Doug Dubach – The Anti Mini Dad?
By Donn Maeda
We’ve all seen it: a loving family completely transformed by a miniature dirt bike, a starting gate, and a checkered flag. Sure, motocross is a family sport that can provide unlimited enjoyment and a lifetime of memories, but it can also “flick the switch” inside a parent’s head and transform them into “mini parents.”
On a personal level, I’m glad that I have two daughters. Yes, I know that girls ride too, and mine did for several years before their talents in soccer outshone their desires to ride mini bikes. If I had a son, though, the potential to become the mini dad of all mini dads is certainly there. Think about it: I’ve got virtually unlimited access to bikes and parts, and I spend plenty of time riding and racing each week. Swap Jr. would have almost every resource available to him! Would I lose control and become one of those dads who files ridiculous protests at the World Mini, spits on other dads, and yells at his kid for finishing second? I’d like to think not, but I guess we’ll never know. As it is, I’m, perfectly content being a soccer dad and spending my weekends watching Meg and Samy kick the shit out of other girls on the field.
Last week at Milestone MX Park, I pitted next to Doug Dubach and his son, Carter. A former factory rider, Supercross winner, and gazillion-time Vet World Champion, Dubach is a legend in motocross and remains fast enough – in his 50s – to qualify for a 450 National. Though Carter is plenty quick on his KTM 50SX, we’ve never seen Doctor D push his son past his limits or pressure him to follow in his racing footsteps. Our casual conversation between motos about being a parent of a motocross racer was both interesting and inspiring, so I decided to record Doug’s words of wisdom and share them with TWMX readers.
“This is a subject that runs deep with me because I don't have just my kid racing; I've also got some pretty good athletes within my family. I have one daughter who is hopefully on her way to a full-ride scholarship through soccer and I have another daughter who is a very good softball player, a pitcher. So I think that because of my experience with racing and never having a father figure (my dad was a paraplegic growing up and he only got to see me race twice) I pretty much did it on my own and I never turned what my experience was, into yelling at them. Maybe some parents thought that was the way to treat their kid, but it wasn't right for me.
“I read a lot of psychology all through my racing career and what I really learned was that the best way to get the most out of a person (we're talking parent and child here) is to give them positive encouragement. Take something bad that happened and (almost) let it go because kids are going to internalize it. They know that they made a mistake when they fall down the first turn or let a kid pass them on the last lap. Whatever happened, they already know, so, what you do is look at the positives. If they fell on the first lap, compliment their start. If they got passed in the last turn, compliment their whoops speed. Just try to find a positive angle to take, because what you are trying to do is get that kid to understand the enthusiasm that it takes to ride these bikes. I took my kid to some of these Loretta qualifiers over the last several years and the things that I heard around the track made me sick to my stomach. "Little Johnny was better than you.’ ‘You sucked over there.’ ‘You’ll never win if you don’t do that jump.’
“I'll tell you a little story. One of my first years out at Loretta Lynn’s, I parked next to a family and I heard this kid getting his ass chewed for what sounded like no reason. It was because he didn't win or because he fell down or whatever; and I remember the second day that I heard it going on I went over there as a friend and said, ‘Hey Buddy, I watched you race and you were really good here, and you were really good there. You need to work on this area,’ and I just started talking to this kid and his dad went silent almost immediately and listened to me talk. By the time I was done with that, his dad thanked me and I think I gave him a whole new perspective of how to treat his kid; but it's how I would have treated my own kid and that's positive encouragement. I'm not going to blow smoke up his ass and tell him that he is better than he is, but what I am going to do is allow him to understand that I see the good things he does and let him, through open communication, tell me what he did wrong and then I'll help him walk through that. Some of the books I have read say you never get in the car after a soccer game and tell your kid anything about it. You say ‘Lets go get an ice cream cone,’ or ‘Lets go have some lunch,’ or whatever, because they will start to open up and that's the communication that you want; when you guys are both on the same level. You will never get the full potential out of your kids by talking down to them to the point of poking them in the chest.
“I'll tell you the flipside to that story--I had 10 kids at my motorhome door the next day because that one kid told everyone all the things that I had said and that led into all those seminars that I ended up doing at Loretta's; they gave me that whole pavilion under the Yamaha tent just to stand there and talk. It is something that means a lot to me because I have kids, and I have kids in sports, maybe not all three in motocross, but they all deal with the same pressures. You get these little league parents and soccer moms that are ruthless. I think a lot of it stems from the lack of success they had in whatever they were after and they want to live through their kid and that is the absolute worst way to go about anything; be it a ball sport or a motorcycle event.
“My mantra is: Treat these kids with a positive attitude and allow them to talk to you because who else are they going to go to? If you shut them down so many times because you have a bitter attitude they aren't going to have anywhere to go, and eventually they are going to go somewhere else and we all know what bad influences there are out in the world. So keep them close to you, treat them like you would want to be treated in a professional world and you'll get the most out of your kid. They aren't all going to be a Carmichael, but at least they will have a good learning experience through their racing.”