Three Essential Tips We Learned From My Son’s First Go Kart Race
Your first go kart outing is a defining moment in the parent/child relationship. Or, if it isn’t, it should be. In fact, when you elect me your president, my first and only promise will be that every father and mother must guide their son or daughter through just such an experience before they can officially claim them as dependents on their taxes.
Go karting builds character; requiring intense focus, strong forearms, and mental stamina. Every lap around the track offers the opportunity to take the next one even faster—to brake later, corner more sharply, or mash the throttle earlier. It’s a crippling addiction if left unchecked.
And I was about to introduce my 10-year-old son to it, at Xtreme Action Park.
Xtreme is our go-to for karting—not just because it’s the longest indoor track in the area, or because you’re ripping down actual asphalt, or because the karts are still gas powered rather than numb and electric…actually, those pretty much sum up all of the reasons.
Ever hear how Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton cut their teeth in karting? This is about as close as 99.5% of us can get to living out our F1 fantasies.
The idea was to bring him over one evening after school and teach him a few basics. However, by the end of his session behind the wheel, it was I who learned a few new lessons. Here are the three most important things parents need to know when taking their kids go karting for the first time:
Consistency is Key
When he first took to the track, Xander reminded me of a newborn doe attempting to walk. He went slowly, staying wide around the corners so as to give the safety barriers ample space. Had anyone been watching and judging him (me), it would have been painfully obvious that this was his first time. However, after a couple of feeler laps, he began to find a rhythm. I glanced at the large screen over the front straightaway and noticed his lap times stayed about the same. Despite not taking the best race line, he was a machine.
I asked him afterward if he had any idea how he’d been able to do that. His answer:
“I just floored it after that one corner every time.”
When they’re starting out, encourage your kid to be consistent rather than fast. Once they find a comfortable, repeatable pace, they can start to improve. They can choose the same corner each lap to try and get through quicker. Then another. And so on. They’ll learn what they can do better, and their lap times will come down as a result.
Play More Fortnite
After his two sessions, Xander told me that his hands and forearms were a bit sore from gripping the wheel. He said it was similar to the feeling he’d experience after a marathon Fortnite match. I thought back to my younger days, giving up hour upon hour of my own life to Mario Kart, and realized he was right—my emphatic button mashing usually preceded some rather tender hand muscles. After enough time however, they became stronger.
Or, perhaps I just built up a tolerance. In any case, have your child increase their go karting fitness by sitting stationary in front of a TV and playing more video games.
It’s Not A Competition – Except When It Is
When we got home, I asked Xander what his advice would be for other kids his age trying this for the first time. Like anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in an organized team activity, he said having fun was the most important thing.
Pause for “Aaawwwwww”s.
However, he quickly pivoted to analyze what he personally could have done differently. He pointed out mistakes that I hadn’t even known he’d made. He was obsessed with figuring out how he could tighten his turns or how he could use the brakes more. He concluded with a wistful statement about getting old enough one day to try the pro karts.
And then went upstairs to fire up Fortnite. Team #nodaysoff.
He couldn’t—and didn’t want to—turn off his competitive nature. Sure he wanted to have fun, but he also wanted to win. After all, what’s more fun than that?
I know I can inadvertently ask both of my boys to bury that ambitious instinct in the name of “having fun.” I do believe they can find a productive outlet for it in a safe, controlled setting, though. He can’t wait to go back, and I can’t wait to see what he decides to try in order to get better.
He’s still got a long way to go to beat me, of course. I’ll still be the one in our house having the most fun on the track for awhile longer.
Guest Blogger Shawn McAskill is a 30-something father of two whose sole life mission is to play harder–and be better–than his two rapidly-growing sons at every video game, organized sport, eating contest, or otherwise competitive event until they depart for college. He co-owns a marketing agency by day, and binges long-cancelled sitcoms by night. His loving wife is extremely understanding and supportive of all of his chicanery.