Youth Festival’s insight as breeding ground for our 2020 Olympic hopefuls

While more cyclists than in the history of South African cycling are preparing for the 2012 London Olympic Games, our hard working Youth Transformation and Development team were running the cycling youth festival in Oudtshoorn.

The second annual Oudtshoorn Youth Festival provided a multi disciplined platform for young cyclists to discover their talents, and for administrators and scouts to possibly find our next budding Olympians. Cyclists had the opportunity to participate in a road race, criterium, cross-country mountain bike race, and a half marathon mountain bike race.

This festival is built around three key objectives being Talent Identification, mass participation and preparation for the Youth Olympic Games, the most important being the latter.

Oudtshoorn hosted the second of three such events, the first having been held in Durban in March when KwaZulu-Natal hosted the SA Schools road and time trial championships, and the last event to be held at Gariep Dam later this year, lending itself geographically to benefit athletes from the whole country.

“We’d like to say that this will become an annual event in Oudtshoorn,” said National Director Transformation and Development Roger Bouton at the final day’s prize giving. “There are plans in place to build a track cycling oval and a BMX track in Oudtshoorn, which will increase the scope of events on offer.”

An appeal is made to administrators, parents, schools and young athletes across all provinces to mobilise and participate in this professionally organised festival of youth cycling. The benefits are that the format used for the Youth Festival is a mirror image of that of the Youth Olympic Games. Furthermore, this event provides an opportunity for athletes to post results that are accessible and made available to talent scouts.

One of the other key benefits is that athletes gain unique experience by participating en masse and are also given the opportunity to not restrict their participation to only one discipline. No other festival in the country presents athletes with this flexibility of testing skills in different disciplines over such a period.

“We involve the parents and we involve the kids,” continued Bouton. “We introduced the globally acclaimed process a few years ago called the Long Term Participant Development program, providing a host of valuable information for parents and coaches; we have to be very careful of how kids are developed through all types of sport. We’ve also created the Parent Guide, giving parents direction on what to do with the youngsters in their sport.”

Administrators, schools and parents who do not make an effort to ensure that their athletes’ participation in these events are truly missing a golden opportunity to enrich, build and benefit their youth cyclists.

Parents were encouraged to familiarise themselves with the LTPD best practices for their growing children in sport in order for them to continue enjoying sport throughout their entire life.

“The Youth Festival encourages national participation and the kids have fun, and there is cross pollination across the disciplines as mountain bikers had the opportunity to experiment in road races and vice versa,” said Bouton. “In the near future they will be able to try their hand at track cycling and BMX as well. We are watching the kids coming through the system and we’re watching the talent.”

Gariep Dam will host the next Youth Festival event later this year.

Click here for more information on Cycling SA Coaching Commission’s LTPD model.