Updated: Aug 14, 2022
Getting to know Jim
Jim Kirkham, RN, IU Health Bloomington hospice nurse and coach of the Cutters Little 500 team
Even though Jim Kirkham raced in the Little 500 four times as an Indiana University student, he said he was never really a great racer; he’s a much better coach. In the 26 years he’s been the Cutters coach, his team has won Little 500 ten times.
After casting around for a career, he was in his late thirties and found nursing. Now, he’s a hospice nurse with IU Health Bloomington and spends his days assisting patient and their families in their own homes.
You’re pretty philosophical about bike racing and your “day job” as a hospice nurse.
They’re both about evolution. I get to watch the evolution of patients from accepting a terminal diagnosis to accepting death. It’s a meaningful transition. I like to be alongside people. I don’t care for office work. I feel like this kind of nursing allows my strengths to come forward and my weaknesses to fall away.
A bike team is all about evolution. You suffer together, you look inward, you ask questions of yourself and you grow together.
Do you have a coaching philosophy?
It’s really less about winning and more about learning how to bring joy, friendship and innovation to the team. When you have fun, you win.
How have you been involved in previous crit races in Indy?
The crits that are part of IU Health Momentum Indy are a great opportunity for Little 500 peers to measure their fitness in the fall. It’s a different kind of race than Little 500 because you have to go all out the entire time rather than performing exchanges and switching riders, but it’s a great benchmark. There are a lot of Little 5 alumni who put on a number and race. It’s a social event. It’s fun to race without the pressure of Little 500.
It’s really fun to watch the races because you get to see athletes push themselves. It’s high risk, high speed and dangerous. It’s like an IndyCar race, but you don’t have a car around you to protect yourself.