Beginner Guide: Being Your Driver\’s Coach



When choosing a \”Normal\” youth sport (any stick and ball game) you, as the parent don\’t have to do much except show up with your kid on time for practise and games, and then cheer them on at game time.  For most parents, practice is all but drive by and throw the kid out the window while you go off and have some \”me time\”.  Then on game day all the absentee parents get to gang up on the sports officials and yell about how lousy their calls are and make derogatory comments about their failing eyesight.  Why not?  They are professionals and get paid to do their job to your satisfaction, right? The Coaches and officials are usually little league trained in the sport and have full knowledge of all latest rules, research, and technical science behind the sport.  They are even up on all the safety regulations and get a crash course in life saving first aide.

That all sounds like a cup of tea.    

But you didn\’t choose a \”Normal\” youth sport, did you?  You choose Outlaw Dirt Kart Racing.  Why?  Maybe because your child has a dream of becoming a professional race car driver when they grow up (most do!), or you just love watching NASCAR and wanted to do something with your child that you have a passion for, or maybe you used to race back in the day and want your child to experience the same for themselves.

Whatever your reason, Congratulations!  You made it here.   In doing your homework, we hope that you have studied the Ladder System approach to Driver Development training and education.  This is a topic that we address often at KAM and one that you will need to fully understand in order to give your child the best motorsports foundation for their racing career.  But first lets just focus on the fact that there are no Outlaw Kart sanctioned little league sports associations that train and develop Coaches or race officials.  There is no Flagman or Race Director school.  Race parents don\’t get a crash course or a \”Train the Trainer\” weekend seminar.  If your lucky, your track offers driver clinics from time to time.  It all comes from experience, research, and on-the-job-training.

For beginner Parents just embarking on this racing journey, you need to understand that your child\’s success rests largely on your shoulders.  You ARE the Coach and your driver is your team\’s athlete who is entering a sport they probably know little about other than it\’s fast and loud.  Kids all know what a checkered flag is and that green means go.  But make sure they know all the race flags and their meanings before the get behind the wheel. The rules explains what the driver must do during a caution and red flag situation so make sure the understand their responsibility under those conditions.  

Next your child must learn how to operate (or drive) the kart, which is a high tech race vehicle with a motorsports powered engine strapped to the side.  It can be very intimidating at first.  He has to drive it forward, while gaining momentum and maneuver it into the corners while avoiding other drivers.  Then he must learn about the \”racing line\”, and he needs to find and race his line.  You can\’t just be like \”get in and mash the gas down when the green flag comes out and don\’t stop until the checkered flag\”.  A lot of parents do that…..really, I\’m not kidding.  And it\’s the worst advice or Coaching you can give a new driver. 

Here\’s some good advice for new race parents:

  • You are the Coach.  Remember that and conduct yourself like one. Coaching comes before Parenting in racing, especially at the track.
  • Learn as much about the sport as you can.  Not NASCAR, but Dirt Track racing.  Go to the big tracks with your child and watch some races.  Come out to a Kart race before they actually start and watch the other drivers from the observation deck. Whatch YouTube videos of Outlaw races.
  • Read and understand the rules.   All of the rules – not just the class rules.  Start on with the Rules tab from the Navigational Menu bar and then go down the list [the tab drops down with additional pages to click on]. Then read the rules to your driver (and spouse, relatives, supporters, etc. anyone associated with your \”Race Team\”).  Make sure your driver has an age appropriate level of understanding.  
  • Know the Race Flags.  We have a \”Racing 101 – The Flags\” page on the website under the \’Driver Info\’ menu tab, and on the Forms page there is a flashcard set of flags that you can use to teach your child about the flags and what they mean.
  • After you get your kart, have your child practice getting out as fast as he or she can.  This is very important in case of emergencies on the track. 
  • Use a diagram of the track with play cars to \’practice\’ with your driver on how to drive and make turns.  You will utilize this \’game\’ method in training later when skill set improvements are needed and this will be a great coaching aide for you.  Then when you are at the track, survey the track with your driver.  \”Walk the track\” with them and point out marks where you want him to be or a line to take.  Getting this visual helps the child when it comes time to actually racing for the first time.
  • Get help.  Ask for Advice and guidance when you are lost or feel overwhelmed.  Not only are you the Coach of your race team, but most likely you are also the Crew Chief.  That\’s a lot to take on all at once for a new race parent.  The kids are great about helping each other out and giving advice on skills that they\’ve mastered.  Let your child socialize with his fellow drivers to gain this insight.
  • Have fun.  But remember, this is more than any old youth sport or hobby.  This is a very expensive sport for a child and a big budget item for the family.  Sacrifices will have to be made, and the child must learn responsibility for his/her kart, safety equipment, race trailer, etc. They must always show respect to race officials and fellow drivers as well as their parents – [goes without saying, but you\’d be surprised]. 
  • Give your child age appropriate \’jobs\’ to do, like wiping down the body work between races, checking tire pressure, putting tear offs on his helmet, putting tools back in the tool box, etc.  A driver who is made to do nothing but drive and doesn\’t have to do any of the upkeep or maintenance will have little respect for his or her equipment and treat it like any given toy they have at their disposal.   Knowing the ins and outs of the kart and motor will also make your child a better driver.
  • Get a three ring binder and a notebook.  Make copies of the \’Kart Race Data Sheet\’.  Fill one of these out each race day and take notes about your driver\’s skills, obstacles, and goals. Successful Race teams also have a written vision and mission statement.  Coaches keep good notes and learn from experience and mistakes. 
  • You need to analyze your drivers skills against his or her potential, and set goals and objectives accordingly.  Keep in mind physical ability and stamina and mental ability all play a vital role in learning how to race and at what pace.  
  • Schedule \’training seasons\’ with the driver and do exercises to build stamina and upper body strength.  Search Google for age appropriate exercises. Get the whole family involved in this process.   
  • Coaching is done at home and in the pits.  You can not Coach while the driver is on the track racing.  Please do NOT give your child hand signals from the sidelines or exit shoot.  In fact standing in the exit shoot is a rule violation and could lead to your child being black flagged.  The driver must be paying attention to his/her driving, the track conditions, other drivers, the Flagman, and/or the race officials at all times.  That\’s a lot of pressure and he doesn\’t need to have you yelling from the fence at him to do this or that.  If he doesn\’t do what you need or want him to then after the race sit down with him and discuss it in a calm manner.  But be sure to praise him/her on any and all of the good things that they did in the race or improvements that they may have made.  Make sure you [or Mom] video taps the race so you have something to reference when Coaching your driver, and for them to look back on to see any mistakes that they may have made so they can set goals for avoiding them again in the future.

Okay, I don\’t want to overwhelm you so I\’ll stop there. 

Use the internet for resources.  There are a lot of YouTube videos on Outlaw Karting and some How-To videos, although most are geared for Sprint Karting [flat karts] the overall driving techniques are the same or similar in a lot of instances.  Also our Class Sponsor Jimmy Rivers with JRPW Racing has a section on his website that is full of tech tutorials and I highly recommend you take a look at what he has posted. The next big milestone items you\’ll need to learn and understand so you can teach your driver are cornernering (Apex and exit strategy), braking, acceleration points, and passing – just to name a few.

If you have questions, please ask.  We are here to help you succeed. Think of us as your Coach.  If you need a mentor, Mike can hook you up with an experienced race parent to help guide you through the process while you are learning the ropes. 

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