Today was the Annual General Meeting for ATBA-UK, the national governing body for mountainboarding in the UK.
After 8 years on the management team, I, along with everyone else on the team resigned. I’ve had an amazing time, and learned so much about running an organisation staffed entirely by remote volunteers. We put on lots of mountainboard competitions, trained lots of new instructors, and tried all kinds of things to get people into mountainboarding and riding more. I’ll miss all of those things, miss the amazing places I visited, but most of all I’ll miss all the awesome people I met.
What does the future hold for ATBA-UK? We want to do everything we can to ensure that ATBA-UK can continue to work on its mission of supporting the growth of mountainboarding in the UK so we’re looking to appoint new directors who will take control of ATBA-UK, and to set up a licensing business model whereby licences can be granted use the intellectual property of the ATBA-UK. This means that other organisations and individuals can apply to the ATBA-UK to run competitions, deliver instructor training, or anything that the directors deem to be achieving the aim of the ATBA-UK. This new business model means that the ATBA-UK can continue without the need for management team and decentralises the ATBA-UK’s resources to the community. It puts the future of mountainboarding in the hands of the community.
Today was the ATBA-UK’s first event practice day. In previous years we ran six events a year and so we kept our event management skills sharp, but now that we only have one competition a year we get rusty and we only have one chance to get it right. So we decided that we would practice.
It was the first time that we had the whole team together and spent time talking through how we manage safety during the competitions, the process for registering riders to compete (which is now paperless and much faster), how BoarderX qualification and knockout rounds will be run, how we time runs in the Downhill competitions, and how Freestyle judging works.
It really helped us all learn a bit more about what each other does, which reduces single points of failure, and just as importantly it helped us all feel like a team.
It was a beautiful sunny morning. As I drove into Worcestershire the Malvern Hills brought back all kinds of memories from my years in this part of the world. And as I drove down the A4103 I almost turned right to go to Out To Grass.
At Hereford Board and Bike Park, with no digger coming this weekend as planned, the five of us went up the hill and after a bit of time spent clarifying the plan, we got to work digging by hand.
Digging gives you a lot of time to think. And at a mountainboard centre my thoughts were about the current state of mountainboarding and whether we are flogging a very lame and unhealthy horse.
One of the consequences of fewer riders in recent years has been reducing the number of competitions the ATBA-UK holds. This in turn had a knock on effect on the amount of money the ATBA-UK makes through entry fees and membership. This income had to be supplemented somehow and the most likely to be successful way was through instructor training. So, the ATBA-UK changed it’s model for delivering Instructor Training and rather than external training providers offering training it was all provided by the ATBA-UK. This worked and we made enough money last year and this year to cover the business overhead costs and continue to trade. But of course it had a not-unexpected consequences.
Some of the training providers felt that the ATBA-UK was taking away income from them and despite explaining the reasons behind this change they wanted to take it back. One of the ideas they talked about was setting up an alternative organisation to deliver instructor training. The thing is, the ATBA-UK is a community asset, it belongs to the mountainboard community. It isn’t ours, we are just looking after it for the community. It makes me laugh (and wonder if the issue is that the current committee haven’t communicated this to the community) when I hear about mountainboarders talking about setting up another governing organisation in competition with the ATBA-UK. If they want an organisation to provide validity and authority to whatever they want to do they could just have the ATBA-UK. They don’t need to set up in competition, they can just have it. I don’t think there is a single member of the current committee that wouldn’t happily hand it over and walk away, and I would certainly spend a lot less time and money driving around the country teaching people to be mountainboard instructors.
In some ways, the ATBA-UK committee, the team that does the work of the ATBA-UK (instructor training, organising events, marketing, accounts, etc.) is a microcosm of the mountainboarding community and is suffering from the same problems; not enough people doing enough work. I’m as guilty as anyone on this point. My focus is the Instructor Training but I’m behind on finishing the new training manual. Other things in life get in the way and mountainboarding becomes less and less of a focus.
So that’s the horse. Not enough people doing enough work to encourage more people to go mountainboarding to get even more people into it, and some conflict, and some other things in life. At some point we’re going to have to face the fact that it just isn’t worth carrying on with (in it’s current guise, anyway).