Corner Canyon mountain biking coach receives national award
Jun 04, 2019 02:39PM
By Catherine Garrett
Corner Canyon High mountain biking coach Whitney Pogue (center) stands with three other coaching award winners and NBC’s Mike Tirico at the organization’s 18th annual National Youth Sports Awards Dinner and Benefit at Santa Clara, California.
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
Corner Canyon High mountain biking coach Whitney Pogue has led the nation’s largest mountain biking club to three state championships in its seven years of existence. But that’s not why she was recently honored with a national Double-Goal Coach from the nonprofit Positive Coaching Alliance organization that preaches a philosophy of “Better Athletes, Better People.”
“Coach Pogue, or ‘Ginger Mama’ as her athletes lovingly refer to her, helps athletes win in and out of sports,” said Tina Syer, PCA president. “By creating a positive character-building youth sports experience and serving as a Double-Goal Coach, she helps youth develop into better athletes and better people. She makes everyone feel welcome with her magnetic personality and accepting nature.”
Jennie Wulbrun, PCA’s program and events administrator, personally reviews each application and said she was initially struck by the nominations for Pogue. “I could just feel that she cares so deeply for each of her kids and she has such inclusivity within her program,” Wulbrun said. “Despite the large numbers she handles on her team, every child feels that they know her and that she cares about them.”
“This gives greater visibility to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association and the sport of mountain bike racing as an alternative to more common sports,” Pogue said. “I love the mission of the PCA, which is so closely aligned with what we do within the NICA and within our program. We seek to nurture strong minds, body and character through inclusive and equal programs. Everyone can participate who wants to and we honor each rider and provide them the same/equal opportunities as the next rider. We work very hard to make these kids great athletes and even better, great people through sport. We teach our kids valuable lessons through sport, but we also show them compassion and treat them with respect and we help them grow as people through their experiences.”
The PCA honored 49 other coaches around the country at the organization’s 18th annual National Youth Sports Awards Dinner and Benefit at Santa Clara, California. Each recipient received a $200 certificate along with recognition in PCA’s publications and website. Pogue was additionally chosen as one of four coaches from the award winners who received an all-expenses-paid trip to the event along with an opportunity to represent the other award winners in a panel discussion at the event that was emceed by NBC’s Mike Tirico.
“Whitney was initially very nervous because she said she doesn’t like to be in front of people or have the attention on her. But, she killed it and everybody loved her,” Wulbrun said. (To view the panel discussion, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=sgUbAAnHPVQ).
This year’s award marked the first time a mountain biking coach has been recognized by the organization; a rock climbing coach was also one of the recipients.
“We were looking for a story that really hit home and Whitney’s example just highlights what having a positive coach can do to an event, and the sheer multitude of people to even put on a competition for their sport simply is a monumental effort,” Wulbrun said.
One athlete’s nomination for Pogue said, “She is so much more than a coach.” A parent noted, “She has created a safe, inclusive environment for even the non-competitive riders.” Another parent shared, “With Whitney’s encouragement, our son joined the team and has found a place to make new friends, to feel important and to boost his self-confidence.” Wulbrun said she was particularly touched by what the CCHS program has done for an autistic member of the team. “This program made him feel a part of something where Whitney found value in what he brought,” Wulbrun said.
“There are many stories of kids who have been forever changed by their participation with the team,” Syer said. “Riders have dealt with mental health issues, drug usage, feeling left out and even death due to suicide and an auto accident. Pogue uses these challenges, much like the challenges on the mountain bike course, to teach life lessons about getting through difficult situations, working hard to accomplish goals, being accountable to teammates and coaches, and to be inclusive of everyone.”
Pogue said she was so inspired to be in attendance at the event among other coaches and award winners. “We all share the same goal of building better people through sports. It was awesome,” Pogue said. “This award is such an honor as we enter our eighth year of the league and coaching. It is representative of everything we strive so hard to provide every kid who comes through our program — No Tryouts! No Bench! Everybody Rides! Everybody Races!” she said. “We genuinely don’t do this for accolades or awards, but for the betterment of the kids, their community and to provide them an amazing experience that can help shape their high school experience in positive ways.”
In order to manage the large Corner Canyon team, Pogue noted the “most incredible community of volunteers” who contribute to the positive culture of the program to make the experience everything it can be for each of her 200 riders.
“These are some of the hardest-working kids and volunteers ever,” Pogue said. “We pride ourselves on our family feel and the balance we strike between hard work and fun while holding these kids accountable and making them work hard. I have always been so grateful for those who have been mentors and trusted adults in my kids’ lives, and I am grateful that I get to be that person for some of these kids.”
For more information on the hundreds of free multimedia resources Positive Coaching Alliance offers and to learn more about the mission of the organization that strives to create a positive sports culture among youth, visit www.PCADevZone.org.