Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ross Bentley's Instructor Series: #10 - The Mistake Of Avoiding Mistakes

I am thrilled to share that world famous performance coach, race car driver, author, and speaker Ross Bentley has put together a series of instructor-focused articles exclusively for OneHotLap. Here is today's eye-opening Part X in the series --

#10 - The Mistake Of Avoiding Mistakes

Have you noticed that the more you try to avoid making a mistake, the more likely it is that you’ll make it?

The last I looked, making a mistake on a race track could be costly. That's why we want to avoid them, right? We don't want to damage our cars, ourselves, and our bank accounts. So we do all we can to avoid making them. As an instructor, one of your main objectives is to keep your students safe, and that means reducing or eliminating mistakes from behind the wheel.

And that's a shame. Why? Because mistakes are such a great learning experience. They should be, at least. But when we make a big deal about not making mistakes, we not only restrict the opportunity to learn from them, we often make things less safe. Huh?

Let's use the example of a driver who turns in early to a corner. What's the usual result of an early turn-in? Running out of track at the exit, dropping wheels off the track, and often a spin. The spin, however, is usually a result of trying to avoid dropping wheels off the track, and not specifically the early turn-in. When a driver turns in early and finds himself doing everything he can to avoid driving off the track at the exit, he tightens up the steering. And when he does go off track with all that steering input, the car often ends up spinning back across the track - the Big Spin. If only the driver - and the instructor - had accepted that he made a mistake by turning in early, and simply driven off the track with the front wheels pointing mostly straight ahead, the spin would not have happened.

I understand that the idea of riding in the passenger seat of a car that is going off the track is not something to look forward to. But in most situations, it's a far better outcome than the Big Spin.

Think about the main lessons in your life, the things that you've learned the most from. I bet many of them were the result of having made a mistake. You’ll want to allow your students to make mistakes, too. In the ideal world, you would do that on a skid pad or some other place where the consequences are minor. But sometimes, when it's safe to do so (low enough speed, a corner with a lot of run-off room), let your student make a mistake on the track. Let him make a mistake and learn from it. Allow the "learning-take" to take place.

Ross Bentley

For more of Ross' writing, along with articles by other famous and not-so-famous contributors, go to www.speedsecretsweekly.com. He can be reached at ross@speedsecretsweekly.com.