End of Season Thoughts on our Driver Development Program

KAM

This is first and foremost a Driver Development program for us here at KAM.  Our kids are more successful than most drivers because of the way we run our driver development program and we have more than a decade of exemplary examples of our track record and I would stand toe to toe with any other track across America and be confident in saying that KAM Kids are the best this sport has to offer.

KAM Kids, over time and as a whole, are looked at as responsible, talented, know proper race procedures and are seen with sportsmanship as their core quality. Over the years we have had families drive up to 5 hours ONE WAY just to have their child compete at KAM.  That’s because of the reputation these kids over the years have given to the track.  It’s not Mike or me so please don’t think I’m tooting my own horn.  No.  It’s the kids and parents that came before you since 2004 who have learned the ropes in racing as a kart driver and applied the rules, principles and determination along with a great attitude, not to mention having a humble character trait that gave KAM this reputation. 

So, if you want to give your kids a fair shot of having a racing career in the future that spans well past karting then do what they did…….  Take some advice and guidance. Mike and I have been race parents three times over.  We made the big mistakes and learned from trial and error in many cases ourselves.  The blessing is that even though we screwed up with the first kid we mostly got it right by the time the 3rd came along.  The proof is that she is still in racing and enjoys a very successful karting career.

I have had parents ask me “what about the kids” or “what am I supposed to tell so and so about this?” or my all-time favorite (and biggest insult in the sport) is that we are playing favorites.  Well. if there is any doubt or confusion then I offer anyone to conduct the registration and scoring process for me at any time (with training of course) or take over Race Director duties for Mike, or Flag a race for Kaley.  Kaley has a kart and would much rather be racing than flaging I assure you, but she does it for the kids and is the one of the best.   Mike has the most thankless job so anyone want to try to do his job better, then bring it on.  You must have a thick skin for all the insults and complaints by parents and the patience of a saint when it comes to new drivers trying to learn a new sport or advance with new skills on any given race day because these kids WILL make mistakes.

It is a fact, and not debatable, they WILL may mistakes and not one race goes by without one or two, and no driver is immune to it – they will ALL make mistakes from time to time.  It’s not “IF” it’s “WHEN”.  So be prepared if you want to join the staff = some parents are notorious for yelling, berating, throwing things, running out on the track, hitting you, their own kid, or another parent all in the name of what they think is right and fair in the world (yes, some of them forget completely that they are at a youth sporting event!). 

Those situations may not be common, and definitely not the norm, so don’t let me scare you off – we welcome volunteers and couldn’t do what we do without them.  We do have some very talented and experienced staff on the other had that get paid a good wage for their services, and none of them (us) deserve to be addressed by hostile parents who don’t have filters or can’t put their egos in check.   And I want to say that this season has been one of the best with regard to the problems mentioned in this blog.  It’s just the end of the season and this is when things get a little heated up from my experience.

No one is too good, that smart, or has the deepest pockets to be immune from the facts of racing and the basics of driver development.  This may not be a team sport by definition and everyone wants to win….it’s more fun to win I get that, but this sport can NOT be conducted or performed with just one player.  It takes a field of drivers to put on a race.  Remember!! these drivers are also in the entertainment business and it’s wise for parents to grasp that sooner than later.  These kids are here to put on a show for the audience (the fans and spectators) by driving smart, skilled, and showing off their talent behind the wheel.  (see #5 below) The mistakes I mentioned earlier – that all kids make regardless of seat time or skill level attained or money spent on equipment – are part of the sport.  All sports.  Errors and penalties are part of the sport, the game, the statistics – and can make or change the outcome at any time.  That is what makes the sport so competitive and exciting to watch.   Let’s not forget that LUCK is a factor as well.  Good luck and bad luck, they all get their fair share of it.

Here are some more “Rules and Guidelines” to remember about karting and your driver’s development:

#1.  It’s the LUCK of the draw.  I tell each kid that draws no matter what number they get “Good Draw”.  There is no talent or magic skill in drawing a number.  Most sports have a draw, or toss of the coin, to determine which athlete goes first or what team gets the first kick off or ball in their court.  While some parents belittle their driver for a high number and others high five for low numbers, this is just luck people.  There are 100 numbers in the bucket at the start of each race, so a 50 or 60 could just as well be a “Good Draw” for that class.  The bucket is painted so no one can see the numbers they are fishing for and we don’t let them look inside.  Again, it is the luck of the draw.  I don’t manipulate it in any way and am offended when someone suggests that one driver “always seems to draw the right number” or is always starting on the front row.  That is just simply not true as we invert the draw and the two heats are added together to come up with the feature grid.    The draw is the first step in the process of racing after loading up and driving to the track.  Don’t set the stage by getting upset over what your child drew or envious over what another child drew.  Kaley had the worst luck at drawing for the majority of her career.  It made her just more determined and developed special skills from stating in the back all the time.  So in the end you really don’t want them to draw pole every time because it would “hurt their game” in the long run.  I want to see kids, especially the more talented ones, come from the back.  We have a coveted “Hard Charger” award that we give out when they come from the back and finish in the top or win.  We’ve only given it out twice this whole season so far.  Please don’t insult me by implying the draw is rigged.

#2. If you think the grid board is not correct, then tell me.  Don’t yell at me and don’t start “rumors” in the pits about it.  I make mistakes too.  Saturday I had put the kart number of the driver right below the actual driver who was here and so their number wasn’t on the board.  It’s not because I don’t like them or want to see them have a bad night, I goofed up.  Making a scene about it doesn’t help me find or correct my mistake and human nature is to hurry and “fix” the problem, which sometimes lends itself to just another mistake being made.  I also sometimes write the draw number instead of the kart number, although that doesn’t happen near as often as it used to.  I have gotten verbally abused over the grid board and Mike has taken heat for it as well.  The scorekeeper is the one (me) who is writing the line ups and in some cases if there is a change a volunteer will go make corrections to the grid board.  If there is a problem come find me.  For the feature, the ties are broken by the points standing.  IMCA does this and we have done this for 10 years now.  We are not playing favorites and no one is getting an unfair advantage.  If you can’t accept this or don’t know how to explain this to your child then you may be in the wrong sport.

#3.  Again, barring any mistakes that I may have made, the grid line up is what it is.  You cannot change it.  Your driver should line up in the correct position indicated and in the right Heat!  If you are not on the board you are not in the race.  Late registrations must come see me at the score tower and pay before “tagging on the back”.  If you did not draw in for that class at registration then you are NOT in that class, unless or until you come and tell ME (not Mike) that you want to be added to a class.  Draw numbers do not cross over to another class.  Also let me clear up something that is in the rules and just needs to be updated – you can run your kart in more than one class if it will be using the same motor.  The rule was written way before the Clones came on the scene.  (see #4) And if you want to switch positions at the grid for driver or mechanical reasons and the other parents agree and are all unanimous with it, then that’s fine – but you still must tell me.  I am going off my grid sheet and it’s my job to make sure the drivers are in the right order. 

#4. Don’t pick and choose rules to suit your personal benefit or to give an unfair advantage.   We have rules and guidelines that are normal in racing and some are mandatory to the sport as a whole by definition, like the flags, green starts a race, stop on a red, etc.  However, like the different kart per class rule, that I was unaware hadn’t been updated since the Pure Stock, Animal and Modified days (where parents wanted to switch motors in between race heats to compete in two classes VS. switching out a restrictor plate on the same motor that takes 2 minutes……) are subjectable.  No, that doesn’t mean we change rules for some and not others; quit the opposite, it means we are going to make a decision that is fair to the driver and all the drivers across the board.  No one is given special privileges.  Period.  Again, this is a driver development program.  If a driver in one class, towards the end of the season for example, wants to tag on the back of the next higher class to see where they stand or obtain additional skill sets, then we are going to allow that that.  OR if a driver in a higher class needs more seat time and they are asked to run the class below, they are being scored separately in most cases and it’s being done for their safety and the safety of the drivers at large.  If we see a problem then we will correct it but the rules also state that the race director has the authority to change or modify any rule in the fairness of the overall program at any time.  We are fair and above reproach when it comes to these kids, and not one is getting special treatment or an unfair advantage.  Period.

#5.  Racing is spectator sport.  Meaning your driver’s job is to entertain the crowd and give them a good race.  Just because they are kids and the parent wants the winner trophy should not misguide you into thinking otherwise.  I mentioned that this is not a “Team Sport”, not by definition, but it is your driver’s responsibility to “work as a team” with the other drivers in the class to put on a good race that is without rough driving, cheating, or unsportsmanlike conduct.  Again, there will be mistakes made, it’s a given so come to grips with that from the start.  For example, the fans enjoy when the underdog gets by the leader for whatever reason so long as it was fair and not given an unfair advantage.   Do not coddle your child and tell them that the race was unfair because they didn’t win, when in fact the race was indeed fair and the in the end was an exciting race to watch because of the COLLECTIVE efforts of all the drivers.  Lap traffic is a fact in the sport and it’s the driver’s responsibility to get around them successfully.  Don’t blame them or slower karts for a driver’s shortcoming or bad luck in a race.  That is the root of developing bad sportsmanship in drivers.  Another example, I’ve had leaders lead the entire race only to be gotten at the last minute by the second-place driver because the leader couldn’t hold on for whatever reason (being tired or thinking they had it in the bag gets the better of them in a lot of cases) – this is part of the excitement of the sport.  Not knowing the outcome until it plays out in real time.  The ego maniac parent who can’t accept defeat will end up showing the most unsportsmanlike conduct and all that does is teach their kids how to develop unsportsmanlike character traits that will ruin their race careers.  If this happens, luck or driver error, the right thing to do is congratulate the winner and all the drivers for putting on a “GOOD SHOW”.   Do not throw a tantrum if you are on the bad luck side of it or rejoice and praise God if you are the better side of luck.  No one likes a sore looser OR a sore winner in any sport and this is the responsibility of the parents to teach and apply this basic concept. 

#6. The Podium Finishers, or Winners Circle, is the top three drivers of the race.  After all it was a TEAM EFFORT in large proportion to talent and skill that got them there.  The Podium is the best drivers of the race and should be celebrated as a whole. Please don’t isolate your child in this situation.  For example, take pictures of the group and not just your child.  It’s a history of their racing career to see who they were competing with to show the talent and skill level of all the drivers to prove they were in good company with well-matched competitors.  You don’t want to look back and only have pictures of your kid and not remember how good the show was or how hard fought the victory was.  This is where you teach your child good sportsmanship and the others learn by their example, especially if they are commonly in the top three.  Sure, go and high five your kid and hug them when they get out of the kart, but the next instinctive response they should have is to go and shake hands with the other drivers on the podium.  Then take a group picture.  THEN take your one on one and family pictures.  A winner doesn’t get to be called that without the competitors who they “played” against.   And an “easy” win is not something to brag about and doesn’t help build skill or develop talent…..just remember that.  That 3rd place guy really deserves a Podium Picture (group shot) to show how hard fought his place was just as much as the 1st place finisher.  They should all be celebrated for the group effort of putting on a good show first and foremost.   Your kids will appreciate it later because you took the group picture with their friends and not just had a stack of photos of them alone to look back on.    

#7. Points.  If you think the points are wrong then feel free to be on the year-end Points Auditing Committee.  I am human and make mistakes like I’ve attested to so I have no problem sharing my score sheets and points spreadsheets, and in fact encourage it so there is no question as to accuracy.  Shoot me a text if you want to help out with this in the coming weeks: 817-300-5645.

That’s it.  Thank you for reading this to the end!  If you have any questions or need clarification on anything just ask.  I am here to help you!!!

~Kelley

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