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A ‘Sensei’ has to be old

If you follow my monthly topics, then you might have noticed the red line to the struggle of riders on mental focus – so let’s stay on this topic and clear something up at the same time. This goes mainly out to the track riders and racers.

It seems that there is a wrong picture of what a teacher has to look like and be capable of. Sometimes I hear things like “Coach is to old”, or “He raced in the 80’s, that was different back then.” The conclusion seems to be that because I’m older, I can’t teach them anything. This is wrong and misguided, so let me throw a light into the dark tunnel for you.

Of course I am not as fast as I once was, but I actually still have the fire of a thousand suns in me when I’m on track, and I can rip lap times at Laguna Seca Raceway that would make active racers quite nervous, even when the years on me have replaced my 6-pack with a beer belly. Even when I am a little hip-lame… I still know what it takes to achieve Pole Positions, International Pro Racing victories, and even lap records. And here’s the deal… besides technology and tires – we’re still fighting the same old element… gravity.

Still not convinced? Remember Karate Kid’s Mr Miyagi? How about Yoda? Or Panda’s Master Shifu? They are all old, and they mentor their students to become hero’s anyway. Yea… I know. That’s all Hollywood?! So what about reality- like Coach Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots for example? He’s old and he keeps creating winning teams. Just recently I saw a documentary about Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl ending carrier. Here’s a multi-million dollar NFL player who got hip-lame himself and loaded with mental blocks. This man had a coach on his side- a 72 year old Sensei!

Does that mean that his sensei was expected to throw the damn ball further than record holder Manning? Was it necessary for his sensei to be quicker out of the pocket? Should his sensei have been mentally and physically strong enough to get past a 280-pound linebacker and throw a touchdown anyway? NO, but his sensei helped him on a way different level, and all what that 100 Million dollar MVP and multiple record holder was replying to his sensei was- ‘Yes Sir’ and ‘Yes Coach’!

Still not seeing the comparison? How about a basketball coach who is 2 ft smaller than his player- or a hockey coach who can no longer skate fast and handle a puck like a 20-year old. They may not be able to play the game, but they know what it takes to be a success in the game. They know what to say- when to say- and how to say!

So here is the logic, which I believe got lost with all those track day instructors who believe that a 10 minutes ‘workout’ and a succinct tip in regard ‘body positioning’ is all what it takes to be a good teacher. At a certain level of an athlete, a coach on the sideline is working just fine. I as a coach, see weak spots to delete, strengths to develop, tailor a race strategy, finding details to improve in the skill set and most important to mind set a competitive nature, because I know what to say- when to say- and how to say!

For this, I don’t have to be with the racer on the track to ’skate faster’ to proof credentials. Though, I bet I even can help a Top-Gun racer to drop lap times also with his riding skill set, because I’ve been there too. At that point to mention MotoGP. Even some of those guys have coaches too. Are they riding with them?! No, because how should that be even possible?!

You’re asking why I put this on the mental side?… well, you might shut yourself down with that type of thinking, and might miss out on something that finally could get you on the path you always wanted to walk… the path to success on the race track. If you still don’t see that the problems are between your ears, then you keep fighting wind mills. But if you are ready- come see me and I might help you to become a mighty Jedi.

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Sacramento 04/25/2018

How to find Sponsors to Support your Racing Career

This question hits racers, teams, managers and event organizers every year. Stuff like this is off topic for the public of course, so this article is not addressed to you- but maybe interesting enough to get an idea what’s going on in motorcycle racing for example.

When you start amateur racing, then there is a bunch of stuff going on in your head, also this… dreams, hope, wish-thinking. Yea, I know, I was there too so give me a break. So what’s happening from September till March is that thousands and thousands of athletes worldwide are looking naively for monetary support by RedBull with a 10 years contract… literally.  So here is what I’ve learned as I walked from the slowest amateur racer to a professional racer who almost made it to MotoGP.

Yea, I can hear voices saying again: ‘that was long time ago’, but believe me… nothing has been changed much. Well we have the internet and social media and blogs now too, and it seems that this should help to get to potential sponsors- whil I actually believe it makes it harder FOR the sponsor to pick the right horse since everyone tuned to a keyboard jockey and blows up Youtube with gazillions of gigabytes of more or less senseless 20 minutes track sessions. Am I sound mean? No, I just try to open your mind for whats wrong and whats right, so stick with me and let me show you first where all the wish-thinking like this brought us…

There is that couple who of course believe that their son is the next Marc Marquez. That’s totally fine of course, but blaming the entire industry for making all those mistakes in regard ‘our future talents’ is not quite correct. A promising lap on some go kart seems to deliver enough arguments for getting a Monster Energy contract, but this demanding attitude produces two psychological dead end roads…

  1. amateur racers getting the idea that racing without sponsors is not going anywhere and give up
  2. potential talents are not even start to race without having sponsors

I received a call from a Mom, asking me to support their kid by paying their racing fuel. After I told her that I competed against 120 racers to even qualify for an amateur race, and that I didn’t had money for racing fuel either… and that I also had to use slick tires in rain, and also that I kicked ass anyway, and that exactly that’s why I got my first check from a sponsor… she hung up on me. What’s that called… to much reality check?!

It takes many years of sweat and blood to make people believe in a racer. There is a relationship growing which builds something very important… a shield of loyalty, which kicks in when your results are not good sometimes.

Sometimes it comes back…

…those memories of my time as a racer- but do I really want this?!

1994 Can Akkaya starts from first row after a tough battle in 250cc qualitying for the German IDM, pro racing

1994 Can Akkaya starts from first row after a tough battle in 250cc qualifying for International Dutch Open in Zolder Circuit in Belgium

Please don’t get this ‘self-asked-question’ wrong… because heck, I don’t want to loose those memories, and if I had the chance to do this all over… I probably would. But here and there are popping up some pics, videos or even race or qualifying result lists which are digitized now- thanks to scanners and Internet these days. Just like this one here, which I received from ex-racing pro colleague Wilfried Gehrman, who also attended this race.

Then I look at a document like this, and something is happening… like a flashback to specific moments of this particular qualifying. I begin thinking of what I did wrong… what i could have done better… and so on and so on. In fact it just gets me down, and takes me away from what this sport really meant to me… it gave my live a direction, goals, commitment and passion.

So I am keeping it short looking at this list to protect myself, and to memories things like this… that I started racing on a 3000 German Mark ‘junk ready’ bike and almost made it up to MotoGP anyway… that I crashed out of my first International pro race, 8 seconds in lead on the last lap because I denied to slow it down. Stupid?! yea, but I could learn a lot.

It took a lot to make my feet slowing down paddling, but I still move forward because I am still using my will and passion. I am thankful that I can help others paddling in the right direction today.

Coach