When Marisa Lobelson and her brother were 8 and 10 years old, respectively, they saw mountain biking for the first time on TV. “We were the type of people who would see something on TV and we’re going to do that. And mountain biking was something that was so easy for us,” said Lobelson.
Growing up in Connecticut, she said it was easy to build a trail from the woods surrounding their home. After two weeks, her brother was on to the next adventure he found on TV, but Lobelson was stuck on mountain biking. “I really liked the sport. It definitely balances so many healthy lifestyles,” she said. “I probably did that at age 12 and 13, and I decided at that point I wanted to race.”
Growing up cycling with her family, but not having a high school team, Lobelson showed up to races in the New York and New Jersey area. Then when she was choosing what college to attend, mountain biking played a large factor in her decision.
At first, she wanted to attend The University of New Hampshire, which had a cycling club that impressed Lobelson. But “for a bunch of different reasons,” she is now a sophomore, studying therapeutic recreation at SUNY Cortland University in Cortland, New York — a university without a cycling program.
Her first semester of freshman year, Lobelson decided to start a mountain biking club at Cortland University. She met with Matt Nuesell, the assistant director of recreational sports, intramural sports and sport clubs. He explained to Lobelson that the university used to have a cycling club, but it folded because of a lack of interest. And although he expressed how difficult it was to start a club, Lobelson decided to start it anyway.
“Right now, we’re still kind of struggling with members. We have a lot of people sign up for it who said that they were interested, and then we never really hear from them again. We’ve been doing tabeling and advertising — telling people about it,” explained Lobelson.
She has four officers on the team and is looking for a group of at least 10 members to be able to compete in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference.
But her biggest challenge is breaking down the stigma mountain biking has associated with the sport. “People look at mountain biking and they’re like, ‘Wow, that’s got to be so dangerous. You’re in the woods, there’s trees, there’s rocks, there’s roots.’ But it honestly, it isn’t any more dangerous than any other sport,” said Lobelson.
And most importantly, she tells new or interested members that if there’s a trail or part of a trail they don’t feel comfortable riding on, they don’t have to. But her team is there to help.
Regardless of if her team will be able to compete, Lobelson said the entire experience for her has been worth it, lending to leadership skills and creative thinking. “I would just say that if anyone ever wanted to start a club, even if you don’t know if it’s going to be successful and even if it does end up failing, it’s a great experience to have … it’s definitely a lot of work and it can be very frustrating at times, but it’s been so rewarding,” she added. “I would say that I’ve learned a lot more about leadership skills and creative thinking.”