Thursday, October 13, 2011

NOC River Leaders of the Month: 2011 Youth Paddling Team

For October we selected not one, but eight River Leaders of the Month. The 2011 NOC Youth Paddling Team members are recognized for their individual and team achievements, participation and development in paddlesports. So please help me give a big shout out and congrats to Zac Agnew, Wylder Cooper, Carter Davis, Bernie Engleman, Shelby Johnson, Julia Kendrick, David Perrin and, last but not least, Anne Marie Pilcher for becoming the first team recognized as NOC River Leaders.

The 2011 Youth Paddling Team

A Team in the Making

The NOC Youth Paddling Team, or "YPT" as the team members like to call it, was merely an idea back in 2009. NOC’s Paddling School Director Jon Clark had a goal: Start a program that will increase youth involvement in paddlesports while developing them to become the leaders, role models and ambassadors of the sport for generations to come. In October 2010, he achieved this goal and officially assembled the 2011 YPT. Jon spent many nights reviewing a stack of applications to select eight team members out of the dozens he received. Jon made his selection and the team was born.

A Year of Growth

The 2011 YPT consists of young, talented and motivated individuals. They arrived at the YPT season kickoff from all corners of the Southeast, ranging in age from 12-17 and all with differing skill levels on the water. Meeting at NOC, their first big adventure was to the Ocoee River in Tennessee. “The van ride there was very awkward,” says Jon. “But by the time they got to the third rapid on the Ocoee, they had quickly become best friends!”

Scouting a Rapid

The team continued the 2011 season with multiple river trips including a lot of firsts for some of the members on the Cheoah, Gauley and even a few made it to the Green Narrows. In addition to these fun weekend paddles, the team competed in multiple freestyle and citizen race events. Prior to these competitions the team joined together on multiple occasions for afternoon freestyle training sessions with Jon and NOC Instructor Andrew Koch. Their first competition as a team was in April at the NOC Shootout. It was high water on the Nanty that day, the hole was washed out and the air was frigid. Jon recalls team members “standing on the bridge shakin’ in their boots” that day. They continued to compete throughout the season at Hometown Throwdown’s on both the Nantahala and Nolichucky rivers.

Pre-Competition Coaching

Developing More than Paddlers

Jon’s vision was to develop the YPT to be more than excellent paddlers. He expected more out of them and provided opportunities to the team to become well-rounded and highly skilled leaders and role models for paddlesports. The team spent two weekends completing Swiftwater Rescue training and Wilderness First Aid certification. The intent of these programs was to further their skills and abilities developing a responsible and educated paddler. They also joined together for a weekend in Atlanta at the Outdoor Nation Summit as ambassadors of the sport. At Outdoor Nation they were awarded a $2500 grant to further a project they developed, participated in round-table decision-making and even led kayak demonstrations introducing the local community at Sweetwater Creek Park to the sport.
2011 YPT - Who We Are
Courtesy Wylder Cooper
The team has also done a great job representing themselves and the sport by creating team videos of their excursions (as seen above), documenting their experiences in blogs and being active members in their communities. So be on the lookout for these eight paddlers. They are a team of skill and determination. And don’t hesitate to say hello when you see them out paddling next season. They love what they are doing and want to get more youth involved in a sport that is changing their lives.

Do You Want to be a Part of the 2012 YPT?

The 2012 YPT team is now in the making. Due to the success of this year’s team, it is going to be even bigger in 2012. There will be two different tracks to accommodate more youth participants ranging from age 6-18 and all skill levels. The online application and details can be found here. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity. Apply now!

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