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After separating from the military, Henry White became a helicopter pilot — but he knew that wasn’t what he wanted to do.
“Biking has been a longtime passion for me,” White said. “Everything I wanted to do revolved around supporting the BMX industry.”
He explains that the BMX — or bicycle motorcross — field includes formal racing, but also very informal, freestyle stunt riding.
“BMX is seen as dangerous, and a non-traditional sport — of course you do see some bad injuries,” he said. “But the essential ideals behind BMX is keeping it fun; it’s daring, adventurous and we’ll never be able to remove all the risks, but we can certainly reduce them. With all the facilities offered by the city, we have to start teaching people how to use them in a safe manner. Right now it’s just a free-for-all.”
White is taking the risk-management training he learned in the Navy and applying that to pursue his dream.
White served for 10 years as an AW2 (NAC/AW), or Naval aircrewman for those unfamiliar with military acronyms. He worked on and flew in helicopters, rescuing survivors on both dry land and water. He mastered the practical application during his first tour, then applied those lessons into teaching search and rescue during his second enlistment.
Now, White is majoring in community sports management in the School of Community Resources and Development, part of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.
“I thought about how I was going to apply my skills in a civilian field,” he said. “I want to go beyond basic first aid and provide many levels of training and education to an industry that doesn’t have it.”
Ultimately that evolved into his plan to teach others how to teach.
“I remember living in North Carolina, our neighbor had a junkyard with a huge assortment of bikes,” he said. “My brothers and I took parts and started building our own bikes.”
A friend later introduced him to freestyle BMX and he was hooked. But he notes that formal training is limited — and expensive.
“As many do in our industry, I’ve had to learn a lot on my own. Now I want to teach others to help grow the sport,” he said.
“One of the most beneficial classes so far has been CSM 303, program planning. BMX doesn’t have the same structure as traditional sports like football or basketball, so it’s hard to identify the sports model.”
What he has learned during his studies made him ask: How can we develop it into something supportive for the growth of the sport? What are we missing that other sports have done well?
“Now I’ve been able to create an actual program that could be put into use and answer some of those questions,” he said.
He is also president of the Parks and Recreation Student Association, working with various recreational facilities and countless professionals across the state. He says that experience has helped open doors and given him an understanding of organizational management.
He hopes his comprehensive approach — bringing together safety, affordability and trained professionals — helps to elevate the sport.
“Ultimately that’s where I want it to go — something that allows kids to compete locally, nationally, even internationally with the knowledge and confidence of how to do it safely without removing the adventure.”