Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Women Involved Series: Angi Weston

Angi is certified through the International Mountain Bike Association’s Instructor Certification Program (IMBA-ICP), and has been teaching and coaching for over 10 years. She gets her kicks traveling around the country riding, competing in, and coaching many disciplines, including; downhill, enduro, dirt jumping, slopestyle, cross country, cyclocross, and coaster-brake klunkers. After growing up in the suburbs of Tacoma, WA, Angi moved to Bellingham, WA to attend Western Washington University.

It was during her time in college that she was bit by the mountain bike bug and started to really explore her backyard - the majestic Cascadia. Her zeal for cycling and being outside continued to grow, leading her to work at a local bike shop for a few years then eventually to a job with the Kona Bicycle Company. Her work as a regional sales rep for Kona and a certified mountain bike coach keep her living her dream of getting more people riding and loving bikes. In the off-season Angi can be found on her snowboard up at the Mt. Baker Ski Area in Washington and is currently working toward becoming an AASI certified snowboard instructor. Teaching is a great passion of hers and it shows in her enthusiastic and patient approach.

Angi on Facebook and Instagram

You work for Kona- tell us what it's like to be a woman working in the cycling industry-
Working for Kona is incredible. I feel so fortunate to be a part of a company that places such a high value on fun, autonomy, living your passion, and of course riding bikes! I work as a sales rep but also get to test ride products and give my feedback so I feel like I am treated fairly and that my hard work and enthusiasm is appreciated. It is pretty funny though when customers or consumers call Kona USA and get me on the phone and insist they need to talk to someone else to get their technical questions answered and I have to pry the question out of them. I guess some people still assume that a girl answering the phone at a bike company wouldn’t know how to answer their tech questions. Ha!  However, this is a pretty rare occurrence these days and after 10+ years working in the industry and about 15 years of being a mountain biker I can say that the cycling industry has come a long way in not only accepting women but appreciating their presence and welcoming them in as a part of the “club”.

Why should more women become involved in the industry (in general)?
Because women make the industry so much more pretty! Ha!
I think Mitchell Scott actually said it quite well in his article on Pinkbike Why No Y?  “I know that girls add a certain element of balance to any endeavor. They are smarter, cooler and much more grounded than dudes, especially the athletic ones. Not to mention, quite simply, they represent the other half of our species. We need them, in more ways than we know or are willing to acknowledge…Outdoor sports that are killing it right now have an equal balance of men and women: climbing, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking. Yes, rad dudes are cool. Truth is though, rad dudes shredding with rad chicks is way cooler.
The more female mentors that young girls have to look up to the better chance we have of keeping the momentum rolling and the closer we get to having a fuller more balanced industry.    

What inspired you to become a mountain bike coach?
I was inspired to become a coach after being invited to teach at the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic  ages ago. I had been dabbling in teaching bike skills for a few years already but getting to work with and ride with other female coaches who had far more experience than me made me thirsty to get better as a teacher and rider. Then that winter I was invited to coach at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park Women’s Weekend and was even more blown away by the level of riding and teaching my fellow coaches demonstrated. 

The following Spring I got the opportunity to get certified as a coach by Shaums March along with some of my mentors; Gale Dahlager, Tammy Donahugh, Kat Sweet, and Lisa Tharp. Once certified I was noticeably more effective as a teacher and the momentum started rolling faster and faster. My coaching was having a real effect on women getting into the sport by making them feel safer and more confident on their bikes. I can now say with pride that I have the ability to inspire women to join in on the mountain biking lifestyle, push themselves out of their comfort zones, and realize their true potential on and off the bike. I have the utmost fun doing it all too!

What was your most challenging experience becoming a certified mtb coach?
Well it is a pretty steep learning curve, that’s for sure! Early on I was most challenged by my own riding abilities. I thought I was pretty fast because, for the most part, I could keep up with the boys I rode with and won some Expert level downhill races but little did I know that my technique was lacking some pretty essential basics. Once I started building my technique from the ground up my understanding of movement dynamics, logical progressions, and concise explanations grew and I think ultimately it makes me connect to my students that much better. Basically, I’ve been there, done that, and now I think I have a pretty good eye for spotting problem areas in peoples riding technique and I have developed some great ways to make successful progress.

Why is being a mountain bike coach so important to you?
Being a mountain bike coach is so important to me because I have experienced such significant personal growth centered around riding and coaching that I just have to share it with anyone willing to listen or try. When you finally build your skill and confidence to hit the drop you’ve been eyeing up or that jump that all your friends hit or to clear that root and rock garden that used to seem so impossible – everything in life becomes more possible. For example; that big presentation you have on Monday or that nerve-racking meeting you have with your boss – seem like no big deal compared to that huge hurdle you just overcame on your mountain bike over the weekend. Mountain biking teaches you to face your fears, practice, be patient, find balance, persevere, anticipate, and realize your infinite potential. It is especially important for me to coach women because I feel like a lot of women get lost trying to find where they fit in this world which can lead them to be overly self-conscious, catty, and self-destructive. When you show women that this cycling lifestyle exists they just might let their guard down, set their ego aside, and ease up on the expectation they hold to be perfect. When you feel as though you belong and that you have found your “tribe” you are free to just be your true beautiful self and fully thrive in life.

Tell us about a coaching moment that had a big impact on you-
Ah! There have been so many moments in my coaching career that have had HUGE impacts on me, it is hard to pick just one! But here is a story that is similar to so many significant moments in my teaching that I think it makes a great example. I was coaching a group of women on their home trails in Hood River, OR and after the morning session of skill building and tons of practicing drills it was time to hit the trail. 

One of the women in the group shared with me that she had a crippling fear of steep switchback turns, in particular some of the corners on the trail we were heading out to ride. I reassured her that she had the skill now to be successful and that I would be right there with her to lend some guidance. After we made our way to the top it was time to start making our way down the trail. On this occasion I started at the front of the group and slowly worked my way back through the train of ladies in my class, giving each one specific feedback as she rode. Once I made my way to the back of the pack we were towards the end of the trail and here I was with this fearful woman on the part of the trail that scared her most – perfect timing. She rolled up to the first switchback and before even committing to the turn she came to a complete stop, hopped off her bike, and started walking down the trail.  Ah-ah-ah! I called to her and asked her to come back up the trail to where I was…. I asked her how she felt (I knew she was terrified but it helps to have people put their fear into words and really dissect what it is that is scaring them) and I just listened.  

When she was finished telling me about all the ways she could possibly fail I had her regurgitate the skill progression we had worked on that specifically enabled her to be able to succeed at making that switchback turn. I reminded her of all the successful attempts she had made during our morning session and reassured her that if she performed those skills the same way as she had earlier that day, that she would find success. I then showed her exactly what it took to make that switchback turn by giving her a demo then asking her if she had any questions. She didn’t. So I became her personal cheerleader. By this point the other girls in the class had formed a little cheering squad of their own just a few switchbacks below and together we shouted genuine encouragements. 

You could tell everyone wanted her to succeed and just like that – we were all in this together. With determination on her face she climbed back on her bike and slowly rolled into the switchback, our cheers got even louder. Then she stopped, put her foot down and almost started to cry. I told her it was okay if she didn’t want to do this today but remaindered her that I knew she could and told her that I wouldn’t have been standing there talking her into it if I thought she couldn’t do it. She hopped off her bike, pushed back up to get a good run-in and started all over again. The cheering returned to a full roar. As she rolled down the trail I could see her determination was real this time. She carefully committed her front wheel to roll through the turn and found the perfect blend of momentum and speed control. Her eyes were looking forward and she was in that essential aggressive riding position. She stayed committed all the way through the turn and cleared it beautifully. 

Once she was safely through the turn she stopped, put her foot down, threw her arms into the air and shouted, “MY SON IS GOING TO BE SO PROUD OF ME WHEN HE SEES THAT I CAN RIDE THAT NOW!!”
All of us cheered wildly for her! I mean, there were hugs, high fives, tears, the whole bit.  She later told me that pushing through that fear and realizing her potential that day on the trail changed her life forever.
And that is just one small example of the coaching moments that have impacted me.

Why should women (of any experience) check out a ride clinic? Why are they beneficial?
See the above story. Seriously, though – ride clinics are beneficial because there is only so much that you can read in a book or watch in a YouTube video. Nothing can replace one-on-one feedback specific to you and your riding. Before you just “let go of the brakes and pull up”, praying for luck and success, you should consider the fundamental elements and skill required to perform your next progression. An experienced and well trained coach can be the set of eyes you need to really understand specifically what you can do to hone your skill and technique.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
It can be so intimidating! Most of us didn’t grow-up tossing our bikes and bodies off of curbs and homemade ramps in the front yard. A lot of women get into mountain biking later in life when they realize they are totally missing out on all the fun. However, a desire to have fun isn’t always all that is needed. Sometimes women need mentors to look up to, coaches to encourage them, and friends to motivate them to get out there and ride.  

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Well if you know me well you might not think this is random but most people are surprised when they find out that I am ordained and therefore can solemnize marriages. I’ve had the honor of marrying three different couples and it is something very special to me. 
Another random tidbit about me is that I have a pet box turtle, Keoke, that I got 19 years ago. He’s actually super cute and makes a great (read; low maintenance) pet. Perfect for someone who travels as much as I do!

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