Sometimes it seems motocross is quite far behind other sports in its development.
Coaching especially seems to be one of the big things that our sport really lacks both in terms of rider mentality and in having an organised academy by the leading governing bodies (although the MXGP academy is a step in the right direction).
It is hard to imagine people would start competing in sports like tennis or golf without any coaching but that is usually what happens in motocross! From beginner to world number one all these other sports have coaches. Players like Andy Murray are constantly being coached and it was a with a recent coach change that brought Murray his recent Wimbledon win.
In golf all the top players have coaches but there are even accredited coaches for the new casual players at a local driving range to grasp the fundamentals.
Motocross however has none of this coaching structure. Unless you have a dad or family member who raced it is hard to even learn the basics or where to sit on the bike and that you need to stand up over bumps. It would make motocross safer at the bottom if people had a local coach or academy attend, just even to learn the basics.
Further up the food chain many riders don’t seem to feel the need for a coach, that they can do it themselves. But when the top sports people in the world employ coaches to constantly improve themselves then you have to wonder at that logic.
It is my belief than many motocross riders are missing out on achieving their full potential, even at British championship level, because they never got the right coaching be that through a lack of access to a coach or a lack of desire to be coached. Of course there are always exceptions but the vast majority of people will ride better and faster with decent coaching.
Club riders are always looking for improvement by buying a pipe instead of spending their hard earned money on getting a good riding coach or looking at their riding technique.
It is no coincidence that the top riders have had a structure and coaching during their career. Ricky Carmichael was coached by his mum throughout his entire career and had a corner track until he retired. He also recruited Johnny O’Mara in the early stages of his pro career.
Stefan Everts had his dad in his ear even when he was world champion and Jeremy McGrath hired Gary Semics to fine tune his skills.
France had a motocross academy headed by Jacky Vimond in the 90s and he brought through riders like Sebastian Tortelli, David Vuillemin and Stephane Roncada. The best guys aren’t afraid of coaching because they realise motocross is a skill sport and they want to be shown how to improve their skills.
In the UK it is no coincidence that Tommy Searle has been a success as he has had James Dobb guiding him and ensuring he maximises his considerable potential.
Our latest world champion, Conrad Mewse, has Justin Morris in his corner helping him with riding technique and mentality.
But, despite these examples, it still doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as much in motocross as other sports.
MX Vice’s James Dunford is also involved in car racing and as shocking as it seems in a sport that where the driver isn’t as important as the rider in motocross, James says the coaching for the driver is way ahead of motocross coaching.
He explains: “The closest comparison we can get to Motocross has to be in the shape of our four wheeled cousins; single seater and touring car racing. Although the basics are roughly the same (a track, an engine and some wheels), that’s where the similarities stop.
“If you’re a young racing driver looking to get into Formula 1, you’ll start in Karts and move into single seaters. The first element of any good team is a driver coach. The coaches aren’t necessarily world champions, rather good ex and current drivers who are making an extra wage.
“Starting with testing, after each session both the driver and coach will watch the onboard footage, lap by lap. That in turn enables them to see which lines worked and which didn’t, along with telemetry and potentially footage from team mates. That’s a really easy technique which we could transfer to Motocross, even if it’s not with a coach.
“Alongside driver coaches, drivers who want to succeed build up a team of people around them. This ranges from trainers to mentors and right across to psychologist – it’s all about trying to reach the maximum potential of any one driver.
“At the end of the day, motocross is a very different sport – but arguably, one where raw talent can get you much further. Differences in car racing are often hundreds or even thousands of a second, whereas in Motocross it can be anywhere up to 3 seconds for a really quick rider on any given day.”
As James mentions, a lot of these techniques can be applied to motocross and possibly be even more successfully, due to the fact that the rider in motocross is 90% of the ingredient required to win.
Hopefully in the future motocross will catch up with other sports in having a coaching mentality and the governing bodies will provide more accredited coaches so that talented riders and even beginners can maximise their potential and enjoyment of this great sport.
Imagine if there was a set up in the UK where all our riders had access to top coaching, surely the level of quality would rise and a British World champion would not be as few and far between.
The blueprint is there, it is up to motocross to follow it more closely at every level.
Article by Jonathan McCready and James Dunford