Recap: 2011 NBL Competition Congress

February 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 

2011 NBL Competition Congress Recap

By Carley Young

The NBL Competition Congress is an annual meeting where NBL Board of Directors, Track Directors, Officials, Exhibitors, Sponsors and Visitors all come together to discuss the new year of events and to buff up their skills for running a successful program. This year, over 250 delegates came to Columbus, OH this past weekend, eager to learn about the NBL’S 2011 plans, and revisit some of 2010′s triumphs.  

NBL CEO Gary Aragon was attending his second Congress, and obviously made some major changes between last year’s Congress and this one. In the first year as the CEO, he spent a lot of time “Putting out fires,” and retooling how the NBL fundamentally serves its members.

Though it has been widely reported and discussed, the staff spent some time explaining the “All You Can Ride” membership format, which was the biggest change to come out of Gary’s office in 2010. As a brief recap, the NBL now has three membership levels (Local, Challenger and Championship), with annual price points at $99, $245 and $395, respectively. Your membership allows you to race an unlimited number of events at the level you have purchased–or below, in as many classes as you wish (20″, Cruiser and Open, if you prefer). More info at:

The new membership format has re-energized the numbers at the first three nationals of the year, where rider participation has shot up, and there seems to be a run on cruisers. Gary said that his 2011 goal is to continue to create positive change and growth in the sport we all love. He really assured everyone there is more to good stuff come.

For those that were not able to make it, I have put together a re-cap of some of the weekend’s events:


This year’s Congress offered 22 informational sessions for attendees: Two Clerking classes, Local officials trainings and certification, State – Regional – National officials training and certification, CPR training and certification, First Aid information, Announcing, Event organizing and promotions, “Music and race experiences,” Health, fitness and nutrition, Marketing your local program, Legal Aspects of your Local Track, Risk Management, Three levels of Track Building, Customer Service, Two Local Program classes, and a “Managing a Successful Track Business” session.

Several times, we were coached to “think of our tracks as a business,” and how this changes several dynamics in the process of running the track. The NBL has created some ways to cut costs for tracks, making it easier for them to make money (one of the most obvious being the new format, which eliminates all sanction and insurance fees from the Track Director’s “expenses” list). These funds can then be put back into the program, and be used for advertising and local-outreach marketing.

Erma Miller led a clerking class to teach the Clerk-of-Course at attending tracks how to use the new software. An IT consultant was on hand, and went around the room with a flash drive, installing the software onto attendees’ computers, and helping troubleshoot any problems. Erma then explained the forms and paperwork necessary to run a track efficiently and successfully under the new NBL format.

Officials Training was taught by Don Wagner and John Pingol. Two classes were offered—- one for local-level referees and one for state, regional and national referees. After the classes, Certification testing was administered, via a thirty- question test with 10 essay questions. It was an open book test but the questions varied from scoring, to on-track issues, and equipment verification. This was very helpful because it encouraged those taking the test read the new 2011 rule book for the first time. After the test, the instructors went over the answers as a group, answering any post-test questions in the room. Test results, and license cards for newly-certified officials will be sent out by mail in the coming weeks.

Johan Lindstrom was on hand at Congress, having recently moved from UCI headquarters in Switzerland to NBL HQ in Ohio, where he heads the new Global SX Events division the NBL recently started. BMX News reported on GSX, and its plans, so if you are not familiar, take a moment to listen to the Gary Aragon Podcast on the subject at

Johan showed a Powerpoint on how to organize and promote large national events, similar to the UCI Supercross World Cup. He demonstrated tools we can use to promote our national events to sponsors, as well as using local event promoters to help with the organization for the event.

DJ Uncle R recently joined Johan’s team. He is from Sweden and travels on the UCI Supercross tour to bring the entertainment to the races. He showed us some tips to keep the crowd involved and the race running smoothly with the power of music. He later spun some tunes for the “Retro Rock Night” party on Saturday night.

We got to meet the men behind the NBL’s new marketing materials, featuring Donna Snow. Each group conducted breakout sessions to help us understand their respective roles better, and ask questions of the experts. Tim Flaherty from Post House Video Productions, Steve Hamm from Fusion Integrated Marketing and Mike Koulermos from Brainchild. They each met with Donna at the Akron, OH track, and shot some unique videos that the NBL faithful, and John/Jane Q Public will be seeing a lot of throughout 2011.

They developed three marketing programs, all of which can be personalized by a local track. It was explained that the goal behind these marketing tools is for NBL BMX to present a consistent, uniform image in every state. This will create brand recognition in people and can grow to become a household name. The NBL gave out flash drives with all of the marketing materials loaded on them so delegates have them in one convenient place once they got back home. One session turned into a great brainstorming session, with great ideas from around the room on where to place signs and where to post these videos to help get kids to come out and see what BMX has to offer each community.

Sarah Towning is Vice President at “Wellness Collective,” and she led a session on the benefits of balance between nutrition and exercise. That is fairly obvious, but when used in the context of promoting BMX Racing at the local level to parents and community leaders, it can be powerful stuff.  We all know BMX provides kids with more than exercise, it teaches valuable life lessons about learning to win graciously and lost with dignity, the importance of academic success, teamwork, and releasing stress and energy.  There was a lot of preaching to the choir done, but it was great to know how united we were in our views on the subject.

Tom Ritz is known for building amazing tracks. Having rejoined the NBL HQ crew via the GSX deal, Ritz came to Congress to teach three sessions on building and maintaining tracks properly. He has been in the business for a long time, and his words were helpful to some of us who are just starting out. Something shared in Ritz’s session was a change in the NBL’s insurance. Starting this year, all tracks need to go through the NBL for any track rebuilds that require heavy equipment use or, unless they hire a subcontractor that can provide their own insurance and name the NBL as “additionally insured.” (must be done three weeks prior to the build). Requests for track rebuilds or major changes (requiring heavy equipment) Such requests should be directed to Donna Smith at the NBL Office. Track “grooming” that does not require heavy equipment can be done by the local organization. Tom Ritz is running his own GSX division, called “Elite Trax” and will be doing all the NBL-directed rebuild work.


Friday night, the NBL arranged to bring everyone to their headquarters in nearby Gahanna where delegates were invited to take a tour of the corporate office. The City of Gahanna is one of the most vibrant communities in the metropolitan Columbus area, and makes it an attractive place for people to live and do business. The unique thing about NBL’s HQ is that it is shared with other businesses, many of which we met earlier that day in the education sessions (The Wellness Collective, Brainchild and Fusion Marketing all have offices in the same suite).

What is an event without a party? Saturday night at 8:00pm the UCI music mastermind DJ Uncle R pumped up the volume with some dance party favorites. The “Retro Rock Night” theme had people dressing in their favorite era-correct garb from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s. Alice Bixler, always ready for a good time, prepared special awards for those who participated in the event. Gary was not too shy to pick up the mic and get the crowd going. They had a blow-up guitar contest and awarded the best head banging, high kicking, rock and roll superstar with a trophy. Three finalists made it to the main and battled it out for the top podium spot. 


Board Member Michael Gentilcore announced this years Hall of Fame Inductees. This year, three men were inducted.

Anthony Sewell was one of the greatest heroes of all time, and had the honor of being the first BMX World Champion and was the first pro to hold titles in both sections. Anthony pasted away in his sleep in 2009, but will always be remembered as one of the greats.

Greg Hill is no stranger to NBL BMX, with more then 250 pro wins. He was awarded BMX Action’s NORA Cup four times, and currently teaches kids what is it to be the best with his skills clinics.

Eric Rupe was able to attend congress and accepted the award from Gary. In his acceptance speech, Big Daddy talked about how it felt to be part of a sport that continues to grow. He held two AA-Pro titles and is known as the icon of icons. He is what a BMX pro should be, and is still deeply involved in the business. 


This year, four members of the board ran for re-election, Shayne Robinson, Dan Rumple, Betty Mulligan, and Jerry Patterson. Jerry Bagwell was up for re-election but asked to be removed from the ballot, citing family reasons. He has done a great deal for our sanction, and everyone wished him and his family the best.

Aside from the four standing for re-election, four additional delegates threw their hats into the ring for election to the board. Kittie Weston-Knauer of Iowa, Robert Wiginton of Alabama, John Scott of Ohio, (all three NBL State Commissioners of their respective states), and Bud Higgins from Virginia. All candidates did an excellent job on their speeches and getting to know the group.

All four of the directors standing for re-election were re-elected, and the battle was on for Bagwell’s vacated seat. Kittie Weston-Knauer took the ballot in the end.

The Non-Board Nominating Committee also took nominations from the floor and three people were nominated, Michelle Messing, Art Heinrichs, and Vincent Jorrand. All three members gave us a brief description about them, where they were from and their current status with the NBL. Only two positions were available and Michelle Messing and Art Heinrichs were awarded those seats. The NBL was thankful for all the nominations and everyone who took part in voting. 

Editor’s Note:

The newly-elected NBL Board met for the first time yesterday (Monday, February 21) to elect their 2011 officers. They are:

Chair: Shayne Robinson
Vice Chair: Kim Feinstein
Treasurer: Jerry Patterson
Secretary: Betty Mulligan


A key component of Competition Congress is that it provides the NBL an opportunity to recognize people for extraordinary efforts the previous year.

At the 2010 Christmas Classic, Florida, once again, took home the gold. At Congress, they received a check for $3,000. Ohio, Michigan and Georgia were second, third and fourth, and took home checks for $2,000, $1,700 and $1,300, respectively. Virginia pulled in the fifth place with a check for $850.

The next award was given to the highest average number of riders at local events. First went to Foothills BMX in Connecticut. Second went to G.T.C. BMX in Michigan. Third went to T.R.A.C.K in Connecticut, and Fourth went to Bethel Supercross also of Connecticut.

Then came the award for the highest number of New Full Memberships. First went to Okeeheelee BMX, FL. Second went to Tri-City BMX, NY. Third went to BMX Shoreham, NY. Forth went to Miami South BMX, FL. Fifth went to Foothills BMX, CT.

Everyone who presented at Congress was awarded a plaque for their sessions. Donna and Tim Fraley, The Wellness Collective, Eric Lichter, Roger Plaskett, DJ Uncle R, Fusion Marketing, Brainchild, Fox & Fox Law, Philadelphia Insurance, Art Heinrichs, Brett Riley and Donna Snow.

A big thanks goes out to the Competition Congress Committee. If it was not for these girls the event would have not have run so smoothly; they really stepped it up. Part of their “extra-special” effort was the creation of gifts for all presenters, and goodie bags for the attendees. They were also the organizing force behind the Retro Rock Party. Big props to Alice Bixler, Cathy Knapper, Laura Pingol and Mandy Pfender.

This was my first Competition Congress, and I was very impressed with the experience. Already looking forward to next year.

File Photo (Above) by Mike Carruth