Toolbox: Silly Season Time!
The silly season they call it. This time of year we start getting hints and suggestions about who might be going where, what teams are folding, what teams are merging, and which of your favorite stars will be in what colors come 2011. What about you? Chances are if you are reading this you probably compete at some point, for something and maybe, just perhaps you are looking for the next step.
By Matt McNamara
Seems we’ve arrived at the proverbial ‘off season’ once again. While it may not hold the same contractual importance for amateurs as professionals, it does promise a welcome respite from structured training, travel, and endless conversations about cycling. It is also the time to solidify next year’s plans. If you are already on a great team, with talented friends & teammates, and great support then skip the three minutes below and get to your ‘recovery’ faster. If, on the other hand, you have had a great season and are looking for a better situation or you just feel the call of a new opportunity here is a short treatise on the process and options
First, get yourself in order. You want to get on a new team and pull some sponsors? Take yourself as seriously as you want them to take you. It won’t happen unless you are clear about who you are and what you bring to the table. Listing a set of results only starts the conversation. Any decent team is going to look to fill their roster with things they lack. Are you an ace sprinter, climbing prodigy, or stage race hero? Tell them. You’ll be doing yourself and the team a favor by knowing their strengths, how they match to your strengths and presenting the equation honestly.
Next in line with your personal ability is your personality. Teams function in close quarters all year long and many would argue that personality is the most important part. The stress of racing brings out the nuances of personality, so be sure you have a good handle on what pushes your buttons. Take the time to know the team as well. Do they have a super-star that everyone works for or are they a squad of punch-the-clock types who take a real workman’s approach. Stage race team or criterium specialists? Do you fit?
The Dream Team
What is it that you are looking for in this new and better situation? Different riders look for different things in a team, but most are looking for some combination of strong teammates, great equipment, a good schedule, and the holy grail of bike racing – enough money to make it work.
Those well funded, well run, successful programs are an inspiration. They are the teams bridging the gap between the local club team and true national programs. For most teams it is a trade off. It’s hard to have everything in one package so the match of elements becomes key. While teams like this may be more the exception than the rule, there’s nothing saying that you can’t strive to find, or create, a team that meets your dream goals. Maybe you enjoy racing with a small group of friends. Perhaps you are looking for a program that hits bigger races at the expense of free product. Only you know what matters most, and being clear about your goals, available time, and commitments will help you land on your own personal dream team.
Hopefully out of this mix you’ve got a couple of options, how do you choose? If you are a young rider, or have recently taken the upgrade to a new level, choose the team where you stand to learn the most. A free saddle is not nearly as important as learning the craft of racing from experienced riders.
In the end the process of choosing a new team is a mix of elements. Two separate entities try to come together and forge an alliance for an as yet undefined season to come. It’s exciting to be in the mix and to have options. It’s one of the reasons we race. In the run up to your own silly season, just be sure that you know who you are and what you bring to the equation just as much as what you would like to see from the team that covets you. Find a balance and be a great teammate.
About Matt McNamara: Matt is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach with over 20 years of racing, coaching and team management experience. In addition to coaching athletes from across the spectrum, he is also the director of a small cyclocross team based in Northern California. Matt is the founder and president of Sterling Sports Group. Learn more by visiting them online at www.sterlingwins.com.