It's about time
What does time have to do with driving and coaching? I would argue that time is everything.
We only have so much time…it's about time for a lot of things.
Always time to give thanks. About time here near the end of 2020 for some folks to make like Elvis and leave the building...
Time stretches and contracts all the time depending on anticipation and desire.
Time is pretty much constant though.
Time has changed too. Although we never have been able to keep it, time was when clocks weren't around.
If one were to decide to damn time, 1577 might be a good time to pick. Supposedly the minute hand got going round in the late Renaissance. (Per Andrea Cefalo’s Blog)
Then again you might want to damn the messenger a little earlier. If so, then Dante and his time (early 1300's) can be your guide down, so to speak. From about then on clocks that struck the hour were dictating the day and saying o'clock is what those cool kids in a rush to do heaven knows what started doing as opposed to mostly telling time by the sun. (Also per Andrea Cefalo’s Blog more or less)
I have the luxury, generally, of running class for about 20 minutes between track sessions. I say luxury because I don’t have to try and fill a set amount of time and only look at the clock to call students to class and get the discussion started.
Again, time is everything in my opinion as regards the racetrack. The best lap time is the shortest amount of time to get around the track. Timing and scoring decides who wins and where everyone else is placed in the final result. Sessions are limited to a certain amount of time and so the time available is not to be wasted – it can’t be gotten back once it’s gone.
I want to slow time down for the students, make them feel like they have time. We are together for a short amount of time. Even at 20 minutes times four sessions, it’s a small amount of time and always less than the time spent in the car on the track. That’s a good thing. Time in the car can feel like it’s moving too fast. Time when traveling to arrive to the track can feel like it’s moving too slowly. During time spent in the zone the full absorption in the task we are doing makes it feel like time doesn’t even exist.
Unfortunately, time in the zone is fleeting.
How can we manipulate time, or rather, how can we manipulate our perception of time rather than feeling we are at the mercy of time?
I think that we can feel a bit more the masters of our domains via reducing anxiety while not diminishing anticipation. The way that I state this to my students is by saying that the goal for our day at the track is for us (the organizers and coaches) to enable them to learn how to be better drivers as efficiently as possible. This involves trust. We are granted a good deal of trust capital by the fact that the students have paid for the organizers for their track time. How we spend that capital through our actions has a direct bearing on the outcome of the day and opportunity to add capital in the form of students coming back for more track days in the future.
I could talk until I’m blue in the face, but that’s not a formula for success. Instead I have moved from a bit of randomly suggesting exercises when I started running class to doing exercises that the students participate in. These include: 1. Working on vision with the intention of getting the student to be better observers out there as they get their eyes up from looking a few feet in front of their car to scanning up to the horizon and back. 2. Taking a few deep breathes to slow everything else down inside them so they can be comfortable looking up and ahead in as in the vision exercise. 3. Working on feeling their own center of gravity through simple balance exercises. We talk about how to strip away the interference of car monitoring devices like traction control in effect without necessarily switching any of these safety car control things off that interfere with our ability to sense the push and pull of gravity and our ability to learn how to keep a car balanced as its weight shifts in reaction to our inputs at the gas pedal, brakes, and steering wheel. One way I talk about this is by explaining that braking is done differently on the track than on the street. On the street we initiate braking and press harder as needed to come to a stop or slow the car. On the track there are corners that require threshold braking so we have to press the brake pedal really hard initially and then back off to control the car either in a straight line or as we are turning to help us negotiate the corner more efficiently.
In addition to these exercises being valuable for learning about driving well, they and other things that I do with the students serve to distract them in a good way. That is, the idea is to distract them from their overall anxiety by making them task focused and approximate or approach that unconsciously competent state at or near being in the zone.
Again, the goal is to make us feel like we are in control of our time. An hour is an hour, but when you have the opportunity to make the most of those 60 minutes it feels a whole lot better…now stop staring at your phone being distracted and do something to help yourself focus better like coming out to the track as soon as we can start abusing tires and brakes again in 2021.