Coaching your kid in motorsports? Some might say “Don’t do it!” But if you’re running together as a family team, then as a parent and driver coach, it can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. However, emotions can run high, and it can be challenging to remain constructive and ensure an enjoyable experience. Here are four tips to help you structure your time on track and have a better coaching experience with your son or daughter – no matter how old they are!
1. Focus on Learning
When coaching your kid in motorsports, it’s helpful to focus on learning outcomes instead of just trying to break lap records every time you hit the track.
A useful saying to keep in mind is “you don’t learn from experience, you learn from experiments.” This means you should have a clear goal for every session.
Simply, can you answer, BEFORE you go out on track, “What do you want to learn this session?”
Even if you don’t have access to the resources of professional teams, you can still learn something every lap.
By focusing on learning, you can help your child improve their skills, gain confidence, and experience small successes. These successes add up as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
Even if you’re not setting record lap times, you’ll still feel like you’re making progress, and every session will be a win.
2. Testing Is Not Racing
When you’re testing, success isn’t just about breaking lap records. Despite lap times being “the only true measure of performance” and other paddock folklore you might hear, the best teams I’ve seen are the ones that learn the fastest.
If you are coaching your kid, it is helpful to focus on valuable learning outcomes. For example, you can work on finding the best hot tyre pressures, trying different handling balances, or helping your child develop consistency while going through high-speed corners.
You can even create scenarios that simulate key race events like practice starts, making decisions during a race (such as how long to stick in the draft or planning when and where to overtake), managing nerves, and helping your child react to unfairness on the track.
You could experiment with saying, “I want you to try and run 5 laps within 0.5 seconds at whatever pace you feel comfortable with. If you can do that, then we’ll ratchet up the pace, and you can have another go.”
These are just some suggestions but there will be many more that will be specific and relevant to your situation.
Always remember that your goal is to learn something new during every session today, in order to help your future selves tomorrow.
This approach will help you focus on learning and free yourself from constantly chasing lap record pace. It will give you many more opportunities for small wins and successes that will soon start to become a virtuous circle.
Moreover, it will make coaching your kid more enjoyable for all.
3. Encourage Note-Taking
One of the biggest performance upgrades I’ve often found for a driver is to get them to take notes after each session. I appreciate that no-one wants to do “admin” when you’re out having fun. However, good driver feedback is worth its weight in… lap time.
Recording driver feedback ends up being crucial to improving performance. If all the very best drivers in the world are doing it – with all the data and tools they have – then there must be something in doing driver feedback?
You can help your child by encouraging them to ask themselves questions like “If there is one thing you could do differently next time, what would it be?” and “What one thing is holding you back from going faster?”
Encourage them to make notes about how they felt in the car and any issues they faced.
As their coach, you should not ask any questions until they are done and happy they’ve written out everything that was on their mind during the session. This is key.
This approach helps the driver take ownership of their performance objectives. You can compare notes afterwards but resist the temptation of asking them a barrel of questions the moment they arrive back in the pits.
4. Make Note-Taking a Part of the Session
Consider that the track session is not over until the driver has written their feedback and their notes down.
This approach ensures that they have time to process their thoughts and feelings without interruption.
As a coach, try to respect your drivers space after they come off track to avoid unduly influencing what they have to say.
It is an approach that is so simple but has really worked for my own driver coaching. By adopting this simple approach, you can help your child take more ownership of their performance objectives and the confidence that goes with that.
Wrapping-up: Coaching Your Kid in Motorsports
Coaching your kid in motorsports can be challenging, and some might say it’s better to get help from someone else.
But due to budgets and different reasons why families go racing, it often ends up that parents take on the driver coaching role.
Coaching your kid is not easy, especially in motorsports because of the fear and risks involved. However, taking a structured approach to your track time by focusing on learning, encouraging note-taking, and making it a part of your sessions can improve your child’s performance while having fun.
These tips have proven to be the best for me, and if you’re looking for more ideas, check out my podcast featuring experts in the field such as Scott Gardner, Jeff Braun, Jim Kearney, and Ross Bentley. You may also like this perspective article I wrote to help answer a question from a race driver coach.
Sign up for “Ahead of the Curve” below to never miss my latest articles and also let me know if you give it a try. Good luck!