I thought it was important to write this article this week, as we kick off another term of Ramp School Programs, because a very common question we get asked is "why aren't we learning more tricks".
Obviously tricks are an important part of Skateboarding, Scootering and Freestyle BMX - doing tricks is what attracts most people to the sport in the first place. But over the last 10 years as a BMX Coach (and a trainer of other BMX Coaches), I've learned that the fastest way to learn most tricks is to put off trying them for as long as possible.
Over the years, I've focused more and more on the core, basic skills in BMX - and the more we develop these, the more I've found that young riders can learn tricks faster and safer down the line. Regularly, this means pulling people back from trying something - and saying "slow down, you're not there yet". This is now what our entire coaching method at Rampfest is built around.
This is not always a popular message - and it's been the least popular with some young riders parents. Many of whom have argued with me over the years that "my child is ready to learn X". But I ask that you stay with me for a moment here while a share a story of one such parent / rider from many years ago.
When I was coaching regularly in QLD, approximately 8 years ago, we had two young BMX riders join our clinic. Both were about 14 years old, and had pretty similar skill sets. Both said they wanted to learn tail whips (a fairly advanced trick on a BMX). I told them both that I didn't think they were ready for this yet, and needed to practice a large range of other skills first.
One of the boys decided to stay with our clinics - the other left because he (and his father) were certain that I was preventing his progression.
Over the next 11 months, the boy in our program improved his skills in all other areas of riding - without trying a single tail whip. He learned to jump higher, control his bike, use multiple types of ramps, learned a range of hand & feet tricks, plus a lot of bike manoeuvring tricks. The other child did his own thing - practicing his tail whips constantly - amongst other things. We would see him regularly at events and would always hear "He's almost got them - he's so close". And sure, he got closer over time (repetition of anything gets you closer), but he broke more bike parts, sent himself to hospital once and, in my opinion, neglected many other skills.
After a full year, both could land a tail whip. The big difference is that the boy from our program learned it within a month (once he was really ready to try) - and did so without injury. The other had not been so fortunate.
The gap between their skill levels then became more apparent when they moved on to doing their tail whip on new obstacles (on a quarter pipe), or combining it with other tricks - like in a 360. Both of these variations came easy to the boy with the better foundation of skills - the other, continued to hurt himself more and more - eventually dropping out of the sport.
This might sound like an exaggeration, but I assure you that it isn't. Learning tricks too early often comes at the expense of foundation skills. Once you've got a strong base, the tricks will come easy - and with minimal injury. however this story is 100% true and happened when our head coach, Chris Bierton, was coaching BMX in QLD. The moral of the story is an often used expression in all sports coaching - it’s all about the basics, and sometimes the fastest way to progress is to slow down and back up a step.
Rampfest Owner / BMX Rider