Capital Electric - July 1, 2012
Motocross and involved parents teach Alex Szarkowski responsibility
|Even though he’s young, Alex Szarkowski (center)
says he feels safe and confident driving motorcycles.
Parents Dan and Jessie support their son’s passion,
and know accidents can and do happen. To reduce
the risk, they’ve taught Alex to be a defensive and
responsible driver. They also find economical ways
to help their son compete in an expensive sport, and
give thanks that their teenage son still likes to spend
time with mom and dad.
There’s no cheap sport these days, but motocross is particularly expensive. In addition to the motorcycle, gas and oil the bike consumes, the athlete needs a safety helmet, goggles, neck brace, chest protector, jersey pants, knee pads, boots and gloves. To compete, contestants and their families pay for entry fees, gas to get to and from races, and weekends out of town.
Dan and Jessie Szarkowski know the expenses well. Their son, Alex, started competing in motocross last year at the age of 13.
“That’s like trying to put your kid in hockey when he is 12 or 13, and he’s never ice skated in his life,” Dan compares. “Now, we’re playing catch-up.”
Capital Electric Cooperative members from north Bismarck, Dan and Jessie agree the sport can cost a substantial amount of money. They also acknowledge it can be dangerous. But instead of focusing on the price tags and pile-ups, they use motocross as an opportunity to teach Alex valuable life lessons while investing in family.
Finessing his future
Alex took his first motorcycle rides as a toddler, cushioned in between his mom and dad. Before he turned 5, Alex was learning to balance on a Yamaha dirt bike. A few years later, Dan bought Alex a Honda and taught him to ride it in a park.
Dan and Jessie acknowledge their son was very young — and very eager to learn and to be like dad. Dan, who grew up riding dirt bikes and three-wheelers on a farm near Jamestown, knew boys and bikes could be trouble. So from the time Alex was tall enough to straddle a bike, Dan and Jessie have taught him to be a defensive driver who uses common sense both on and off the road.
“In a car, you feel safer. You have a seat belt and metal. On a motorcycle, every time you come to an intersection you think, ‘If this person pulls out, what am I going to do to avoid him? Can I stop? Can I go around? Can I swerve?’ You try and make eye contact. Did the person actually see me?” Dan describes.
Alex enrolled in an ABATE course and earned his motorcycle license last July. He currently drives a Ninja street bike and a Kawasaki KX85 dirt bike, both of which he helped purchase. Dan and Jessie paid for half, and Alex works with his dad to pay off the other half — by mowing lawns, cleaning apartments, and helping Dan with his property management business. Alex, who paid off his portion of the Ninja in eight months, laughs and says his dad does not charge him interest.
Alex started competing in motocross last summer, after a friend encouraged him to compete. Motocross is a sport where athletes race dirt bikes over a rough course with steep hills, muddy areas and turns of varying difficulty.
Even though Alex had extensive experience riding a variety of motorcycles, he had never competed. So Dan groomed a track in the family’s backyard for Alex and his friends to practice.
During his first season, Alex was placing 15th or 16th out of 20 contestants. This year, his proudest moment so far has been placing fifth overall at a race in Jamestown. His top-five finish earned him a trophy.
Competing can be thrilling — and expensive. Jessie says a new pair of racing boots can cost as much as $600, even though a growing boy might only fit the boots for one year. To minimize some of the costs, Dan searches for sales on the Internet and buys a lot of used or marked down apparel and gear. He also performs maintenance on Alex’s bike when it needs a tune-up. Dan is currently fixing a Suzuki RM125 for Alex to race next season when he moves up to the 250 C Class.
Alex says he knows how fortunate he is to have parents who support him and spend time with him. Dan admits he has high expectations when he and Alex work together on a project, but says he and Jessie want to raise a responsible young man who will be a professional, respectful adult.
“I read a quote on Facebook that says, ‘Instead of leaving a better planet for our kids, how about leaving better kids for our planet?’” Dan shares.
“We get a lot of positive feedback about Alex from friends, neighbors and people from church. He is a great kid who is turning into a great young man, and motorcycling both on the street and on the race track is something we can enjoy together as a family for a lifetime,” he concludes.
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