This month's Dream Chasers segment features one of the most likable and helpful guys in the sport. Jake Vanada spends his weekends being the supporter and positive voice for many within the industry. As a chaplain, Jake is responsible for spreading knowledge, encouragement, and faith amongst the riders and industry personnel. Jake is an invaluable member of the SX family so we wanted to sit down with him and get his 2 cents on the industry and what his role is all about....
Hey Jake! For the few people out there who may not be familiar with you tell us a bit of who you are and what you do at the races?
I am the race chaplain for the Supercross and Motocross series. I travel with the race series and work along side the promoters and the AMA. I speak at chapel. I meet with riders, team owners, managers, trainers etc. throughout the race day. I am down at the starts to encourage the guys and pray for them. I lead team meetings and team prayers with teams that want them.
How did you get started on your path as a Chaplin?
I got started in ministry back in 1994, so I have pretty much been doing ministry my whole life. In 2012, I had the opportunity to get the chaplain ministry started with the National Snocross Race series through a good friend Jesse Strege. I am a big time believer in paying attention to God calling us to do what He wants. At the time, I was on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, so I was working in the world of sports in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. God opened a door, all I did was walk through it.
How did you get into the sport and what lead you to stepping up to the role that you have in the industry?
In 2008, I spoke at a FCA MX camp in Indiana. I met some awesome people who loved God and loved dirt bikes. I have always loved God, and this dirt bike thing was new to me, but I have always loved horsepower and powersports…so it was an intstant connection. Through that camp, we started a FCA MX camp in Minnesota in 2009. Because of that connection, I met Steve Hudson who was the chaplain for our sport for 20 years.
It seems like you’re one of the busiest guys in the sport. Take us through your day at the races?
Haha…there are a ton of uber busy guys who work like crazy to be the best. Being around this industry has turbo charged my desire to be the best. Race day is a busy day for sure. I get to the track a couple of hours before track walk. Most of the supercross rounds, I start off the day doing a short talk for the KTM Jr. SC riders…which is a total blast…seeing those young faces and all their parents…all jacked up to ride on a “REAL” Supercross track. It is pretty dang cool. Right after I am done with that, we are off to track walk where I make a point to check in with certain guys or follow up with certain riders or managers. After the race director is done with the riders meeting, we have a short chapel service, its optional which allows those who can’t stay or prefer not to stay a chance to get back to the pits and get ready for the race day. I speak and teach for 12-15 mins., pray for the day and then we are off and running wide open for race day. The rest of the day is all about relationships, mentoring, counseling, encouraging, basically walking alongside everyone in the pro paddock area, from privateers and their families, to the factory rigs, riders, mechanics. I am on the move all day. I love what I do.
How does what you do help these riders out?
I think for many of them, having someone there to connect with on a bigger level than just racing, someone who genuinely cares about who they are as a man or a woman, not just because of what they do, it means something to them. I am for them. I want what is best for them. I get excited for them when they finally make the main, or finish in the top 10, or make it on the podium. I hurt with them when they don’t get the result they wanted or expected. That is the role of a chaplain. Come alongside…help them with life, racing, relationships, faith. The whole thing.
What is it like working with and helping/supporting so many high profile riders?
Its pretty cool, but I don’t look at them like a typical fan of the sport might…we are all a sort of “Moto family” on the weekends. I look at them as my brothers and sisters doing life, working hard, trying to be great at this racing thing that we all get to do.
During the morning Chapel service you touch on a lot of great examples and insights. How do you decide on each topic that you discuss at every round?
That is a really great question. I try and teach truth from God’s word in a practical, encouraging, and fun way. What I talk about is often shaped by how the season is going or what I see our industry needs. I pray a lot about this and seek the Lord on what to talk about.
One of the coolest things about your service is how relatable and relevant you make each session. How difficult is it to do this?
Thank you…its cool you say that…I hear that a lot. I’m not really sure why so many say that, except that God is the one who has given me the ability to do this…if it wasn’t for Him, pretty sure the messages would be rather boring.
What is one major thing that you have taken away from working with riders in this sport?
Each one of them has a gift and ability and a massive drive to be great at this sport. Every single rider has a story…its incredible. The number one thing I take away? How hard each one works to be great. It is mind-blowing and super motivating.
How has your faith helped you reach your goals and get you where you are today?
For sure it has. My faith has grown in tremendous ways and continues to every year. For example, we raise the support we need for us to do this ministry. God sends every dollar we need…it blows me away. I trust Him completely…with it all…who I talk to, what to say. I think when we all depend more on God through faith, than we do on ourselves…great things happen. I see this in my life all the time.
If there is one thing that you would change within the industry what would it be?
That’s a hard one. There is so much good happening and so many people working hard to make our sport better, from the promoters, to production, to manufacturers…to see it all from the inside, its incredible. I know one thing that would really help our sport is more support for our privateers, which they are working on, but the gap between the privateer pro and the factory pro is still pretty big.
What are some cool things that you have in the works or things that you are getting involved in?
I am starting a whole new part of the chaplain ministry this summer, something other sports like the NBA and the NFL do for their athletes…helping riders who are done riding. I am pretty stoked about it. I have some plans as well for training camp next fall…building on some stuff we got started in the fall of ’17. I am super stoked about it.
How do you hope to have an impact on the industry and people that you talk to?
I hope it is a huge impact, but not at all because of me, but because of Christ in me. I want to see people in our industry get on the right path…the narrow road that leads to life. Helping them do that and loving them in the process is pretty much the whole reason I do what I do. I love what I do. I love our sport and the people in it, from the truck drivers, to the top factory riders and everyone in between.
For more information on Jake and his endeavors be sure to give him a follow @jakevanada . Stay tuned for more behind the scenes and in depth stories and stay locked to The Collective Experience for all of our new and exciting offerings.