By Ambassador Kyleigh Stewart
Mentor – an experienced and trusted adviser.
They are an important part of our lives in many aspects and whether it is a formal or informal arrangement, most of us can think back to a time in our lives where we worked with a mentor in one way or another. These mentors help us grow as individuals to reach our potential and break down the barriers that lay in front of us.
A quick journey back in time takes me back to when I started mountain biking and all of the good and bad I experienced. Although I managed to get by as a 12-year-old girl racing the same tracks as the elite men and women in Canada, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it was not always the most inviting and fun activity. Often the only girl in my age category, there was often a lack of camaraderie at the time for young girls in the sport and a feeling of isolation at events.
A little throwback to a tiny,12-year-old Kyleigh at the BC Cup DH Final.
Skip ahead a few years and everything changes.
There were more and more girls getting into the racing and riding year after year, the competition was getting tight and the community was flourishing. Right around now was when a non-profit called Ride Like a Girl (RLG) got into the Canadian mountain bike scene. The organization worked to pair young female riders with professional female riders. Their goal is to build valuable relationships, provide guidance and support for young riders, and of course have fun riding bikes.
I was lucky enough to get paired with professional riders Katie Holden and Trish Bromley during my time with Ride Like a Girl and that time continues to have a lasting impact on me. These connections have brought me friendships, sponsorships, and most notable, the confidence to believe in myself as a rider and person. Even as I get older, I still consider these women heroes for what they have done for me and the sport, before, during, and after our official mentor-mentee relationship was over.
For me, mentorship has absolutely changed the course of my life and it makes me incredibly excited to know that with the ongoing operation of the RLG program that more and more girls have the opportunity to also experience it. I feel pretty honoured to say the least, that now I get to step into the mentor role and do what I can to support the next generation of beyond talented girls.
Here’s to working together to support the next generation and to creating a diverse and supportive mountain bike culture where everyone feels at home!