My Story: Zach Taylor, Jackson County Coach

My name is Zach Taylor, a proud husband to Amanda Taylor, and dad to our twin daughters Cora and Madeline. I grew up in a small town outside Savannah, GA called Pooler (where it is cooler!) and was into hiking and being outdoors. I played golf in high school and was involved on various academic teams. I had a passion for history and my English teacher of all people said I would be a great educator. Growing up near the coast, mountain biking specific trails were virtually non-existent, so I was a late comer to the sport of mountain biking.

 

When college came around, I headed to Georgia College in Milledgeville and dived into my history major working at the Old Governor’s Mansion and doing tours for schools. On the weekends, I would go walk and hike around Bartram Forest. Later on my girlfriend now wife would join me. The Bartram race is always sentimental to us because some of the same trails we would hike and run on are used on the race course now! I worked for FUGE Camps in college and would take students in grades 3-8 backpacking/hiking during the week on various places throughout the country, so I loved being outdoors.

 

 

With my backpacking days behind me for now, mountain biking wasn’t really on my radar until a trip to the doctor and their encouragement to get healthier!  With our girls on the way, I needed something that could combine my love for outdoors. My doctor suggested I should take up cycling. After getting a bike, and learning a lot in the process, its one hobby that I have stayed with for the last six years and has helped me lose over 100 pounds in the process. I like the aspect of racing and the thrill of it, but I am more of an adventure rider who likes to take roads less traveled and check out the local culture of an area. One of my favorite places to check out and explore recently has been Lake Russell and Clemson Experimental Forest.

 

As a high school teacher, I came across the Georgia League riding at a local trail and seeing some students from a local high school’s jerseys. I spent a couple of months researching the league and when I pitched it to our administrators at Jackson County,  they were excited about the opportunity. That it would provide students who maybe are not into the traditional sports offered at our school. In our first year we had a great turnout and had over 20 riders sign up to be on the team and it was an amazing experience. As a coach, I look forward to race weekends when we get to be together with our team and Georgia League family.

 

 

Being a part of the GICL has been amazing because its what youth sports should look like across the nation. As a family, we enjoy the league philosophy.  My wife who is a special education teacher loves how the league is incredibly inclusive and makes all student-athletes regardless of ability feel welcome and important. Cora and Madeline who just started riding bikes want to learn the NICA skills now so they can join a team in 2024, and love cheering for all the riders. Additionally, my wife is wanting to ride bikes as well, and its all due to our relationship with the league seeing people from all backgrounds get involved.

 

Some of our team moms are now starting to do some “mom rides” while the kids practice to chat and plan fun events.  It has been important from the beginning to get our school leaders support and race weekends, we invite them to come out and support our team. The comments usually range from “I never knew mountain biking was this popular” to “It’s very cool to see everyone encourage each other from the first rider to the last one.” This alone is what keeps me motivated as a coach to know that we all might have different jerseys on, but we still cheer for everyone despite the difference. As a NICA coach, riding with the kids has kept me active throughout the season and has helped me develop some real tight bonds with our athletes and their parents. One of the best compliments I was ever given by a parent when they told me that mountain biking has helped their child manage their stress and anxiety levels at school and home.

 

 

If there is one thing I want others to know about our sport is regardless of your mountain bike  journey, the league and what it stands for helps foster positive relationships and develop young people through the sport. This sport teaches some lessons on perseverance and strength, and that challenge is what keeps our kids and coaches coming back. All the coaches and athletes I have met and interacted with want to bring out the best in everyone and themselves. My favorite response to parents when they ask when “tryouts” are or how many can be on a team is that everyone regardless of ability can “try it out” and I will take anyone who wants to better themselves and support others in a fun environment. It very cool to see not only our riders who are all in very different social circles at school come together and hang out outside of practice, but also make friendships with kids from other teams. I love this sport for what it has given to our community and our families and I am excited to be a part of it.