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It seems I always do the most thinking while driving to and from the track. I am usually driving to a track 4-5 times a week and when I do, I sometimes think about where our sport is going, how I can help people within our sport, how can I improve Keefer Inc., you know shit like that? I am sure most of you that drive a lot are similar to me, so when I had these thoughts about writing an article on how you can build a solid work ethic for your child through dirt bikes, I immediately made a note into my phone to do this when I got back home. Instead of thinking how I can get my kid to “make it” within our sport of motocross, I think about how I can use dirt bikes as a tool, to help him become a better man for the rest of his life. That’s right! Imagine that! A dad that doesn’t care if his kid becomes a factory rider or not. A dad that doesn’t care if his son ever makes a dollar in this sport. I want to be a dad that creates a love for motorcycling, so when he gets older and has real responsibilities, he can use dirt bikes as an escape from the day to day grind he will face or use that said dirt bike to create a hard working human so his foundation of hard work is there for his adult working career. Sure, I want Aden to enjoy the feelings we all get when we have a great day of riding, but if you have a child that rides or if you’re thinking of doing the mini parent/amateur national thing (like my wife and I are doing with Aden), here are a few things to remember when doing this as a family.
A Kid In The High Dez:
I guess to fully understand why I am writing this, I must first tell you a little bit about my background and where I come from. My dad was an auto mechanic for a water company in La Habra, California and was around dirt bikes and classic cars his whole life. My family would go out camping in the desert, on the weekends, so we could watch my dad race District 37 events, as well as get some quality time riding together as a family. As I got older, my dad could see that my passion for motorcycling was starting to grow, so he put me in my first race at nine years old and I was never the same. Now my dad didn’t have enough money for both of us to race, so good ol’ pops stopped his own racing in order to put the little extra money we did have, towards my dumb ass. He worked late nights, side jobs, on weekends, just so I could have a new bike every two years and he tried hard to keep my bikes up and running, even though his kid was screwing them up every day after school. We never had the money to go back east to race, but he did what he could for me locally, so I could have a good time. If I wanted to race on the weekends, I had certain chores and grades that needed to be kept up. Through that I learned work ethic without even me knowing. Of course at the time I hated all of it and even skimped out some days when he wasn’t looking, but somehow I would always get caught not doing my work at home and had to forego some weekends of racing because of my laziness. Or like my dad used to say “I had my head up my ass”. Eventually I learned that I needed to do my work at home thoroughly to keep my dad off my ass, so as I reached my late teens I had a pretty good foundation of work ethic.
Teaching Our Kids Work Ethic Through Dirt Bikes:
Once Heather and I could see that this dirt bike thing was catching fire within Aden we asked him what he wanted out of this dirt bike hobby and he responded with “I want to race and see how far I can go”. Since we know that only a handful of riders can retire from racing their motorcycle, we wanted to use the dirt bike way of life to create a work ethic for our kid, just like my dad had done with me. I learned early that if I was going to succeed in this sport, I had to work hard for it and I think that is like anything in life right? If Aden decides one day he is done with racing or maybe he only gets so far with this sport, he will always remember the work he put in and my hope is that work ethic will be rolled over into his new job/career. Plus having a passion and hobby you can come home to after work is huge for his mental state of mind.
I am not hard on Aden for his race results, but I am a big believer of his effort during a race and his preparation before one. I sit down with Aden every week and go over the school and “work” schedule. Since Covid-19 has hit, his school schedule is a little different so he now can go to work/track with me and then he can do the school work required when he gets home. I am a big believer in public school and would much rather have him back in school (for interaction purposes), but I see no end in sight to this pandemic, so it looks like all of us parents are now school teachers as well. That is another article for another time, but Aden is expected to at least carry a “B” average in school or else his bikes are put to the side. I also put in place a riding program, so he knows exactly what he needs to do on the bike when he arrives to the track. If I have testing all day, I can’t sit there and babysit him, so having his schedule laid out makes for a seamless day for both of us. Once Aden gets home and his school work is finished, he must then get his bike washed and ready for the next day’s riding. After he is finished with his bike work, he either has gym work or a mountain bike ride with pops. At the end of the day, he is pretty spent and is usually out by 9:30.
Heather and I also let him know that if he DOESN’T want to race these big amateur races that he is free and clear to let us know and all of this structure riding programming will cease. He can be a soul rider and just do this for fun, but that also means that his parents will not worry about new bikes, new gear, etc. If he wants to just “ride” and have fun that is perfectly fine with us, but he still will have to keep up with his grades, work around the house and also find something else to occupy his time besides video games. I like to leave it up to him what sport he wants to play, but he is required to have some sort of hobby/sport, so his idle hands will not get him in trouble. Dirt bikes kept me out of trouble from the greasy hands that is the high desert of Hesperia, California. I wanted to ride more than party and to this day I still think dirt bikes saved me from going down the wrong path. This is why Heather and I make damn sure Aden is busy with some sort of activity in this day and age.
Here is the big kicker right? I mean without money, none of this is going very far anyway right? You don’t need to go to Loretta Lynn’s, Mini O’s, etc. to create a work ethic for your child. This is where I think some of this amateur national stuff gets lost in translation. Do you NEED to be a champion at the amateur level to get help from manufacturers? Absolutely not! Does it help? Of course it does! However, if you absolutely haul ass on a dirt bike, come from a good family and are a good kid, people or the industry will find you, trust me on this! All of this amateur shit is super expensive and not necessary to get your work ethic logic into your child’s moldable mind. If you don’t have a lot of money, instead maybe stay close to home and do a local series that gives awards as well as payouts to the riders who do the whole series. Make that series your Loretta Lynn’s. Get your child to work hard for that series ending points finish and teach him the value at sticking to something even though he or she may have a bad race or two. Most kids (including me when I was young) want to give up once they do bad, but making sure they see their way through the whole series will give them a sense of accomplishment. When I rode for the Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda team at a couple AMA Nationals in 2019 I sucked as hard as anyone could suck! However, I used my crappy finish to teach a lesson to my son. Sometimes you suck even when you work your ass off! IT HAPPENS! Does that mean you just give up? I didn’t give up! The following year we set new goals as a racing family and we accomplished two out of the three goals in 2020. Doing this showed him that it’s possible to rebound from failure. WE ALL FAIL MORE THAN WE SUCCEED! A man smarter than me once told me this and it has stayed with me all of my adult life.
I can’t say this enough… If it wasn’t for dirt bikes, I probably would have got in more trouble than I did when I was a kid. I wanted to get up in the morning to ride, which led me to not partying at night with my friends or doing drugs and that is something that the high dez is known for. Life can suck kids in and spit them out, no matter how good of a job you do at parenting, but dirt bikes can give them drive and hope. It did for me! You also may be asking yourself, “but Kris it’s a dangerous sport”. This is also something I struggle with at times too. I don’t know how my parents were so damn calm when I raced. I am more nervous watching Aden race than I am when I am lining up to the gate. I want my kid to be as safe as possible, but I also know that this is something that he wants to do. I mean I do this sport as well, so how can I tell him “no” when I am taking the same risks myself. What I do let him know is that this sport is dangerous and he can get seriously hurt or even worse lose his life doing this sport. I also am very adamant about teaching him everything about safety on the track, how tracks form, what to do and what not to do. I am big on technique first and speed second. I am the type of dad that tells him “DO NOT JUMP THAT”! I am more about safety than speed. Of course he doesn’t always listen to dad, but I know that he hears me, so I make damn sure that I am always up his ass every time he swings a leg over a bike. He knows what CAN HAPPEN! It is up to the parents to decide when a sport is too dangerous for their child and not anyone else. I always seem to revert to my dad’s old saying of “pull your head out of your ass son and look around”!
Getting to share the same feeling that I get through dirt bikes with my son is something that I can’t explain. On the way home from the track we talk about line choice, how a certain jump on the track felt when hitting it, how good that inside rut was and so much more. Not many sports in our world can let the father/son relationship grow because they share the same feelings of a sport on the exact same thing and on the exact same day! It’s unreal! Dirt bikes are more than just going fast. It is a tool for adult life! Hopefully it can be a tool in your household as well. Here’s to all the mini parents out there doing it for the right reasons and we hope to see you at the track soon!