Andrea Leib, the founder of On Track—a K-12 educational company catering to the motocross industry—describes education as the “dirty little secret” of motocross, and in her estimation, far too many serious amateur racers are not graduating high school.
Depending on your exposure to high-level amateur racing that may or may not come as a surprise. But given that most kids who “make it,” enter the professional circuit as teenagers, it’s a reality that is not as much shocking as it is inevitable.
Consider the demands and expectations of a top amateur: To have a real shot at the pros, starting at a very young age he/she must turn in solid results at all of the recognized amateur national races. There’s Oak Hill (Texas) in March; World Mini (Las Vegas) in April; Mammoth (California) in June; Ponca City (Oklahoma) in July; Loretta Lynn’s (Tennessee) in August; and Mini O’s (Florida) in November. Not to mention all of the practicing, qualifiers, local races, and AMA National amateur days in between. Oh, and don’t forget; most of these races last at least one full week, plus travel time. If a young up-and-comer is taking racing seriously, it is a year-round commitment.
Needless to say, this schedule does not lend itself to traditional schooling. At first, most try to make racing and school work together, but eventually teachers become fed up with excessive absences and the kids have a hard time keeping up with their schoolwork as racing becomes a bigger part of their life. Almost all top amateurs will eventually forego traditional education in favor of some form of home schooling. And therein, according to Andrea, lies the problem.
Most racers are home schooled by their parents—an arrangement that is often not conducive to academic success. That’s where On Track comes in.
As a mother of a successful amateur racer herself, Andrea and her team of Learning Coaches are trying to fill the educational void in our sport by understanding the demands their students face, and tailoring an educational program to fit them…
TWMX: Education—or lack thereof—is a very real problem in our sport. Can you talk about the problems you have seen?
ANDREA: I’ve seen a lot of children not going to school. I’ve seen kids say that say they are involved in a home school program and just not learning; they’re just going through the motions. I’ve seen a lot of parents very unhappy with the programs their kids are working on.
I feel that education is a dirty little secret in motocross, because it’s just not happening much of the time, and I’ve been on a mission to change that. When we’re at races like Ponca City, Irv Braun—who is a good friend—will have me come up and talk about it. I feel the more it’s talked about, the more it will become a priority. But if we ignore it as if it doesn’t matter, and the only thing that does matter is what kind of contract the kid gets, nothing will change.
One of the new components that I added to my program last year was the ability to offer a high school equivalency diploma. So if there are kids that don’t have the time, or are at risk of dropping out of school, they have this as an option. Unlike a GED, the equivalency is nationally recognized; you can get into the military, you can get into college. It’s the real thing, and it makes those kids that earn it feel really good.
I’m working with kids like Tyler Wharton and Trey Canard who are turning pro and just don’t have the time, but education is important to them. I believe when that caliber of rider comes forward and takes education seriously, other people in the sport will realize how important it is.
It is great to hear that someone like Trey Canard is serious about his education, even though he already has a pro contract; but what about all the kids that are not going to make it to the pros?
Absolutely. I have about 80 students thaI work with, and of course many of them know that they are not going to make. It’s really sad, and you don’t want to squash their dreams, but we talk about that. It’s funny, because I talk to them about education as their Plan B, but for many of them it’s really Plan A; but if that’s the approach I have to take to get through to them, that’s okay.
Once they get that diploma, all of the sudden they are so much more confident. I think it really helps them whether they turn pro or go out and get a regular job.
Tell us about your background and how you became so passionate about this…
I went to school for early childhood development and majored in education, then obtained my K-12 credential in the state of New Jersey. After I came to California I earned my masters degree in educational counseling, and I tutored individual kids so that I could stay home with my children. I also spent some time as a regional manager for a company called Kinder Care.
I realized that I really liked working one-on-one with kids, because everyone is unique and learns differently. After I got my masters, I decided that I like alternative education. When going through the educational process, you have to conform, but motocross kids are unique.
Really, all this happened because my son Michael started traveling across the country to race the amateur nationals. I had to give up another job to do it, but it’s turned out to be the best thing for us, and now five years later we have four sites opening up, and I just love doing all the neat things that we do.
Where are your centers located?
Here in Menifee, CA; Cairo, Georgia; Valencia, CA; and one in West Viriginia.
It sounds like you’ve targeted your locations in areas that are hot spots for motocross. Cairo, GA, for example…
It’s definitely not a coincidence. Our center is in Cairo because of the Millsaps Training Facility and Georgia Practice Facility. I have a lot of students there already, and was just doing everything by phone, but you really need that one-on-one interaction. My goal is to be able to provide the same level of service and support that we do here in California.
Ninety percent of the kids at the motocross training facilities are staying there on their own; they don’t have parents that can make the sacrifice to move out there. So now, when parents ask them about school, they have the information to give them and we have a tutor—or Learning Coach as we call them at On Track—right there.
Tell us more about the programs you offer…
When a student comes to me there are lots of options, but the first thing I do is to develop a learning style profile, and then develop a program based on that. The profile also gives the parents a tool to help understand the blueprint for how their child learns.
I work with several different nationally accredited curriculums, and as I mentioned, we have the K-12 curriculum, the high school equivalency diploma, and starting in January 2008 we will be able to offer a two-year associates degree.
How do your students interact with you when they are traveling to races?
The nice thing about where we are located is it’s at the center of the motocross industry and most of my students spend a lot of time here. So when they’re in town we work together in person. When they’re out of town, we do it by telephone as well as some work online.
What percentage of your students complete the program?
It’s very high…over 94 percent.
One last question, Andrea; how can people get in touch with you?
The best way to get in touch with me is through my website; which is www.stayontrack.net. You can email me directly from there, as well as fill out an enrollment form.
Thank you so much for you time. It’s great to hear that someone out there is tackling this important issue.
you time. It’s great to hear that someone out there is tackling this important issue.