Originally printed in the February 2017 issue of TransWorld Motocross. Subscribe for more monthly tips!
Skills | Handling Pressure with Stilez Robertson
Racing motocross can cause a rollercoaster ride of emotions for a rider of any level—young, old, beginner, or even professional. It's a high-speed, high-heart-rate, and sometimes-dangerous activity that gets a rush of pure adrenaline flowing through you from the drop of the gate all the way to the finish line. With all of these race-day emotions comes mental pressure, whether it's self-instilled to do well or from the need to deliver for major sponsors who support you. One young racer by the name of Stilez Robertson certainly endures more pressure than most kids his age on any given race day and does so with style and grace. There aren't many kids his age who have lined up behind a gate that drops inside a sold-out stadium like at Monster Energy Cup!
At this year's TransWorld Motocross Mini Major, Stilez was an obvious standout, won plenty of races, and spent numerous laps leading those races even with a very fast Carson Mumford thumping his four-stroke rev limiter right behind him. Stilez and a few others were also told by editor-in-chief Donn Maeda prior to the Mini Major that we were toying with the idea of putting the Supermini Open-class winner on the February cover, marking the first mini rider ever on the front of TransWorld Motocross! Pressure? Yeah, that's a little bit of pressure. To say Stilez handled it well that weekend would be an understatement, and racers of all ages and skill levels could learn from him. Whether you get nervous about the start, feel pressure from family and sponsors, or you're just a mental train wreck, these tips from Robertson may help you keep calm and moto on at your next race.
Pre-Race Prep: I just try to stay focused on what I'm going to do to make myself be the best I can be in that race. I focus on things I need to improve on and things that I could do better—I go over line choice in my head and stuff like that. You should think about the jumps on the track and where you're going to hit them. If there are certain things you struggle with on the track, think about how you're going to approach them. This way you're not thinking about the people next to you on the gate, you're thinking about your own race. I also don't talk much! I don't like talking on the gate; I'm always just going over what I need to do in my head, which keeps me calm.
Keeping Rituals: I always say, "I love you, Mom, I love you, Dad," as I leave the pits to head to the gate, and even though my dad comes to the gate with me, I still say it! My dad has taken me to the gate my whole life, and we kind of have a plan on how we always do it. I always put my gloves on first, too. I don't know why, but I do!
On Race Pressure: During a race I try not to look back, and I stay focused ahead on hitting my marks. Don't worry about the guy behind you, because if you worry about them then you'll start going backwards instead of forward. You'll end up riding defensively instead of riding your own race. Also, when someone is right behind me and I can hear them I talk to myself! I'll just be like, "Okay, let's open this up a little bit!" or "Sweep this corner and get a better drive." Really, I just talk to myself so I'm not listening to the bike of the other rider.
Creating Pressure To Improve: I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I can be really hard on myself. I always want to perform to the best of my ability and never leave anything out on the track. I'm really bad about wearing my emotions on my sleeve, and after the first moto at Monster Energy Cup I was livid. My team asked, "Why are you so mad?" and I said, "I shouldn't have left the door open!" So if I lose a race, I fuel my motivation for the next race with the thought of beating that rider, and at Monster Cup it worked and I won. Even when I win, if my lap times weren't the fastest it can infuriate me. If I win, I want to be the fastest! I use all that to stay motivated to succeed.
Holeshot Nerves: Just think about what you're going to do when the gate drops. Think about the start, like "Okay, I gotta let the clutch out smooth." I'm big on visualizing myself getting the holeshot—I sit there and see myself getting the holeshot and winning. Just think about that!
Follow Stilez on Instagram: @stilez325