Youth Development Squad Review 2016

Words: Ben F

Pix: Leah Robinson

The future of motorcycle trials is looking bright as youngsters and coaches prepare for a sxith year of building for success in the sport.

The ACU Western Youth Development Squad is set to stage six coaching sessions in 2017 as it did last year, including a weekend of coaching and a trial. YDS officer Simon Welch, who is a professional teacher and ACU Western Trials champion set up the squad for the start of 2012 to try and address falling numbers of younger riders coming through.

In 2016, some 18 youngsters from inside the centre which is based around Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire enjoyed free-of-charge coaching and 19 from outside the centre paid a nominal fee to take part too. Every session was at or near the maximum number of participants, with riders aged from four to 21 learning on bikes from small electric models to adult-sized machines.

"We have had the best year yet thanks to the backing of the ACU Western, our coaches and guest coaches, generous sponsors, and supportive landowners," said Simon. Competitive trials are seeing the benefit, with for example one third of the entry at West Glos & Dean Forest MCC ACU Western championship round being youth riders.

"Some of those riders were from outside the centre, which shows we're getting a name for youth-friendly trials," said Simon. And more and more clubs putting on conducted routes for younger children, many of them on electric-powered machines.

"Some clubs such as Zona one had conducted routes before the YDS was formed, its now pleasing to see many more trials have them, so parents and younger riders can have a full calender of events throughout the year," Simon added.

The squad has been represented at international and national level this year by Tom Culliford and Victoria Payne and took a clean sweep of Western Youth Championships in the A, B, C, D and E classes by Hugh Benson, Harry Jefferies, Fin Kettle, Freddie Bishop and Harry Bishop. The Squad is about more than just riding and squad members are encouraged to also support the running of events, with many helping local clubs mark out courses.

The final session of the year took place just before Christmas courtesy of Breakheart Quarry Community Project near Dursley, followed by a presentation of awards to squad members and winners of the ACU Western Trials Championship.

Former ACU Western trials champion Rick Ferrier of BVM Moto was on hand to see how the trials shop's sponsorship money was being spent, and business partner John Luff handed out goodie bags from the shop to squad award winners and members afterwards.

Guest coaches and helpers included British number eight and now Vertgo-supported rider Toby Martyn and his dad Tim, and European championship runner and current squad member Tom Culliford, who joined coaches Ben Bishop, James Welch and Simon on the day.

Interested helpers included ACU Wessex front runner Lee Hassall - every participant's confidence and skills were boosted by the help they received on the day. And Georgina Mason gave the older riders a bite size introduction to sports psychology and how to apply it in trials. Big thanks go to sponsors: BVM Moto, Kettle Civils, Mark Pitts, JC Printing, RD Benson Haulage Ltd, and Bob Waldron.

[on 2Feb17]