Coach Q & A – Athens Area MTB Team

Thanks to Coach Rusty Wallace for giving us the inside information on the Athens Area MTB Team.

Georgia League: Can you give us some general stats on the team – area, # of students, make-up of the team (i.e. schools, # of boys # of girls, # of MS and HS, where do you practice?
Coach Rusty: Our team is in the Athens area, and presently has 15 male student athletes. We have student athletes from a few schools and home schooling as well. We practice at a variety of venues, including Trail Creek Park.

Georgia League: How did your team get started?
Coach Rusty:Our team got started when several of us local mountain bikers became excited about the Georgia League. We were rallied by Jim Materne, and we started the team in 2015. Myself, Coach Don Newman, Coach Brian Molloy, and Coach Jason Hubbard have been with the team from day one.

Georgia League: What are your goals for the 2018 season?
Coach Rusty: Our goals for the 2018 season are to facilitate quality development of our student athletes through mentorship, leading by example, professional skills instruction, expert fitness instruction, nutrition and healthy habits coaching (we have enjoyed Skratch Labs as a sponsor for three seasons now), and development of strong minds, character, and bodies that are integral to a healthy competitive mindset of doing your best.

Georgia League: What is your Coaching Philosophy?
Coach Rusty: My personal Coaching Philosophy, as Head Coach, and an elite amateur racer myself, is to develop our student athletes and empower my Coaches in every facet – mind, body, and character. We instill to “do your best” even when the situation isn’t ideal or smooth. I have cultivated a team culture of the highest standards in skills instruction (I’m a certified PMBIA Instructor), fitness progression (25+ years of study and practice in fitness and strength work), quality and healthy nutrition practice and habits emphasizing real food (I love to cook!), and an investment and alignment with the values NICA purports – Strong Mind, Body, & Character. I Coach and race with the primary goal of doing my best, and our Coaches all lead by example, as best we can, in life and on the bike. We all value immensely the ancillary and direct benefits that time on the bike, and in the woods – seeing what you’re made of – affords. We practice and discuss this often, and it’s a gift to witness each other’s growth experiences.
Georgia League: Are there any compelling stories of student-athletes or coaches on your team?
Coach Rusty: One compelling story from our team is that of our now Senior student athlete Kalib Hubbard. Kalib has been on the team since 2015, and has been a great example to his fellow teammates. In his first Championship race at UNG in 2015, he had a mechanical after he entered the woods on lap 1. He proceeded to run his bike the remainder of the lap to Neutral Support, knowing full well he was now dead last. He got his bike fixed, and finished his race, and was cheered on when he came through the finish. Talk about doing your best when things don’t go your way, and pushing through anyways…

Georgia League: What’s the most important detail you want to communicate to the public about your team – i.e. accomplishments, major changes, challenges, needs, awareness to recruit more athletes, etc.
Coach Rusty: The most important thing I’d like to communicate about our team is that we enjoy a small coach to student-athlete ratio. This asset allows us to mentor, instruct, and model all of the valuable aspects of our team culture with intent, focus, and the highest quality. With the explosive growth of the League, which is fantastic, I’m even more invested in mentoring in the best way possible to ensure our student athletes learn so much more than just enough to complete a race safely. We’re about the whole person development, and that takes a personal, real approach to maintain the level of quality and instill the values we believe in. We mentor for the long haul.

Rusty Wallace has loved bicycles since he was a toddler, and grew up riding trails on his BMX bike in the woods of western Kentucky. He got his first mountain bike when he was 18, and has loved the challenge and rewards that mountain biking offers ever since. Rusty moved to Georgia in 1997 to attend UGA, where he received his MFA in Studio Art. He is an accomplished visual artist, working primarily in drawing and sculpture. Recently, the High Museum of Art purchased his work for their Permanent Collection. When he’s not thinking about or working on art, he works in design, furniture, and carpentry.

Ever since he was a teenager, Rusty wanted to race and see what he could do. Six years ago, he jumped right into Cat 1 Cross Country racing, and has worked hard in the quest to reach his potential. Rusty has several category podium and top 10 overall finishes in Cross Country and Endurance races on singlespeed and geared bikes. Most notably, he has won the 34-mile Snake Creek Gap Mountain Time Trial Singlespeed category, and won the Chainbuster Southeastern Endurance Cup 3 Hr Singlespeed category the last two years in a row. He’s one race win away from being the 3Hr Singlespeed Champion three years in a row. In April 2017, he raced in the 5-day Pisgah Stage Race and finished 9th overall of 41 in his category. When not racing, he loves to go on epic rides in the Pisgah National Forest. Most recently, he finished 3rd in Open Singlespeed 55-mile at the 2018 Fool’s Gold race in Dahlonega, and was 32nd of 191 overall. Rusty races on and manages Athens Mountain Racing.

Rusty is a NICA Level 3 Head Coach of the Athens Area Mountain Bike Team, and a certified Professional Mountain Bike Instructor. He loves sharing, mentoring, empowering and coaching youth, and seeing whole families’ lives positively changed through being involved with NICA. Rusty’s values are directly in line with those of NICA, and he considers it a gift to have a role in and witness youth develop Strong Character, Mind and Body.

This past July Rusty, as Camp Director, launched the inaugural GA Rider Development Camp with the Georgia League. He designed and ran the Camp, with the help of Chris Spencer from NICA, Lisa Hayes, and League Director Kenny Griffin, and it was a huge success. He looks forward to more Camps in 2019.