When I was coaching at the track I had two favorite stories I would tell the juniors. I don’t know if they actually got it, but both stories are about building your confidence and learning what you can do in a race.
Back in my newbie days of being a racer parent we were in Indianapolis at Junior Nationals. The 10/12 girls were racing. There was one little girl I called “Red Booties” because she wore red booties. She probably did not weigh more than 35 pounds and kept attacking off the front. I, with my 2nd National Championship wisdom, kept asking why is she doing that? That is not the way girls race. Traditionally, girl packs stay together till the last lap and then they sprint – but not Red Booties. Red Booties would jump and get caught, always jumping out of turn 3 and getting caught by turn 1. She did this the entire race! We would say, “Here she goes again! What is she doing? She will lose the race!”, but Red Booties was learning. She learned with all that practice, how to jump and stay away. Although I have never talked with Red Booties, I believe she also learned to how to lose before she learned how to win. Red Booties is none other than Coryn Rivera who went on to win more National Championships than any other junior – male or female!
I wished I had known back then what I know now. I would have told my kids “Go lose”. Lose because you were trying to make something happen. Lose to learn what you can do.
Red Booties Example
I followed Red Bootie’s example and had one of my crit racers practice jumping off the front over and over again at a local training crit series. I would tell him to go off the front and see how long before they catch you, and to keep repeating. This kid listened to me and every week at the crit race he would go off the front several times. Finally, after several weeks of practice, the racer used his new knowledge at a big state-level criterium race and soared through the finish line to the top of the podium. It was a good day, but it took lots of getting caught and breaking away before he gained the confidence and knowledge to win.
The moral of these stories is you too must practice your racing skills, like jumping off the front. The more you practice the better equipped you will be when it is time to use them. Once it works, your confidence will soar!