Park City mountain biking coach plans to retire at season’s end
Coach has had a front-row seat to sport’s growth
Laura Patten, coach of the Park City High School mountain biking team for five years, is ready to retire. At the end of the season she will pass over the reins to Chris Best, the team’s current assistant coach.
Standing in the pit area at Saturday’s race in Round Valley, Patten said the timing is right. Both of her kids have gone through the program, and now, she said, it’s time for her to step away as well. Over her time as coach she has seen numerous racers reach the elite level and compete in national and international competitions. She has also watched the team and sport grow from a small group of die-hards to a massive, statewide institution.
“I’ll miss it, but I’m excited to move on,” she said. “It’s been fun to see it grow. First race there were 352 kids only with both leagues, and now we’re two regions with three thousand kids total. It’s pretty amazing.”
She said coaching Park City’s riders has always been easier than her job would be in other places, considering the enthusiasm for the sport in Summit County, and the expansive network of trails at the team’s disposal.
But no matter how talented, racers always have room for improvement, and her favorite part has been watching the athletes progress through the program, pushing themselves more each year.
Fostering that growth can be a tricky thing for a coach.
“There’s a couple people that we can’t get to race, and that’s fine, but I think they would be fine if they did it,” she said. “How do you get those kids to take that next leap of faith?”
Her concern about inclusion and her love of the sport are what her racers see as her defining characteristics.
“She’s really encouraging,” senior Jenae Rasmussen said. “She works a lot with the little kids, making sure they all feel welcome and know how to take care of their bike, and get started working on their skills, making sure everyone has their place so they can get better.”
Senior Tommy Fendler said Patten has always been supportive regardless of how a racer finishes, plus her experience makes her a great source of knowledge.
“She’s really good at organization and she has a lot of background because her kids are really big racers, and she has experience going to big races like nationals,” Fendler said.
Fendler and Rasmussen both said their biggest takeaways from being on Patten’s team has to do with helping others reach their goals.
While Rasmussen attends The Winter School and her main athletic focus is on Nordic skiing, she said mountain biking has given her a new perspective on sports.
“It’s fun encouraging everyone,” she said. “I’ve had that with Nordic skiing too, but it’s different here because you get to watch everyone’s races and it’s not freezing cold … It’s fun; (I’m) learning a lot about being a teammate.”
Not only have Patten’s children both ridden at high levels, but she was a competitive mountain and road cyclist in her own right. She was a category two road cyclist (two categories below professional) and an expect mountain biker, which is the equivalent of category two in mountain biking.
Drawing on that experience, she said she was familiar with the technical aspects of coaching, calling training programs a “no brainer.” It was the administrative aspect she had to adjust to.
“My biggest thing is that I wasn’t able to get the committees that I needed,” she said, adding that issues like fundraising and race set up could be time consuming.
“You could easily put in an extra 10, 12 hours a week,” said Patten, who works full time for Chums, which makes eyewear retainers.
With two more races in the season, she said she is looking forward to finishing out the year and leaving the team in Chris Best’s hands, where she expects Park City’s team to keep growing for years to come.
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In South Summit’s 11 wins last year, the Wildcats outscored their opponents by 341 points total and averaged 45 points per game.