Goals. Runs. Points. Time. These scores are how people determine how successful they are at a sport. Competition drives athletes, but does it have to? What would happen if an athlete played a sport purely for enjoyment?
Seniors Nathan Horst, Anders Bjork, Aaron Jeffries, junior Conor Stoneman, and sophomore Ella Phillips race on the Oakland Composite mountain biking team. This team is composed of students from schools throughout the Bay Area and participates in races during the spring season.
Oakland Composite competes in the Norcal High School Cycling League and takes part in five races a year, followed by state championships for those who qualify, Horst said.
“It’s an individual sport, so you score points for yourself and are racing for your best time,” Bjork said. “There is also a team score, but it’s nice that it is mostly personal. You do the best you can and see where that puts you.”
While the goal is get down the hill as fast as possible, competition isn’t the primary focus of the sport for some of the racers, Phillips said.
“The culture [of the team] is very positive because we are all very excited to be doing the sport for the sake of having fun,” Bjork said. “We have more fun because we are doing something we love as opposed to something our parents want us to do.”
Mountain biking is also an opportunity for students to participate in sports without the pressure of competition, Horst said.
“There are no cuts and no bench, so everyone is out there participating,” Bjork said. “We are pushed to do our best but there is no negativity if you get a poor time.”
There are other benefits to mountain biking besides the positive culture of the team, Horst said.
“Everybody is just super nice and supportive,” Phillips said. “Even during races if you fall, people from other teams will ask to make sure you’re alright.”
The nature aspect of the sport is another thing that makes mountain biking unique from other, more common sports, Phillips said.
“You just get out there in nature much more than other sports,” Horst said. “It is something you can do for the rest of your life.”