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Adventures through resilience: Youth cycling programs set for the summer

Cable Poquette has fun as part of a local adventure-cycling effort based in Marquette. Volunteers are being sought for the Adventure Biking Club and National Interscholastic Cycling Association rides coming up soon. (Photo courtesy of Todd Poquette)

MARQUETTE — Tourist Park should look a lot livelier this summer when hundreds of young cyclists embark on new adventures.

In fact, “adventure” is the operative word here.

Todd Poquette, director of adventure for the 906 Adventure Team, said the Adventure Bike Club will run again this summer, with the dates set for June 14 to Aug. 26. The club will run twice a week from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, with kids ages 5 to 8 participating on Mondays and kids ages 9 to 17 riding on Thursdays. Youngsters will ride for two hours.

“Base camp” will be at Tourist Park, he said.

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association race team for kids in grades 6-12 will begin on July 1 and run to the end of October.

“It’d say it has more of a competitive basis, like me versus you,” Poquette said. “You don’t have to race. You don’t have to compete, but the premise of that group is the rides are just more intense. They just ride harder. They ride faster, and it’s more performance-based.”

That group rides from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.

Hundreds of participants already are expected to take part in the program.

Poquette said the Adventure Bike Club will have 200 youngsters, with 100 at each session, while the NICA team typically has about 30 kids.

“As the program has evolved, I’d say that if you talk to people — coaches, parents associated with the program — I think it’s becoming known more as a resilience program than it is a biking program,” Poquette said.

He believes its nonprofit mission and the kids should always come before, for example, a corporate initiative to sell bikes.

“It’s not bike first,” Poquette said. “It’s mission first, kids, adults — and then the bike is basically a mechanism that helps us execute the mission.”

On the website 906adventureteam.com, Jim LaJoie, executive director of the Superior Health Foundation, is quoted as saying, “The 906 Adventure Team is proving to be a tremendous asset to Marquette County. This is about investing in our children and giving our youth the tools and know how to make active lifestyle choices to improve their health and well-being.

“The Superior Health Foundation recognizes this tireless commitment and is supportive of the 906 Adventure Team as it continues to grow and impact lives.”

Of course, volunteers are needed, and Poquette said recruitment started March 1 and will continue until mid-May.

“To work with about 230 kids this summer, we need about 100 leaders,” Poquette said. “We developed our own learning management system that coaches will use to onboard this year to get trained to do what they need to do with the kids.”

Background checks also will take place, he said, and many parts of the operation will be centralized, which will reduce out-of-pocket expenses for the volunteers.

Poquette noted there are two tiers of volunteering.

“If you’re a base camp volunteer, you’re basically helping maintain a cohesive environment and minimizing the chaos of having 130 kids in a space at one time,” Poquette said. “Those volunteers at base camp are not expected to be on the bike. They are there to answer questions.

“If a kid comes back and he’s sick, or his bike broke, we need people at base camp so there’s somebody there to wait with the kids until parents come.”

Also, volunteers’ presence will ensure parents are not alone with other adults, he said.

Volunteers “on the bike” have different duties.

“You need to enjoy working with kids, and most importantly, you need to be a good, solid role model,” Poquette said.

That, he stressed, is covered in the training.

“You don’t have to be a high-level — you don’t even need to be an intermediate-level — mountain biker to work with kids and create adventures for kids,” Poquette said. “If somebody plans to work with the older kids in NICA, then, yes, that requires a higher level of bike-handling and fitness, because those kids are fast.”

Poquette said training is more about behavior, etiquette and conduct than the “nuts and bolts” of how to ride a mountain bike.

“It’s really trying to model for kids and teach them how to get along and work as a cohesive unit,” Poquette said.

Individuals interested in volunteering should visit 906adventureteam.com. Under the Resources tab there is a Blog section where more information is available.

People should visit bikereg.com to register for the ABC and NICA. Registration begins May 1.

Poquette said they may sign up for an email newsletter at the 906 Adventure Team website to get a “heads up” and receive updates on registration.

One important point, though, needs to be mentioned: participation in the COVID-19 era.

“We adapted our operational footprint to allow for more space between the kids,” said Poquette, who noted they also will receive face coverings.

However, the situation — as it is everywhere — is fluid.

“Whatever local the protocol is, we’re going to follow it,” Poquette said.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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