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Drake MTB Coaches

Link to Team Event Sign-ups for Coaches and Ride Leaders

Drake Head Coaches, Assistant Coaches, Ride Leaders and Mechanics

pic of 2019 Coaches and Ride Leaders

In recent years, Drake has had more than fifty Riders on the team. Keeping such a large and diverse group of kids engaged across a variety of events, team rides, races, and volunteer engagements takes a dedicated team of experienced adults. This team of experienced and qualified adults are selected based on their being good role models, motivators, teachers, organizers, authority figures, risk managers, and perhaps most importantly friends and mentors. And they all have a love of the sport. In addition, all coaches and ride leaders have a responsibility to maintain a safe and harassment- and discrimination-free environment at all team events and rides, and are also expected to:

  • Keep safety top of mind in all team rides and events
  • Behave professionally
  • Use appropriate language
  • Model good sporting behavior
  • Model being respectful of others and of our environment
  • Be energized and upbeat
  • Cheer the team
  • Give specific feedback and praise
  • Celebrate effort and victories
  • Respect the land management rules whether with the team or not

Two Co-Head Coaches
The co-head coaches are involved with every aspect of the team, but have primary responsibility for the following:

  • Set up the ride calendar for the season
  • Select ride leaders and assistant coaches
  • Make sure every team ride has adequate coaching staff and ride leaders
  • Coordinate guest speakers and team volunteer engagements
  • Attend parent committee meetings
  • Work with Norcal on race scheduling and race-day logistics
  • Organize team workouts at sponsors Pelo and Marin Power Yoga

Eight Assistant Coaches
Like the head coaches, assistant coaches tend to be involved with every aspect of the team. They are most important, however, in helping the head coaches with the following:

  • Staffing every team ride and providing on-the-trail leadership for safety and risk management
  • Giving individual attention to Riders on team rides, helping them with technique, maintenance, encouragement, and feedback.
  • Acting as Pit Zone managers during races, making sure that each group of Riders knows their schedule for the day and follows it. This includes critical things like making sure the kids are at the Pit Zone on time, have the proper equipment for racing, have access to a trainer before races, eat properly, have a race plate, don’t fall asleep in a car before a race, have had their bike checked out by the mechanics, eat after a race, cheer for the team, etc etc.

Four Ride Leaders
As the name suggests, Ride Leaders are strong adult mountain bikers who work with the coaches to make sure that team rides are safe, organized, challenging, and fun. Each group of riders that goes on a team ride has at least one Ride Leader at the front and one Ride Leader at the back (aka “Sweep”) so that no riders within a specific group are without immediate assistance in the event of injury or confusion as to ride route. All Ride Leaders have been trained in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, and concussion identification. At the end of every team ride, Ride Leaders let the head coaches know that all riders have completed the ride and made it back home (or to Deer Park) safely.

Team Mechanic(s) in the Pit Zone during races
Mountain bikes are complex mechanical devices with many points of failure. Riders put in long hours of training to prepare for races, and mechanical failures can put their personal safety at risk. One of the best ways to minimize this risk is to train your Rider to know his her bike inside and out; as a back-up to that, the Drake team is extremely fortunate to have three team mechanics that check every single Rider’s bike in detail just before every race. In the pre-race Pit Zone, the Drake team has seen last-minute drivetrain replacements, wheel swaps, brake change-outs, shock servicing, and a host of other complex issues addressed under great time pressure to keep the Riders ready to race. The Mechanic’s Area of the Pit Zone is an amazing place, and staffed by bike mechanics with more than 60 years of wrenching… and more than 100 years of very entertaining bicycling-related stories. Please encourage your Rider to treat them with the highest level of gratitude – they, too, are adult volunteers and do their jobs for altruistic reasons, and a single fussy or impatient rider who does not know his or her bike can wipe the smile off of a Mechanic’s face.

NICA requirements for Head Coaches [NICA Level 3 Coach] (see http://www.nationalmtb.org/coaches-license-program/ for details on coaching requirements)

  • Background Check
  • CDC Heads Up Annual Concussion Certification
  • Annual Waiver
  • Wilderness First Aid training
  • CPR training
  • 80 Field Hours: actual hours spent in contact with HS students while engaged in MTB program
  • NICA On-the-bike skills training
  • NICA Student-Athlete Coaching Philosophy webinar and test
  • Annual Risk Management webinar and test 3

Assistant Coach and Ride Leader Requirements [NICA Level 2 Coach]

  • Background Check
  • CDC Heads Up Annual Concussion Certification
  • Annual Waiver
  • Basic first aid training instead of Wilderness First Aid training
  • 20 field hours with students
  • NICA On-the-bike skills training
  • NICA Student-Athlete Coaching Philosophy webinar and test
  • Annual Risk Management webinars 1 and 2 and tests

General Volunteer Requirements (like parents who occasionally do Sunday rides) [NICA Level 1 Coach]

Your Coaches, Ride Leaders, and Team Mechanics for the 2018 Season

Co-Head Coach Laura Childress


I remember the first time I rode my bike and the exact moment my father let go the saddle of my blue Schwinn and I rode off untethered. Fear and excitement would soon turn into a new sense of freedom and self-confidence. Bike riding opened a door to a whole new world of exploration, which would lead me on many secret adventures with my other bike-riding friends. Without a word to our parents, we would pack a lunch and set off on a day long adventure. As long as we were home in one piece before the streetlights came on, we were good. With no helmets, cell phones or GPS navigation we found our way from the suburbs, through the city to the ferry and over to the island. Now, in a world where our children are escorted to and from school and to all their organized events, it’s hard to imagine our own children doing the same thing. That’s why we wanted to create a program to make accessible the freedom we enjoyed when we were kids. So, not only will your child learn about the possibilities out there, they will also discover the possibilities within themselves. For 11 years, I have been the director, ride leader, adventurer, medic, mechanic and mentor at Bike Adventures for Kids. I am a Registered Nurse, Wilderness Rescue and Remote First Aid certified and a certified CPR/AED Professional Rescuer and Health Care Provider.

Co-Head Coach Rob Reed


Rob Reed has been a Drake Mountain Bike Team parent and ride leader for the last five years, including the last two seasons as co-head Coach. This year Rob is delighted to have Laura Childress as a new co-head coach! He has been an avid biker all of his life, and fell in love with mountain biking in the Bay Area when he moved to San Francisco in 1989 fresh out of college. Rob is a stay-at-home dad and puts more miles on his bike than his car. When asked what kind of biker he is – road or mountain? – Rob is likely to answer “yes”. DrakeMTBCoaches@gmail.com

Assistant Coach Chris Kenton


I’m Chris, aka Tommy’s dad. I grew up in Sunnyvale, riding BMX bikes in the golden age of anodized alloy. Linda and I moved to Cascade in autumn of 1999, just in time to see the annual Appetite Seminar parade down our street. I was out raking leaves before our Thanksgiving guests arrived, watching hundreds of mountain bikers stream past. The next day I bought my first mountain bike to find out what I was missing and never looked back. I’ve learned more about myself from mountain biking than almost any other pursuit. The mental, physical and technical challenges never get old—and neither do the rewards of fresh air, adrenaline and alpine views. Unlike a lot of sports that you have to put on a shelf sooner or later, mountain biking is a life-long ride. I couldn’t be happier sharing it with such a dedicated and passionate group of people.

Assistant Coach Scott Samet


Growing up in Fairfax, the birthplace of mountain biking, I guess you could say I was destined to be a mountain biker. I lived only a few blocks away from Repack–the famed location of the world’s very first mountain bike races–and I will never forget the day as a young boy that I sat on my little BMX bike and watched in awe as the fat-tired founding fathers of mountain biking sped by me, dirty and grinning, on their prototype “clunkers”. I was hooked immediately and have been passionately riding bikes on dirt ever since. As an early mountain biking convert, and now the father of two boys, there is nothing I enjoy more than helping young riders catch the mountain bike bug.

Assistant Coach Philip Swett


I’m thrilled to be helping out the team this year as an assistant coach for the Drake MTB team. My son Logan joined the team as a freshman in the 2016 season and is now a Varsity rider for the team. Logan has helped get me out on the trails of Marin since he was 6 years old and we would go out and back on the Shoreline Trail at China Camp, and NOT make it all the way from Deer Park to 5 Corners. Times have certainly changed in that respect! The grit and determination that the kids on the Mountain Bike team display on the training rides and races is incredible and it’s endlessly inspiring to watch. I’m thankful for all the work that all the parents and volunteers put into making this organization work so well and I look forward to another great season for the Drake MTB team.

Assistant Coach Nicole Palkovsky


Nicole is a technical rider par excellence, and won her category at Downieville last year. Wanna shred? Come on a team ride with Nicole. She is from Canada, so she is also very nice.

Assistant Coach Ted Fehlhaber


Ted Fehlhaber got his first mountain bike so he could explore Marin in 1999 and has not stopped. Over the years, he has volunteered for Safe Routes to School, MCBC, Access for Bikes and Friends of Tamarancho. “The more young people we can get riding and enjoying the outdoors, the better. Its a great life skill, and fun too.”

Assistant Coach Shawn Nelson


Shawn Nelson has been a ride leader and Shwag guy now for 3 years and after countless rides has stepped up to be an assistant coach. He grew up in Marin and has been riding these trails for a lot of years. Shawn is slow but only because he’s fat and old. If you are looking for someone to ride next to who will make you feel better about your riding skills he’s the guy. Fortunately, his one story always seems fresh, and his purple bike makes him easy to spot when he has accidentally rolled down a hill during a water break. If you see him during a ride say Howdy and possibly help him back up to the trail if needed.

Assistant Coach Bill Melton


I bought my first mountain bike after I moved to San Francisco in 1990 for post-graduate education. I started off biking every dirt path I could find in Golden Gate Park and then eventually ventured across the bridge to explore Marin’s incredible terrain. Several years later I moved to New Mexico and my mountain biking world opened up wide as the Southwest became my playground. Eventually I found my way back to the Bay Area and have lived in Fairfax for the last 16 years and never tire of rolling on two wheels. I have coached youth soccer for 9 years and am continually impressed with the ability of youth sports to challenge kids in ways that promote self-esteem and resilience. Mountain bike racing and the Drake MTB team set the standard in this respect. The commitment of the riders, coaches and parents is truly impressive and something I am excited to be a part of. I really enjoyed riding with the team last year as a ride leader and look forward to serving as an assistant coach.

Assistant Coach Mitch Brown


Mitch Brown is in his twelfth year of teaching at Manor School in Fairfax. He has been an elementary school teacher for thirteen years, and is the proud father of a son and daughter. Prior to elementary teaching, Mitch was a collegiate coach and teacher, two-time NCAA All American runner, and a graduate student of kinesiology (emphasis in teaching and coaching), where he completed all of his MA coursework (ABT). He is a two-time inductee into Humboldt State’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He has been a lifelong road, mountain and BMX rider, and currently rides with Divine Electric, racing whenever he can. Mitch loves teaching kids and having fun playing Capture the Flag, Kingo, and other games. His earliest biking memory is of riding his yellow Schwinn Stingray up and down his street while singing the Happy Days theme song for hours on end. He is Wilderness First Aid & CPR Certified.

Assistant Coach Matt Willis


Matt Willis is a man of many talents… father, doctor, engaging riding companion, and man who used to race against Soviets on a bicycle during the Cold War years. Quick with a smile and encouragement, Matt is a very welcome addition to the Drake MTB coaching staff.

Ride Leader Charlie Simpson

charlie simpson

Charlie grew up in Colorado climbing 14,000’ peaks and rock climbing. His passion became alpine ski racing, which he did through college. Charlie has been mountain biking for about 20 years. His Drake coaching career started in 2013 and his primary goal is to have fun. He is also one of the team photographers on race day; so don’t forget to smile when you see him.

Ride Leader Karl Vavrek

karl vavrek

Karl takes his bike everywhere. But, all too often it just goes for a ride on the roof of his car (see pic). Nonetheless, he rides as much as he can and is excited to be a ride leader for DrakeMTB for the first time this season. He has some experience “Leading from Behind.” While living in San Francisco (before he and his family moved to their first home on Porteous near our Deer Park trailhead), he was the Group Rides Coordinator for the Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay for a couple years leading multi-club rides with Marin’s own WOMBATS. He loves trail work and he has raced, but only just to verify he was not meant to race competitively (and to say he went on a group ride with 299 other guys and finished before 150 of them… Ha!). But for an old guy, he does OK. He’s Max’s dad and does architecture when not on his bike (or under it… inside his car, Moby).

Team Mechanic Walden Reed


Discovering a love of bikes at 8 years of age by way of the Hilly Hundred Century, Walden has pursued his lifelong passion for bikes ever since. Walden started fixing bikes while on the Drake High School Mountain Bike Team, and has worked as a mechanic and bike builder for some of the best bicycle shops in the Bay Area. Walden also enjoys cloud watching and anything that goes fast.