Talent, Tears, Tantrums – And Ambitions

Went to the Westmorland Club’s Youth C/D and Youth A/B British Championship rounds over the weekend – the C/D round was on Saturday and the A/B round on Sunday, both days being absolutely perfect for trialing in the beautiful South Lakes at Tow Tops, overlooking the Winster Valley and Morecambe Bay.

I haven’t been to a youth round since Westmorland last ran the event at the same location – was that three years ago? – so it was interesting to see how riding styles had changed (if at all) and who was likely to do the business on the day.

I don’t intend this to be a long-winded column, so let’s cut to the chase as they say. Prior to the start, secretary Peter Brown had a riders meeting where he reminded all the lads of their responsibilities as sportsmen and particularly towards adult observers, all volunteers of course, and in every respect either regular Northern Centre observers or riders – so they know the score.

Even allowing for the miserable faces of many of today’s youths, I can’t honestly say that there seemed to be much fun from anybody. There were a few exceptions, but as a general rule, long faces, dour looks and miserable attitudes prevailed. Tears and tantrums came from some of the C and D kids, which to some extent is all part of growing up and can be tolerated, whilst few of the A and B riders seemed to be enjoying the experience.

So who is at fault. Is it the riders? – frankly I don’t think so as when they were practicing prior to riding the first section, the atmosphere seemed relatively light-hearted, and I’m sure that if the whole day was a practice session, it would have been fine.

But because it is competition, undue pressure comes from parents and frankly whilst I can’t say that I saw any parental abuse towards officials, the way some parents talk to their offspring is downright objectionable.

This attitude sometimes transfers to the kid and more than once I saw young riders so reluctant to hand their card over for punching, all they could do was sulk and look away whilst the card was punched.

Whether it needs an old fart like me to say so or not, I can’t say, but let me put it like this. Long term there is nothing in trials for 98% of the riders. No money, no employment, no prospects – except to enjoy yourself riding a trials bike for as long as there is some interest in the sport. And a fact is that some riders will be good at it and others will find they only ever make it to a certain grade. That’s what happens in life, so like it or lump it.

Parents have a huge responsibility and to make use of a version of an expression used at Jerez last week, parental ambitions frequently outweigh son’s talents. Simply put, if the lad can’t clean the section, it’s not the end of the world. Encourage him to enjoy the experience, and to reach a level so that in the future he can ride nationals, get an acceptable result and enjoy the experience.

Over the years I have seen any number of ambitious fathers push, push and push their lads to achieve more than they are really capable of, and as soon as the lad reaches an age where he can make his own decisions, he’s off to cars, girls, booze and the freedom of getting away from pushy parents.

You know I have a point, but who will admit it?

I don’t want to be all negative, so let me say that I was mightily impressed with the very high standard of riding from everybody, no matter what their age. It was not an easy trial by any means and the nature of the land made the sections all of a similar nature, and there’s no doubt there is a huge amount of talent out there. I hope that despite the long faces everybody enjoyed the event; I certainly did and it was a joy to watch the commitment of all concerned.

Finally, let me thank the large number of people who have said to me that they miss my weekly columns that have been produced for the past ten years. Your kind words have proved a massive encouragement and I do intend to keep them coming once every three or four weeks – if I survive the criticism that could come from this production