Earl Hayden: Growing Champions
By Grant Parsons
Most parents would be proud to have a single kid become a successful pro. Earl Hayden has three, with five road-racing national championships and a world MotoGP title among them.
Factory racers Tommy, Nicky and Roger Lee Hayden are three of the most recognizable riders in the AMA Superbike paddock, a hero around the world in MotoGP.
The secret to their success? Enthusiasm from a young age. Here’s Earl Hayden’s take on the family’s efforts.
On motivation: I really believe the kids have to really want it bad. It can’t just be Mom and Dad who have the dream. Because when it comes down to it, it’s the guy who works the hardest who is going to win. There are no shortcuts to training, so the drive has to come from the kids.
On training: I also say that the top three things are practice, practice and practice. The boys liked it enough, and it was fun enough, that they could practice four hours a day six days a week. They would have done seven days if we’d let them. We used to change the track a lot so the kids wouldn’t get bored. Early on, the neighbor kids would come over, and when they’d start beating the neighbors, we’d have better racers and even expert racers come over and race to keep things fresh. And if the boys couldn’t beat them, they worked all the harder.
On the importance of school: A lot of people talk about home-schooling their kids so they can race more, and to tell you the truth, I don’t see that as a good idea. We never did that. School is important, and not just for the book sense, but for all the social life that goes along with school—the proms, dances, things like that. The truth is the odds on being world champion have to be like 10 million to 1. The lottery’s probably easier than that. You need something to fall back on, and that’s school.
On the magic of stock bikes: A stock bike will teach you to ride the corners so you make up the time you lose in the straights. And if you ever line up against a Valentino Rossi in your career, you better know how to ride a corner. Honestly, if I had one thing to do over again, I’d add weight to the bikes to help ’em learn even more.
On keeping it all in perspective: The real thing is to remember you’re a family. A referee told me one time, “Hey, at the end of the day, hug your kids,” and that’s it, right there. Kids, they want to make Mom and Dad happy. They want to win. There’s no sense having the boot out every time they come off the track. Just let the kids have fun. If they’re good at it, and if they enjoy it, they’ll get good enough so that the pressure comes on its own later. Let ’em have fun for as long as you can.