Looking back on my time in Rock Hill for the 2017 edition of worlds, there’s no doubt a lot goes on behind the scenes that the average BMX rider does not see.

It was very interesting being on the other side of the fence at the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships to what I am used to. Normally at world titles I have been in attendance as purely a rider and that’s where my focus would stay, nothing more.

So, when BMX Australia asked me to be there in a coaching capacity for the BMXA Academy Challenge Class riders and to assist with the non-funded high-performance riders, I thought to myself that it would be a fantastic opportunity to learn what goes on behind the scenes and pass on the experiences that I have had.

Looking back on my time in Rock Hill for the 2017 edition of worlds, there’s no doubt a lot goes on behind the scenes that the average BMX rider does not see.

With 10 volunteers working a minimum of 10-12 hours a day for that whole week, you could say it was quite draining. I take my hat off to all those volunteers, they gave 100% every day of every hour. Our goal was to have no Australian miss their race, which was achieved. It sounds somewhat banal or basic, but the reality is that everyone was there for the experience and it was paramount they got to race and enjoy it.

As the Challenge Class Academy Coach, preparation for the worlds started many months prior to the event. For the riders lucky enough to have the opportunity to have support from the BMXA Academy, time went into preparation both on and off the bike. With the core work done in the months prior to July in a piping hot Rock Hill, the practice session the day prior to racing was all about mindset and the 1 per cent items

Like any coach, I did have some nervousness for my riders. Several parents asked me if I was nervous for them, and my response would be that the nerves I felt were for the uncertainty of what the outcome would be for my riders. I knew they had all trained hard, mentally prepared and practiced for this event. With that in mind, I was quietly confident that they would all perform to their best on the day of the event. As a coach, all you can ask for if for them to try 100% on the day. That’s all that matters. Win, lose or draw, to be proud of their efforts.

It was interesting to go to a local USA track and view quite a lot of Aussies there, practising/training. Whilst sitting in the small grandstand I took some time to listen to the chatter of the parents watching their children train.

What was even more interesting, was speaking to some of the riders that didn’t really have a plan or a system in place to help and guide through the event.

The first thing I had noticed when I was observing the Aussie riders was that they were riding for far too long in the heat in excess of 35 degrees. This immediately showed me that the majority of these riders did not have a training plan, even though they all said they had a coach.

I found this very interesting. As a coach, it’s easy to train them on a bike – but that’s only part of the work of a coach. A coach needs to train people, and not just train them to ride a bike fast. The role of a coach, in my view, is someone that has the acumen to get a rider into a routine that includes preparation for and recovery after training and racing. There are mental aspects for the rider, and there is the important part of educating parents on the direction their children are going, so everyone is on the same page.

As I watched the riders who had expressed they were coached by individuals or were part of a coaching squad, it became apparent that for some there was a lack of trust in what their coach. Rather than believing what their coach had taught them, they’d ask someone else the same question, looking for a different answer because they didn’t believe in what their own coach was saying.

Add on top of this that some riders also had their parents providing advice through the fence.

To me, this is a big mistake.

Most of the kids riding at worlds have a mind that is ticking over a touch over 300 miles per hour. It’s a big event, there are lots of people, they’ve travelled a long way. There is pressure and they already feel that, there’s no need to be giving them last minute tips that may well contradict even the best laid training plans. And that’s not to say that a few words of wisdom from mum and dad comes from a place of ill intent.

When it comes to the big days, what most riders need to hear from their parents is “well done”, “great job”, “I believe in you” etc. Everyone has travelled a long way, your child is feeling the heat, so as a parent be the person of constant support.

Fortunately, as a coach I was able to spend a significant amount of time at the back of the start hill and in the last part of staging. I got to chat to a lot of the kids, have some fun with the ones that wanted it, and provide support to those who were quite stressed out.

My message to those who sat there waiting anxiously was simple. I asked them how the event they were about to start was any different to another race meeting? Like any race you put your helmet on, hop on your bike, warmup, think about the race, put your front wheel on the gate and away you go. Most of all, have fun. That’s why we ride our bikes, to have fun!

Pleasingly for me, some of the kids reacted to that bit of advice by saying, “yeah, you’re right, it is no different”. Undoubtedly the majority of athletes perform better when they are relaxed. Just like when you see them having fun at a club day.

I’m also a parent of a rider. And despite being equipped with coaching knowledge, the feeling of frustration when your child just does ‘ok’ at a race meet doesn’t go away…especially when you know that they are capable of so much more.

So, what’s holding them back? For me, it comes back to the mindset of a rider at a competition. Be it a club night or the world championships, the principles of preparation remain the same.

Generally young athletes are more worried about what their mum and dad have said to them. Or their mull over their coach’s parting words before a race. At the last minute were the riders given advice contrary to their race plan? Was the final plan of attack nothing more than being told to ‘beat’ a particular rider?

My message when it comes to your young rider is simple. Let your child have fun, find them a coach that works in the best interests of you and them. Remember, you need to be on the same page as a group of people supporting your rider. When it comes to race day, have a solid plan. But most of all, for the parents, always be positive – your child reads your emotions.

Finally, riders have FUN!

Once again, I commend the efforts of all the volunteers who were involved in making this event very successful for the BMX Australia members and the riders.

To BMX Australia, thank you for providing me the opportunity to work with the riders in Rock Hill.

Well done to all. You did yourself and your country proud.

Thank you

Simon Anderson

Talented Athlete Program Coach