be annoyed that Adam was in the middle of the track with his bike tipped over…again. My nerves were building up as they got closer and closer to him. And then, it happened…the older kids STOPPED. They picked up his bike, dusted him off, and told him to keep trying. And so did he. I took a deep breath of relief and choked up as I watched the riders that day becoming kind. I hoped those kids’ parents were watching because seeing kids becoming kind is better than seeing a first-class race finish any day.

We’re nearing the end of his first BMX Season. We are starting to understand the lingo and how it all works. Adam still isn’t the most competitive dude. In BMX races, to win trophies, ribbons, or get points, you have to qualify for the “main” race at the end of the night. Only the top four riders in each class can go on to ride in the “main.” The kids that don’t qualify get to participate in the “sportsman’s race” with other non-qualifying racers: all ages, even the Strider class. Last week, Adam didn’t qualify for the main, and the sportsman’s race was made up of a twelve year old, a couple of eight-year-olds, Adam, who is six, and one Strider rider. As you can probably could have guessed, they finished in that order as well. But, the best part of the entire race was what happened next. The twelve-year-old went to Adam, gave him a great big high-five, and a piece of candy. Then, Adam went to the Strider rider, gave him a big high-five, and reminded him that everyone in that race wins candy, so don’t forget to get his piece too.

I’m so pleased to see that biking is my son’s sport! But mostly, I am proud his bike is not how he wins medal or recognition, but how he is becoming kind. One day, all of those little Strider riders will be twelve-year-olds, and I know they will be the ones to give the high-fives and encouragement. AND REALLY, WHAT MORE COULD A MOTHER WISH FOR?