You’d be shocked by just how mental this sport is. While most fans and riders think that the equipment and machines make all the difference, those up-close to the industry know that it goes much deeper than that. Often times we see racers who we deem as “the next biggest thing” succumb to the pressures of expectation only to turn things around after a breakout ride. Just take a look at the current top riders. We can easily see how confidence and self belief have effected the current points standings. We were curious to find out more about what goes into the mental side of racing. Naturally, we connected with Lex and the crew at The Mind Champion to get their expert opinion on all things mental with respect to Motocross and Supercross. Take a gander and find out how your mental game is effecting your results and how you can turn it all around…
What is the Mind Champion all about?
It’s about Personal Development. Can you be better today than you were yesterday? Can you be better tomorrow than today? Ryan Dungey and Roger De Coster share what’s in their minds about Motocross and Supercross. And then they share the habits that they use to be successful in life.
What is your main goal within the industry?
It started with a question: What’s the best way to share the knowledge & experience of two world champions? Both Ryan and Roger have so much knowledge & experience, and truly want to give back to others and share all that they know. How do champions think? We want to give that insight to how both Ryan and Roger think. There is a bigger goal too. Can the habits they use to be successful on the track apply to life? I asked both Ryan and Roger, separately, to list the top habits they use to be successful on the track and in life. Surprisingly, or maybe not - they had 9 habits that were exactly the same!
Who are some athletes that you have working with the Mind Champion?
Currently, Roger De Coster and Ryan Dungey. If things go as planned, we’ll have Roger and Ryan interacting with others as well.
How important is the mental side of racing?
It’s the most important item by far. It’s what separates the truly great from the good. Many people have support, and many people have talent - the mental component is what makes a true champion.
What are some common mental game hang-ups that most racers exhibit?
Distractions. It doesn’t matter what the distraction. If you are going to be successful in racing, then racing must take a priority. At the same time, you want to have balance in your life. It can’t be just racing. If you have too many distractions, and no balance, you won’t perform at your peak performance.
What are some mental training techniques that racers can do to improve their racing and mental strategy? And what mental strategies can translate over to everyday life?
There is a lot of material available these days for improvement, both mentally and physically. A big buzz word right now is Mindfulness. And much of mindfulness has to do with breathing. I think that’s one of the key takeaways right now - practicing mindfulness. It applies to every aspect of life too. Also, the majority of elite athletes that I’ve communicated with practice visualization. They ‘see’ themselves getting the hole-shot, they see themselves getting the checkered flag, they see themselves winning.
Lately, we’ve seen an increase in the number of top riders who have mental coaches. Will this continue to be a growing trend in your opinion?
Yes. It will only grow. Progress never goes backwards. If we look to other sports - golf, tennis, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, MotoGP, and any other top level sport, you’ll see all kinds of coaches. Mental coaches, nutritional experts, physical therapy. It will get bigger and bigger for sure.
What sets racers apart like the Ryan Dungey compared to other equally talented riders?
If you look at the ‘outside’ of things - the support and equipment someone might have, their physical conditioning, their talent level - there are many guys that have all those ingredients. So, it’s the ‘inside’ things that make a difference. It’s the mind, their mental make-up. For Ryan, if you look at his demeanor, his personality, he’s quiet, respectful, and ‘at ease’. Yet, motocross is one of the toughest sports on the planet. It takes a very special person to be a champion in the sport. And the biggest part of being special is the mental component. Plus, Ryan has good balance in his life. He has his prioritizes straight.
What are some traits that he (Dungey) would focus on to keep his momentum and edge all season long?
In learning the answer directly from Ryan a couple of years ago, you might surprised. I was. The reason why I say that - I rode and raced, and all I ever thought about at the time was racing. It’s all I thought about at that time. Ryan is different. Even when he was very young, he knew there was something “more” than racing. So for Ryan, although racing was important, he knew he wouldn’t be racing forever. And he knew that no matter what the results on the bike, he could be a good team mate, a good son, a good brother, a good husband, a good friend. He always put things in proper perspective too - faith and family.
Can you tell us a bit about your background within the industry?
Probably no one, but my mom cares about this (ha ha ha). I started in 1972. I was a punk 13 year old. I took my parents 8mm film movie camera to the LA Coliseum for the Superbowl of Motocross. I didn’t really know what I was doing. Later that year I went to Carlsbad Raceway for the Trans-AMA race. I was riding at the time, but I really was into that 8mm movie camera. I had heard of Roger De Coster, and Brad Lackey. I wanted to see them race. We lived in El Cajon, about 45 minutes away from the Carlsbad track. Fast forward 47 years, and here we are - I’m still doing the same thing in a way. I started a motorsports video / TV production company in 1982. I worked for ESPN from 1989 till about 2004. I launched the web-site Supercross.com in 1995.
What motivated you to start the Mind Champion?
I’ve been friends with Rick Johnson since 1977. In 1983, his first year on Factory Yamaha, he dislocated & broke his hip. We went to Barona Oaks Raceway (near El Cajon) so Rick could speak to the kids racing there. Rick was on crutches. He hobbled up the stairs of the scoring tower. As I watched him speaking to those kids (one of the kids there was Jimmie Johnson), I realized Rick was really into sharing what he knows. At that time, I said to myself “I’ve got to get him on VHS so we can get this information to more people!” It took a little longer to finally see the idea through, right? Once I sold Supercross.com in 2012, I was trying to find ways to reinvent myself. I was learning a lot about new technologies, platforms, and automation. So I started putting together the ‘guts’ of The Mind Champion project. But, who was I going to get to participate? If someone had told me I’d be working with Roger, and have his trust … I probably would of said “In my dreams”. Because Roger is extremely busy. Probably more busy than ever. And he loveswhat he does. And if someone told me I’d be working with Ryan, and have his trust, I’d probably say the same thing, “In my dreams.” Because he was still a professional athlete, still racing. But everything worked out. Almost miraculously. I’d have to say God had his hand in how it all came together.
What has the process been like creating the Mind Champion?
The process has been tremendous. And we are all looking forward to our launch very soon. For me personally, I’ve learned so much about new technologies. I’ve learned something new in that regard almost every day for the past 3+ years. Also, we have a very small team of people that are involved. Our relationships have grown so much personally & professionally. I really value all the relationships and the continued learning.
If there was one thing within the industry that you would change what would it be?
I’d create the position of a Commissioner - someone that’s looking out for the best interest of all, and the long term growth of the sport. We did an exhaustive report on this about 10 years ago. In looking at the major sports in the USA, all of them achieved exponential growth once a Commissioner was in place. You have promoters, you have riders, you have teams, you have sponsors, you have a sanctioning body - right now, there isn’t a true unifying force in the sport.
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