Congratulations to Ryan Dungey on his highly successful racing career! He will go down as one of the all-time greats in the sport of Motocross and Supercross. While the sport is beneficial with Dungey’s participation, the sport will survive without it. After hearing his retirement speech, at his personal press conference, I am curious to see how he handles retirement. Retirement for professional athletes can be tough. Athletes define themselves by their skills and Dungey's entire life has been dedicated to the goal of winning. Once winning is no longer an athlete’s sole goal in life, depression can take hold. The identity of their professional self dies and they are forced to reinvent themselves. In the heat of the moment Dungey probably wished he was normal and didn't have the intense pressure or stress anymore. While this is true, he will still miss the adoration of so many fans. He will never be able to recreate the feeling of crossing the line to win a Supercross Championship. His life will be full of great joy and good times but the feeling of being Champion cannot be replicated.
Ryan Dungey will be remembered as one of the hardest working and determined riders in the sport’s history. This skill will help him moving forward or it will be his downfall. Unfortunately, professional athletes are not held to normal societal rules and many are socially inept. They are so used to everything being geared towards them and their goals. In retirement they are expected to instantly become regular people. They no longer receive special treatment or have an entire team geared toward assisting them reach their goals. They lose many “friends” who were there to feed off their fame and fortune. This is devastating to their psyche. Dungey will need to learn how to widen his focus. The tunnel vision required to be a Champion can alienate an athlete in regular society. Retiring athletes often have an identity crisis when it all ends. During their careers they have a team of people helping them focus and move forward. When they retire this giant support system shrinks to a few people and things can feel lonely.
In the next couple years Ryan and Lindsay will be challenged in their relationship. The divorce rate for professional athletes upon retirement is extremely high, their relationship dynamic will completely change. I have heard many people say, “He is rich and has a hot wife, life is good!” While this is true many professional Motocross racers don't have the money to sit back and reflect. Ryan has the money to allow the nothingness of retirement set in. Ryan doesn't need to enter the regular workforce and will have a lot of time on his hands. Ryan will have to find a new motivation for getting up in the morning, much like Kevin Windham. He might want to give Windham a call and allow Windham to explain the emotional roller coaster that lies ahead, and unlike his professional career this will be played out in private.
While we celebrate Ryan Dungey and his historic career achievements, I am concerned for him as a human being. I don't think Ryan will go very far from the sport, he has too much to offer. Hopefully he will make the transition and embrace his new life in whatever role he chooses. RD5 is no longer his identity, he is now Ryan from Minnesota. I personally appreciated Dungey this season as this was my first season in the Supercross media and he made it very memorable. He answered my press conference questions honestly and didn’t hide his emotions. I took a lot of heat after Glendale, but I wouldn't have it any other way. He showed his human side, something he never showed earlier in his career.
If you want a perfect example of the struggles an athlete goes through upon retirement, check out the documentary State of Play: Happiness.
(Photos by LC )
Hello ThumperTalk readers! Welcome to the second entry of my blog series, following my journey exiting the amateur ranks into pro status. For more information about the blog series, check out the first entry, The Beginning of the Journey. For now, I’ll be taking a dip into my approach to the Loretta Lynn’s qualification process and preparing myself for regionals and forward.
In the past, I’ve had a bit of a “just wing it” approach to what I did as far as racing went. While it has garnered me some success, it does not yield what I am truly capable of. Before I was released by my doctor to come back to racing, my family and I made the decision that we would change things up a bit. Of course, changes in plans isn’t uncharacteristic in a sport where there isn’t a whole lot that is certain. Like any racer, sometimes we have to switch up our lines in order to achieve the same goal.
Wildwood MX, Picture by Bobby Bammann
My approach is this… be as prepared as possible and do not rush the processes that take time. It wouldn’t be very wise to rush into the first regional event with semi-adequate preparation, not only in the sense of myself, but also my bike. Instead, I am giving myself plenty of time to continue riding, becoming faster on the bike and becoming stronger physically and mentally through gate drops and training with great people who know the process and know what it takes to reach where I want to go. Every time I am on the bike, I strive to learn something new about myself, the bike, push myself to try new things, and if I am unsure about something, be open to the advice given. With that being said, big thanks to those in my company that are making my journey to make myself great more possible than ever; Ricky Renner, RJ Hampshire, and DJ MacFarlane.
I personally believe that the best form of training is to race. If you fall in a moto during training, you can rush to get up and get back going again to simulate a race. However, the environment of actually being in a race where everything you do has a real consequence can create a very different mindset. Gate drops are key in order to have your important race days on lock *insert key-and-lock emoji here*. Obviously, having A class payback is always a nice incentive to go racing… getting some gate drops in and make a couple bucks in the process. On the other hand, experience, and of course fun, is what it’s all about. If you can’t keep it fun, then it’s not worth pursuing.
Dade City MX, Picture by Erwin Ziegler
I’ve never lived at a training facility, so my efforts have required a different level of mental toughness where no one is forcing my hand at being “mentally tough”. My efforts are self-imposed and they require the want and drive in myself to achieve success. Most of my competitors at the top level of amateur racing have spent months and years at training facilities with the constant intensity of daily and hourly practice and training sessions, being pushed beyond what I have ever experienced, other than my few weeks here-and-there training with professionals. After a year off, my hunger and desire to get back and surpass my previous standing in the racing community pushes me to aggressively attack my riding and training time with a new level of determination and maturity to quickly reconcile mistakes, figure out why I goofed it, make necessary adjustments, and find the best course of action for me to be the best I can be.
Lazy River MX Loretta Lynn's Area Qualifier, still shot from a video taken by Ricky Renner
By this time next month, regionals will be finishing up and it’ll be time to prepare for the big show. Check in for content along the way and come along for the ride, tap/click the "Follow" button! I’ll see you at the races.
Scott Meshey #141