LETTER: Why Do We Need So Many Nationals?

September 24, 2017 by  

Letter: Why Do We Need So Many Nationals?

We have been in the sport for almost four years. One thing I have never understood is why are there so many national races every year? I know that, in some other sports, going to the national level is the ultimate step of success. In BMX, there is no way someone could go to all of them, or even half. So why are there so many?

MP, Midwest

Thanks for writing, MP. This is a question that weighs heavy on many-a-BMXer’s mind. But for all the discussion on the topic, the answer is likely more simple than we might expect.

Before we start, I have to stipulate that I have no special, secret, inside knowledge of the discussions that happen inside the inner-sanctum of USA BMX headquarters in Arizona. So, everything I am about to say may-well be pure bunk.

That said, one possibility is that there are so many nationals each year because the United States has the largest BMX participation pool in the world, and is a pretty-big place geographically. One only needs to look at the above map to see that.

A rider needs a minimum of seven scores to be in the running for a NAG plate. This means that a family could, conceivably, hit three national weekends (two three-day races and one two-day race), and have the requisite scores til the Grands.

That’s the MINIMUM, of course, and it really only applies to Girls, Experts and Cruisers, since they are at the level where a NAG plate is possible (with very-rare exception). Novice and Intermediate riders really have no business chasing far-flung nationals in bulk, and should partake in the one or two that are closest to them, then get back to the local track, state races and Gold Cups in their region.

Naturally, some families in NAG or National-title contention want to go to more than the bare-minimum three weekends, whether as part of a family vacation, to improve the scores they earned on the first three outings, to race for their team’s Team Sheet lineup or, in some cases, to strategically “block” others from getting better scores. It can also be to put their rider next to the top competition in their class so, come Grands time, they’re ready to rumble. Some of these are where the “chase” is rooted, but there are dozens, if not hundreds-more reasons, among the thousands of families who do it, year-in, and year-out.

If you’re in the chase, you may feel compelled to drive 27 hours to a race in Texas, then take a leisurely drive over to Atlanta to hit next weekend’s race, then drive 14 hours home on Sunday, pulling into the driveway at 4AM, so dad can get to work bright-and-early on Monday morning, after his one-week of vacation time. That’s fine (and really pretty awesome, as an experience), but it is NOT the requirement.

This may seem self-evident, but just because there are 25 national weekends on the 2017 schedule (plus Grands), it doesn’t mean you have to GO to 25 races. Nobody EXPECTS you, or any other BMXer, to go to 25 nationals. They are there for people within striking distance to hit–and a smaller, inevitable, percentage who want to cover the board as best as their (or their sponsor’s) funds will allow.

IF, on the other hand, the requirement were that you HAD to hit 15 of the 25, THAT would make it “too many nationals,” in my opinion.

Why not just have 10 nationals?

Another angle of the question is: “why not just have 10 nationals, dotting the map, instead of 25? They could all be in same relative locations, but it would mean everyone who wanted to race for fun or points would to go to those, making those races bigger.”

As with the above, this is just one man’s opinion, but do we REALLY want 10 nationals of 300+ motos each?

With that proposition, we have to answer the question: What, exactly, makes a “good” national? Is it solely rider count, where we all get back to the room at 11:45PM on Saturday and out of the parking lot at 5 on Sunday?

Or is it something else…great competition, of course. But alongside family “comfort” so racers can get a good night’s sleep, after enjoying a nutritious meal and maybe a dip in the hotel pool with BMX friends?

We have heard a lot of opinions after the few giant-races per year, saying that a back-to-the-room time of midnight (after snagging hot dogs off the roller grill at the Circle K, because everything else is closed) is certainly NOT ideal.

Thankfully, I don’t think we’re heading toward a 10-national schedule any time soon.

Is a BMX national ONLY about the actual race, however long it takes? Or is it 70% about that, and just-a-little about the experience each racer…each family…takes from that trip?

Getting back around to MP’s question, when the 2018 schedule comes out, find the races closest to you, plan a family vacation around a couple, and be satisfied with that. If you can do that, you’ll never have to ask the question “why are there so many nationals” ever again.

I hope all of the above will be fleshed-out in the comments. Your opinions are valued, above all-else.

—Mike Carruth

*A BIG BMX News thanks to Kirk Landeen for pointing us to the above Google map.


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