It is up to you whether nationals is a positive or negative experience

I posted this to our team page in 2011.   Was asked to repost before nationals this year…

 

Do your best.  That is all you can do, really.

If it doesn’t go as well as planned, be sure to handle and represent yourself to a high standard. Having class is contagious.  It will affect how others perceive you, and it also affects how you can move from one event to the other.  If you let it become a negative, it can bring you down for the next race and even beyond.

 Similarly, if it goes well, be proud that it all came together for you, but also be respectful of your competition. Be sure to recognize those who have helped you achieve your goals.

 Above all, enjoy the experience of competing on our biggest stage with the best talent in the country. Experiences that will be with you for a lifetime are happening, and you control whether these are positive experiences or not, no matter how the racing goes for you.

 For most everyone at Junior Nationals, you are racing in bigger fields with more talent than back home.   This is a chance to test yourself and grow.   The only way to “fail” at this event is to let what happens be something that brings you down. 

 Something to keep in mind is that ANYONE who tries to compete at the highest level is actually an overachiever.   That you are willing to even pin on a number at this race means that you have something that most people don’t.   Showing up is a very big part of this game.

 Sincerely,

Christian

To all the 18y olds who don’t have a pro contract for next year.

Juniors 17-18 are signed up for Nationals by now.   They’ve been overtly or covertly watching who is selected for what trip with the national team and selection camps and such.  They dig to find the race results.  They are doing the transitive property result watching, seeing where a rider they know placed in a race, and assigning where they think they’d place accordingly.  Some people are truly consumed by watching how others are doing.

While it is easy to say here, “just worry about yourself”, I know it isn’t easy in practice.   Since most everyone wants to ride for the national team at some point, and practically all are dreaming/hoping/planning to be a pro, riders want to know where they stand.   But it is important to be grounded with a good understanding of what happens this year, the next, and the immediate few years following your junior campaign.

Very, very few riders get a professional contract at 19y old.   Not all professionals even rode for their national team as a junior.  Many did, but certainly not all.   Depending upon your definition of “pro”, there were 1 to 4 18y who got a contract in 2012 for the next season in the US.  Don’t set yourself up with unrealistic expectations.  If being a pro is really what you want, understand that half of the domestic teams in the US don’t even have a rider under 23y old.   Understand that in Europe, the norm is to be an amateur for at least a couplefew years.

Sure, there are exceptions.   But don’t make your plans based upon being the exception.  If it works out, great, but making realistic plans and goals will keep you progressing.   Making those plans and setting those goals are dependent upon going after something that is achievable.

While not every expert will agree with me on this next point, they aren’t here to hit ‘delete”, and they can use their own blog or website– plenty of people (Americans or otherwise) have the talent to make it to the pro ranks.   Most who lose the path do so because of the distractions or thinking that the path is easier than it should be.   You can make the comparison with any major sport.   Basketball, Baseball, American Football, proper Football…you hear about the 19y old sensation, but most are living in a dorm or apartment with a roommate, not getting paid, competing for their school or development squad.  And they are quietly working hard to make it.

Few people get the express line route to the pros.   Few are also willing to go the ‘blue collar’ route and work their way up to it.   Many want paid this or that.  They expect some salary or stipend in the meantime.    But consider that most of the pro ranks (at least Pro Conti and World Tour) are made up of Europeans.  Those guys navigate those 19-21y seasons living at home or not too far away, and they are doing it as amateurs.
While I’m not going to say that you have to do this, too, my point is that you (and parents) need to understand that doing well in your 18y old season isn’t a ticket anywhere for most.   You are going to need college along the way, at the very least as a safety net, and very practically that you’ll need a job after being a pro.  And if you just won’t go that route, expect that you are going to have to live and train like a pro, but without a pro salary for a while.

This blog isn’t enough space to spell out exactly what to expect and do in the next few years in order to make it to the pros, and there are too many variables that affect individuals differently anyway.  Some live closer than others to races, some can handle European travel better than others, some are less talented and have to work harder, some have less money to get to races…everyone is different and has their challenges.   But you will have to invest to get there.  Time.  Work.   Money.   Commitment.   You’ll have to make sacrifices that others won’t to put you above the hopers and dreamers, so you can be a doer.    You can’t go through the motions and wait for that contract or “the right team” to then make the commitment.   Sure, you know or know of some special talents who could do just that.   Those are the exceptions.   The pro ranks are made up of some exceptions, but all are exceptional.   Most people who are exceptional had to work at it to get there.   Even the exceptions will have to work at it to stay there.    If you do the work and create the opportunities, when you get your chance, you’ll already be used to doing the work.

And if it never pans out, and if you don’t get that contract, then you will still have led a healthy lifestyle.  You will have pushed yourself.    And you’ll be able to apply that same discipline and mentality into whatever you go after next, and you’ll never wonder “what if…”, because you will be comfortable in knowing you did everything you could do.   This is why “just worry about yourself” really is the best way.   Don’t worry about how someone did in a UCI race you couldn’t even attend.   Concern yourself with what you did today to get better.   Understand what you are supposed to do tomorrow and how it fits into next week, the next month, and the next year.  The contract stuff will take care of itself.  You’ll better enjoy the process, and because of that, you’ll achieve an even higher level than you could by being consumed with what someone else did.

This is how you can be successful whether you can that contract or not.  Success should be about being the best that you can be.   Staying power is just beginning to be developed in the 17-18’s.  And to be the best you can be, you are going to need some staying power.   That can’t be gifted to anyone.  That is earned.

–Christian Williams
Head Coach- Williams Racing Academy
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