We hear the pros talk about confidence as one of the key ingredients in reaching their goals and dreams. But how does a rider develop a lot of self-confidence? Just like anything else in life, you have to earn it.
You start at an early age building your achievement muscles, you shoulder your own responsibilities and reach many short-term goals, all the while building your self-confidence. Parents play a major role in this confidence building process. They have to be there to support, teach and point their children in the right direction, but leave the rest up to them.
Jeremy McGrath (photo from 1996) at his prime was unbeatable, not only in Supercross but also Motocross. Jeremy, like any other top athlete didn't start at the top, but at the bottom. I had the privilege of helping Jeremy reach his goals. Not only was Jeremy learning from my coaching, but I was also learning from him. I was learning what it took to become the top rider in the sport, at that time.
One thing I learned was how his parents (Jack and Anne) raised him and what his family life was like. They supported him but they put the responsibilities on him. One example was when Jeremy signed a Team Green amateur contract at 17, Jack and Anne put $500 in his checking account, yes, that's $500 not $5,000 and said you should be able to make it now. Do well in the races and your Team Green contingence money will be enough for you to continue racing, if not you'll have to get a job. Rewind to the 70s when I was getting into Motocross. My dad didn't have time to work on my bike or even take me to the races. I learned to work on my own bike and an older friend took me to the races.
Fast forward to 2018, nowadays most parents control and take on all the responsibilities themselves instead of letting their kids be responsible. For Jeremy and most other top pros there was no safety net under their goals and dreams. Sure, most riders have parents that are supportive and want the best for their kids, but too many parents take away the responsibilities and consequences, thereby taking away the growing process of self-confidence.
Perhaps that's why some of the top racers in our sport get coached on the mental side of racing. Some have worked with a sports psychologist and some work with the newer field of Mental Performance Coaching (MPC). Sports psychologists have been active in many stick and ball sports for years because their mental coaching methods and strategies prove effective to help athletes overcome a variety of mental obstacles.
In Motocross/Supercross, the mental side of things makes up just one aspect of the weekly grind. Riders must consistency work on six main categories:
- Practice on the bike
- Fitness training off the bike
- Testing the bike
- The mental side of training and racing
If you don't have a mechanic, add a seventh - bike maintenance. These six categories may not seem like that much. It's easy to say, "Oh yeah, the pros get to ride their dirt bike, do some training and eat a sensible diet." If you do those things according to how you feel, like doing them for enjoyment, it would be easy.
But a big difference exists between doing them for enjoyment and doing them to keep improving your riding skills, fitness and race results. When practicing on the bike you have to ride on the days you don't feel like riding or when the weather is poor, and you have to have a strategy each time you go out on the bike.
The same goes for fitness training. You have to train when you feel tired or don't feel like training. And, you have to train consistently. Some days you need to push hard and suffer while other days keep your heart rate lower so you have enough energy for a hard practice the next day. You also need to structure your weekly routines to get enough solid practice and training to keep improving without getting burned out.
Even as an amateur, you should know the feeling of your bike, know how to test it, make adjustments and keep improving the way it handles on different track conditions. Then there is the self-discipline to eat only nutrient dense foods loaded with clean carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Avoiding junk foods is just the start but the serious athlete needs race fuel for the body. And finally, you need to stay home and go to bed early, so you can get up full of energy, ready to hit another day of preparation with enthusiasm! If you really want to improve your race results you can't live two lives - one as an average person the other as a pro Motocross racer. The higher the reward, the more difficult it is to achieve!
We often hear the pros talk about commitment! In order to live the life of doing these six disciplines week in and week out, you don't have time or energy to do much of anything else. That's why it takes a great deal of "Commitment"! It's difficult, especially for young racers, to stay disciplined, not get side tracked, and stay committed to their goals. They have to want it very badly and keep believing they can do it. With these things considered it's easy to understand that their attitude, in the way they view their life, is something that needs to be positive, stable and kept in check. The guidance of a Mental Performance Coach can offer big help.
Through the many years I was training Jeremy McGrath, one of my main jobs was making sure he was doing the weekly routines that I had set up for him. It was a weekly grind of practice on the bike, fitness training off the bike, nutrition, recover and Mental Performance Coaching. There were times Jeremy wanted to take his boat to Lake Havasu and have some fun. I had to remind him why he should keep working at his craft ? now - while he had the opportunity. He would have plenty of time to do other things later. After a short talk he would be back on track, putting in the work to become the best Supercross racer of all time!
Everyone discovers, at some point in their lives what they really love doing, what they have a talent and passion for. That's called your dream. Hold onto that dream and do whatever you have to do, to make it happen. There are thousands of stories about different people from all over the globe who have reached their dreams, coming from a place where it looked like they had no chance of making a decent living, let alone their dream job. But, they overcame all the obstacles and made it anyways, with flying colors.
Consider most of the top pro basketball and football players. Most of them came from poverty. I know many pro Motocross racers who came from humble beginnings as well, McGrath being one of them. When I first went to Jeremy's house to do a private lesson, he was 16. His family lived in a small house where the only source of heat was a fireplace. All these athletes and thousands more discovered, at an early age, what they loved doing and were good at. Then, they kept the dream alive and kept believing! The book, "The Talent Code" describes the how and why, about coming from meager beginnings (hardships), and how it ignites the primal instincts of will power and confidence, to reach greatness.
Of course, parents or someone like a parent, has to be there for their children, but they do not have to do things for them that they should be doing themselves, and protect them from the consequences of their mistakes and bad choices. Parents mean well for their children but they need to employ some tough love in order to do the very best for their children. Let them be responsible for their consequences and rewards!
If you're serious about improving your riding skills and race results, you may by interested in my Online Coaching subscription, that will play across all your devices, even your TV.
Ride hard, ride smart and have fun,
About Gary Semics:
Learn our GSMXS time tested and proven practice and training methods to improve your riding skills and race results. How? Through our hands on Motocross School Group and Private classes, with 10 GSMXS Certified Instructors located in six countries. Through our Techniques and Training DVDs (currently 28 titles) shipped worldwide or through our Instant Access Video On Demand Streaming platform.