COLUMN: Life skills are built on courses like this

Thirty years ago my sons discovered the infant sport of bicycle motocross, or BMX. The Little bikes were the new sport for kids...

Thirty years ago, my sons discovered the ‘infant’ sport of bicycle motocross, or BMX. The light little bikes, thanks to strides in metallurgy, were the new sport for kids, allowing them to propel these units around a hill-filled course with speeds approaching those of motocross motorcycles (well at least the speed I would ride a dirt bike).

Then, as the boys grew older they transitioned to road racing bicycles, and eventually adopted the latest cycling fad – mountain biking.

And co-incidental with them moving on to other two-wheeled sports, BMX waned in popularity for some years. The motocross action was back to gas-powered, noisy and very fast motorcycles.

However, a number of years ago, BMX made a resurgence. It was somewhat less expensive for families to get their young kids into a sport, and a whole lot less dangerous.

Eventually, BMX was accepted – because so many other bicycling activities were already a part of it – as a Summer Olympic event.

In Abbotsford, a few far-thinking folks convinced city council to create a track at Exhibition Park, and for a few years the course attracted kids and competitors from across the Lower Mainland. They even progressed to provincial and national events.

Then, when the probability of BMX becoming an Olympic sport arose, the local group decided to go all out.

They built a new track, made it competitive, and eventually developed an Olympic-class rider, along with hundreds of other young aspiring racers.

Not only is Abbotsford’s BMX track an outstanding result of volunteerism, fundraising and community dedication, it is now a premier, world-class venue.

In fact, our BMX race course is one of only three such courses in North America, and is one of only 10 worldwide. It is that good, and this past weekend, it was the last stop on the BMX world-cup circuit with riders representing 14 nations.

It is a credit to our community, and an incredible expression of what a few dedicated people can accomplish, to not only entertain and develop the competitive spirit in children but teach them life skills and values through sport.

Lest you think this only an activity of kids, the elite riders on the world cup circuit are men and women ranging, this weekend, up to 42 years old. Like any significant competitive sport, it takes years of practice and competition.

It is the genesis of the activity that is important, because it leads kids into physical activity, teaches them to strive for success while accepting the realities of loss and defeat. The life skills learned in any sport develop respect, honour and fairness, while creating healthy bodies. These learned skills are life-long, and generate an appreciation that is passed on to their children.

I know the value of that in my own sons. Though they left BMX long ago, they still compete in many elite sports and activities – the recent Tough Mudder in Whistler, and last week’s Cultus Lake triathlon in which they placed among the best competitors, and finishing 10th and 13th in their age group.

Whether it’s swimming, running, mountain biking, skiing or whatever sport they participate in, they not only derive personal satisfaction, they lead by example to their children the benefits of healthy activity.

And they are not alone, for all those other young men and women who actively participate in sport actively participate in life, and they pass on such attributes and beliefs to their children.

Not all will be winners, however, they will become involved . . . and that is what will keep our community, and through it society, strong.

markrushton@abbynews.com