Every venture needs a starting point.
Cedar BMX is making sure local kids looking to get into competitive riding have one.
The volunteer-run, non-profit organization recently concluded a five-week BMX beginners racing program designed to introduce new riders to the sport through instruction and building a positive mindset.
“The program is not just about making a faster rider, it’s about boosting the kids’ confidence,” said Steve Serge, head coach of the program. “That’s something we do too much in youth sports, we set the bar too high.”
The five-week course had 44 participants in the program, ages 4-12. The park had to cap registration because it was unsure if it had ample equipment to suit all riders’ needs.
“(The turnout) beyond exceeded our expectations,” Serge said of the first class. “I looked at it and said if we get between 15 and 20 kids, that’s a success.”
Because of the unexpectedly high turnout, Cedar BMX set up the shortened, less-intensive program for those who were unable to sign up before the cutoff. The “beginner boot camp” is a four-session program that runs July 8, 10, 15 and 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the track on Red Barn Village Road in Newton Twp.
Serge has a history in BMX riding, taking up the sport and riding at Cedar BMX in the early 1980s. He dropped the activity after just a few years, though, and returned to Cedar BMX last year. He took his kids shortly after and has been involved ever since.
“I went through the entire experience of almost being new to the sport again,” Serge said.
At the beginning of each session, Serge speaks to the kids and their parents about previous lessons, the desired positive mindset and upcoming instruction.
A trend consistent with many riders, according to their parents, is BMX riding being an activity they stick with.
That is the hope of Dan Falkowski of Nanticoke for his 8-year-old daughter Madison and 5-year-old son Cole.
“The program gives them the opportunity to learn and get comfortable with the track instead of just signing up and racing on their own,” Falkowski said. “This way they get instruction, get a feel for it and then make a decision if it’s something they want to continue to do.”
That is what Lori Cadwalder is hoping for her 8-year-old son, Aiden.
“I believe (Aiden) will carry this on,” Cadwalder said. “He’s very interested in any type of bikes, and he pretty much spends 90 percent of his life on a bike.
“Since the first night Aiden practiced here, all he talks about is this track and the racing.”
Similarly to how the program seeks to build character, the parents want their kids to use these sessions as benchmarks to meet goals.
“We wanted something to get Otto in a more goal-oriented mindset and to be his best person,” said Brad Zielen, Shavertown of his 8-year-old son. “Otto looks forward to it every week. He looks forward to coming to the track.”
Cedar BMX hopes the program’s participants merge in with its weekly racing nights, which many competed in for the first time Thursday.
“The ultimate goal is to get the kids from the program to come and start racing,” Serge said. “We want them to be prepared to come here and merge into a race night with no intimidation.”