Port Elizabeth’s Framesby High School took the first step towards establishing mountain biking as an official sporting code in August last year, and received the official stamp of approval earlier this year.
The school required that a process be followed in order for the sport to be officially recognised and at the head of operations has been English teacher Mariska Basson.
“We had to make a formal application to our governing body in which we had to explain how the sport would work and what the criteria would be for awards and colours,” said Basson.
“We also had to design and present a possible uniform for approval by our clothing committee.
“It became an official sport earlier this year after we had got the learners involved last year and showed that there was interest and a willingness to participate.”
Basson said it was a good feeling to know that they had started something new.
“We also know there is now a lot of pressure to keep it going and prove that it deserves its place.”
She added that apart from the fact that they had only just started, most of the riders were still new to mountain biking competitively.
“We are just working on teaching them, and myself, the necessary skills. We also have a very involved and enthusiastic parent group.
“About three weeks ago I, together with two of our parents, as well as parents from three other schools, did the first schools commissaire training course under Deon Steyn. So we are now qualified to start working under more qualified commissaires at events like the Spur League.
“I’m also part of the newly formed Nelson Mandela Bay District School Cycling Committee. I don’t know much about cycling yet, but I’m learning as I go.”
Regarding their goals, Basson says they would like to grow the sport in their school and especially among the girls, who still tend to see it as a boys’ sport.
“In the future we definitely want to compete on a national level. We have the talent, now we just need to develop it.
“I was just a social cyclist when I started it and I had no idea how many technical skills you needed to really excel in mountain biking. But we have the privilege of a wonderfully experienced coach in Luca Fanicchi and I’m learning as much as the kids. A whole new world has opened up to us.”
She feels it is important for a school to have cycling as an official sport as it gives the sport recognition.
“You just cannot get it going without a dedicated teacher in charge. We see that in the schools where it is a sporting code there’s a parent who is trying to organise it.”
Basson said they had “such a wonderful” bunch of boys and one girl who are part of the code.
“They’ve grown in confidence and camaraderie. If someone has a mechanical problem, everyone wants to help.
“When practising new skills they encourage one another and there is a wonderful competitive spirit as well.
“Some of the kids are the ones that are always in trouble in class because they cannot sit still, but on their bikes they are different people, with discipline and dedication.”
The club is now planning on competing in the Spur League series, as well as a few local mountain bike events.