Stimulation of cycling for young people in a time when community sport is struggling
Since 2020, Team Jumbo-Visma Academy has been organising Open Trainings to introduce young people to cycling. Not only to recruit more youth members for cycling clubs, but also to keep the youth fit and to stimulate the cycling sport. This is certainly not unimportant in a time when grassroots sport is having a hard time.
The Open Trainings are aimed at young people between the ages of thirteen and eighteen and are organised in cooperation with local cycling associations. The cooperation with regional cycling associations gives the Academy more clout in its activities to get more young people on their bikes. The philosophy behind this: the more young people that move on to cycling clubs, the greater the chance that talents will find their way to the top of Dutch cycling. The pond to fish from has to grow. In this way, Team Jumbo-Visma wants to connect recreational sport with top sport.
Last year training sessions were again organised at various locations, in compliance with the applicable coronation rules. “The number of participants and locations where the training sessions are given have already tripled in comparison to the first series”, says Head of Community at Team Jumbo-Visma Academy Jaap van Hulten. “In other words: if you organise three times as many training sessions, you also get three times as many new members. This is only part two of the pilot, but of course that’s great. It shows that phase one was not a fluke.”
"Because of the pandemic, many more people have started cycling, but the clubs are not growing in membership numbers. We should realise that there are actually huge opportunities here."
That is not the only positive conclusion Van Hulten draws from the latest series of training sessions. “I see that clubs are starting to think about reorganising their offer. Clubs that we work with are starting to realise that you need to increase the accessibility and think more from the potential member’s perspective than from the club’s perspective. For example, the idea that you can practise three times and then you have to decide whether you want to become a member somewhere. What is the added value of that? If someone wants to practice four or eight times and only then become a member, you are better off, aren’t you? A number of clubs already do that, and across the board I see that things are going better now. We are now also reaching a target group that knows nothing about our team or cycling and that is very nice.”
The Open Trainings are for both boys and girls and the participants are enthusiastic about the concept. “I found it very fun and educational, because I had actually never cycled on a bike before”, says Kim van den Boom, participant of the Open Training in Hoensbroek. “I received an e-mail from my school telling me I could take part in a cycling training course. I wanted to start cycling when I was younger, but I never got to it. This seemed like a good opportunity to try the sport. During the first time, for example, I learned that I had to raise my knee in the corners, so that I could go through a corner faster. I also learned new things in the following training sessions. I have now taken part in five Open Training sessions and you make a step forward every time. I now have my own bike and am a member of the local club. This year I want to train well so that I can take part in a real race. That is my goal.”
According to Van Hulten, there is a paradoxical situation going on within cycling, partly as a result of the corona crisis. “Because of the pandemic, many more people have started cycling, but the clubs are not growing in membership numbers. That is a very strange situation. At the same time as the football fields are filling up, football clubs would also be gaining more members. This is not yet the case in cycling. When people think about starting cycling, they first go and buy a bike, but don’t immediately become a member of a cycling club. I think that as a cycling club, you should realise that there are actually huge opportunities here. All those people on bikes are potential club members, aren’t they?”
After a successful second series, Team Jumbo-Visma Academy plans to continue scaling up the training sessions. “We are still running in a relatively small setting with six locations, which still bring in quite a few new club members. We have decided that from now on we will continuously organise a series in the spring and autumn. There will probably be three or four more locations. That is a very nice development within this concept.”