USA Cycling with an emphasis on personal wellness

LENEXA Kelsey Erickson I had spent almost a decade working in the dirty world of international anti-doping when did you hear that Cycling USA I was looking for someone to build and manage a wellness program for cyclists of all levels.

She seized the opportunity. And the timing could not have been better.

After spending the last 10 months developing and implementing the program, Erickson has used it as a framework to help the United States. USA Cycling respond to the global coronavirus pandemic. She has already been in contact with all the national team runners, many of whom have suspended their Olympic dreams until next year. She has been providing support and guidance to everyone from recreational riders to race promoters and event planners.

There is a lot of mystery right now and a lot of anxiety and fear, she said, so I want to provide consistency and support.

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Erickson's road to Cycling USA began at Biola University, a small school in Southern California where she pursued a degree in psychology. But it was while earning master's and doctorate degrees in sports and exercise psychology at Leeds Beckett University in England that she plunged headlong into the erupting world of anti-doping .

She rose to become a senior research fellow, leading multiple global anti-doping research projects with funding from the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee and the International Athletics Foundation.

Her research focused not on doping itself, though, but rather whistle-blowing procedures and anti-doping education. She was interested in the psychology of drug cheats more than the substances they might be putting into their systems.

While doing that research, Erickson said, things were coming to light in the US. USA In gymnastics and other sports, and the importance of talking became a big problem. I was working on how emotional and scary it was. Talk about doping in sports, and kept saying again: I can't imagine how much more difficult it is to talk about sexual misconduct and things that are possible violations of oneself.

Even though Cycling USA has avoided the same sex abuse controversies that have embroiled USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming, new chief executive Rob DeMartini knew that no governing body is immune. So when he took on the job last year, one of his priorities was to establish a well-being program that empowered athletes to speak out.

The job offer went up. Erickson saw it. And the work soon began.

She contacted other governing bodies with a simple question: Would you like to talk about what you are facing? Six responded, including USA Weightlifting, which launched its own wellness program a year ago. Representatives now meet monthly to discuss best practices, new ideas, and their attempt to change sports culture.

With their input, Erickson began to build Cycling USA 's own wellness program. She established an online community where riders can discuss what is happening in their lives in anonymity. She has built a knowledge bank of resources that deal with everything from financial pressures to stress on the home front. She even helped convince Cycling USA 's board to provide free mental health services for anyone who has been affiliated with its national teams.

That was especially important to those who knew Kelly Catlin, the popular track and field rider who was part of the Rio 2016 silver medal winning search team Olympic Games . Catlin committed suicide in March 2019 after dealing with depression, possibly caused by a concussion that the Stanford student had suffered in a bicycle accident.

"We wanted people to know that they could talk to Cycling USA and they also could talk within the community and we would listen and take action," Erickson said. "We wanted to create a place where our entire community, whether it's a little kid just getting on a bike the first time or a two-time Olympic champion - it doesn't matter to us who they are or what their connection to the bike is - we care about them and have a space for them to be heard."

That dovetails nicely with Cycling USA 's push to be more than just a governing body for Olympic-caliber athletes, but also an organization that supports the recreational cycling community as well.

"We want to get out in the marketplace and not operate from our heels, and take our history and sweep it under the rug and hide from that," said Bouker Poole, the chief commercial officer for Cycling USA . "We're taking a proactive approach in identifying where we can be helpful within this lifestyle, whether it's athletes, service providers, promoters - how can we focus on them and provide a service or information to help engage with the sport?"

Lately, that has been in response to COVID-19, which has caused the cancellation of hundreds of races and recreational rides across the country. Cycling USA has felt the financial pinch of that lost revenue while riders in many places have been left to wonder when they can get back on their bikes again.

It is good not to be good. We are all in this together, Erickson said, and we are going to support each other in whatever way it seems. If you have ideas and wishes, share them with us. It is a constant process of growth, learning and knowledge.