I’ve worked with some young drivers, 15 or 16 years old, as they come up trough their motorsports careers. Drivers like Tyler Cooke and Britt Casey, Jr. who have blossomed into really successful racecar drivers. I’ve always started working with these young drivers when they are coming right out of karts and into cars.
Last week I had a unique experience: I coached a 12-year-old who was brand new to the sport of go-karting. Even though I’ve been around karts quite a bit, I haven’t coached many kids before, and I’ve never had such a young client.
Will’s dad had consulted me a while back about which kart to purchase and which class to enter, so we could give him the right starting foundation. They finally got all of their equipment together and had done a few initial runs, but last week it was time for me to give Will some direction on how to go faster and optimize his kart.
Right away, I found it refreshing having this opportunity to work with such a young, eager driver. Will was very talented and able to both listen and apply concepts that were being explained to him. We started slowly and methodically, and I kept introducing more and more concepts as the day progressed.
As we got into the afternoon, those concepts started to evolve into practice, and Will really started to see some true results. It was neat to see a 12-year-old’s reaction to progress because it was so genuine! It was not unlike other clients who are excited about success, but it was gratifying to see that emotion at such a young age as he felt pride about his progress.
In the end, I realized that communicating with a young driver is different than it is with a peer or an older, more experienced client. The vocabulary you use, the concepts you present, the amount of information you give—all of that is different. (But, ironically, sometimes the amount of information is the same—no matter the age of the brain, it can only process so much!)
I also learned that it’s important to teach some of the basics when you first get started. Basic terminology like what an apex is, concepts like how turning affects your speed, and other key points that more experienced drivers take for granted. Kids always ask “But why?” It’s important to tell them why they need to do something so they understand it, rather than simply telling them to just do something.
I find that if you’re working with a young driver to teach them road or track skills, it’s key to keep the information simple, and also achievable. That way the mindset is success each step of the way, and when they approach a hurdle, they are mentally positive about it rather than doubtful or nervous. Because no matter the age of the mind, a positive outlook will always be stronger and have more success.