Since the announcement of the 2018 BMX Australia rulebook one of the questions being asked is why a Masters 1 and Masters 2 exist in the place of a simple 30+ Masters. Here’s your answer.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it…or so the old adage goes. Never is this more ignored than in differing sports, where at times it seems that rule changes are made for the sake of rule changes. In the majority of cases, the excuse of ‘making a sport more exciting’ is used.
No sport is immune to rule changes, nor the criticism that inevitably follows a rule change.
So there was little surprise that questions were asked (and rightly so) of the 2018 BMXA rulebook when it was announced that 30+ Masters had been dissolved, and in its place was a Masters 1 for riders aged 30-34, and an open wheel Masters 2 for 35+ riders.
Questions were also raised about why the Australian rulebook broke uniformity with the UCI rulebook, which prescribes a 30+ Masterclass.
The simple answer is that BMX in Australia is a sport predicated on participation, on creating opportunities for riders to enjoy the sport at whatever level they participate.
Like many other sports, retention of those who spend years racing in elite categories declines at the end of an athlete’s time at the top. Previously the afterlife of an elite racer was a step into their age challenge class, or a transition off pro straights and into Masterclass.
Objectively, it’s fair to say that the challenge of elite racing is greater than other classes of racing, and therefore a step out of elite into 30+ Masters lacked the desired challenge for riders transitioning to the next stage of their career.
Masters 1 is about providing a stepping-stone for those riders who are in between Elite/Masterclass and Masters 2. It’s an avenue that still provides pro sections where suitable/available, but not an eight metre hill. It’s a challenge, but not a results-driven pressure cooker like elite racing is.
The long and the short is that we want to keep riders in our sport when they’re done with elite racing. Of course, there is an ulterior motive for creating a space for our young, old riders and retaining them in the sport.
Riders experienced at the elite level are of high value for coaching, are prime candidates to become officials and to develop into future administrators of the sport. These people are high value assets, who have the potential to give back to BMX in years to come.
It’s important to retain them, and link them with our existing coaches, officials and administrators who already do so much for the sport.
Yes, this rule undoubtedly breaks away from the age categories set out by the UCI. Yes it is believed to be the right move to retain elite riders. And yes, there is an ulterior motive to keep experienced riders in the sport and encourage them to provide their expertise to the generations following in their wake.
Rider retention at all levels is critical, and the change to Masters racing is geared towards keeping one category of rider engaged in BMX. It doesn’t follow the script, nor sing from the UCI hymn sheet.
It’s a new idea, it’s a different idea and it’s a long-term plan…not a prayer for overnight success.