Bicycling is a forgotten aspect of childhood freedom and bikes are simple machines that can teach. Using bikes as an engagement point for children of all experience levels and backgrounds offers a unique advantage in trying to positively impact youth in Indiana.
Tom Hanley, CEO with Nine13sports®, a non-profit organization in Indianapolis, explains to Indy’s Child how their Kids Riding Bikes program focuses on youth health and fitness. This organization connects kids with bicycles to promote health while incorporating technology and other skills, such as teamwork, for youth in primarily kindergarten through eighth grade.
Why did Nine13sports® begin?
Being an elite level cyclist brought me to Indianapolis. I was continuing to pursue my cycling career and attending college. In 2010, I was on a bus that ran a red light in downtown Indianapolis and collided with another vehicle. I went from a 23-year-old elite athlete to having two broken vertebrae, a mild brain injury and my best friend being killed. I was told I was lucky to be alive but would never race my bike again. My original plan was to become an attorney, but I realized I wanted something different. I came up with the plan that became Nine13sports® in 2011 and launched programming in 2012.
About 10 percent of kids on our bikes have never been on a bicycle. We are looking at a generation of kids that don’t understand the power of two wheels. It is not just for fitness, but a transportation method. Indianapolis continues to put in bicycle lanes and trails, which are an incredible asset for growing cities. We need to equip the next generation to fully utilize these resources. We are attempting to demonstrate these things by engaging with kids in their gym classes during our Kids Riding Bikes program.
Are there qualifications?
Students in an established physical education class will be on our bikes when we are in their school. We work with about 25 school districts in central Indiana in addition to youth organizations we serve.
We have not, and will not, charge programming fees to a public school, students or their families. We operate more like an Indy car team than a nonprofit. Each of our vehicles is heavily branded through the support of corporate partners and philanthropic funders (locally and nationally).
What is the goal?
Bicycles are the ultimate equalizer. It allows us to take students of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and abilities to create a level playing field with our stationary bicycle simulators. The primus is supporting the work of physical education teachers and school administrators as an additional resource. The concept is to get youth moving and active in a different way.
Nine13sports® goes where students are?
We have four vans with their own equipment. We show up at schools in the morning and roll out our bicycle simulators and all the technology along with staff. It is unique being at schools, during school hours as part of state standards. We are not an afterschool program or an offsite program.
What programs are available?
Kids Riding Bikes is the program first launched and what we are well known for. It continues to grow – in 2015 we served about 10,000. We have the capacity to serve 40,000 looking to 2019.
We are launching a new program in September — Kids Building Bikes, focusing on grades four and five. It is our first afterschool program and still takes place at schools. This program will teach kids how to work with tools. They get screwdrivers in their hands learning the mechanics of a bicycle and over the course of four weeks students completing it take home a brand-new bicycle, helmet and lock to call their own.
Then the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) based curriculum for grades six, seven and eight is in BETA testing. We hope to launch in the beginning of 2019.
What is the benefit?
It is magical to see students who might not engage in gym get on a bike with a huge smile.
We hear stories that students asked Mom or Dad for a bicycle and are riding that bicycle outside. There are many avenues it impacts – students and the community within the school as well as neighborhood and city.
How do organizations/schools start?
We have a list of partners wanting to bring us in so if interested reach out and we are constantly looking for new opportunities and partners to help support new schools.
How can the community help?
We are always looking for individuals with a passion for health and fitness to plug in time, talent or knowledge to help. As we grow we develop new volunteer opportunities. Anyone interested in donating we would love to engage more, and we are happy to talk about potential opportunities for community engagement.
Learn more about Nine13sports® and keep up-to-date with daily happenings by visiting their website at http://nine13sports.org/ and following them on Twitter: @Nine13sports and on Instagram: @Nine13sports.