that point on, it’s like going to college, except that you
don’t know how long it’s going to take, whether you can
afford the tuition or whether you’ll ever graduate. With
the amount of time dedicated, money put into it, family
fights and amount of blood shed, I could have been a
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon by now.
Week in and week out, my dad and I went racing.
I loved it. I was winning the majority of the races I
entered, and when I started making the podiums at
the big Amateur races in my area, the sponsors
started knocking at my door. At this point I was still just
a normal kid, albeit obsessed with motocross. I was still
playing Little League baseball and hanging out with my
friends at school. Then, one day, all of that changed. At
the age of 12, my dad sat me down and asked if I truly
wanted to become a professional motorcycle racer. He let
me know that if this was the path I wanted to take in
life, there would be sacrifices necessary to get to the next
level. That meant no more Little League, less time with
friends and missing a lot of days at school. And though
he never said it, I understand now the sacrifices that my
parents would have to make also.
During my second big Amateur National where I raced
against James Stewart and Josh Grant, I placed fourth.
I was excited. My dad was not there, as he had work
commitments, so I called him and excitedly yelled into
the phone that I got fourth. I thought he’d be as thrilled
as I was to have raced against such great riders and
done so well. Instead, my dad was angry. He was used
to me winning all the local races. He said that if I wanted
to make it to the next level, I needed to do better. I
was crushed. I did the best I could, but from lack of
experience, my results simply weren’t good enough. I had
tears running down my face as I hung up the phone.
I was scared I would have to give up racing. The
disappointment just made me work harder and changed
this from a fun activity into a real job.
Today, I can see that my dad’s expectations were
greater than mine. And, his commitment was bigger. He
had sent me on the road to miss three weeks of school,
had gone through thousands of dollars, and spent
countless hours at dusty dirt tracks only to come to
believe that the juice was not worth the squeeze. I don’t
blame him, but the bond between father and son started
to change after that phone call. The pressure to win rose.
Dad was now more of a coach than a father. He wanted
me to succeed, and he thought that pushing me to excel
would get me to where I wanted to be. It was all for me,
but he had an investment to protect.
As a parent loves his child, it is hard for the child to
understand all the pressure that he’s engendering. A
lot of times the child starts to resent the different, and
often unhealthy, relationship between the two of them.
The dynamic changes drastically, and not every child is
able to decipher what’s happening. Sometimes a kid just
needs to be a kid, and I can name any number of toxic
relationships that involve factory riders and their parents.
At the age of 13, I earned my first manufacturer
contract with Kawasaki’s Team Green. I got free bikes,
parts and numerous other perks that were tied to it. To a
13-year-old, the contract looked as thick as a book. There
were countless rules and regulations—from what color
gear I had to wear to what races to attend.
No teenager can do it on his own. Without family support, a young rider isn’t going anywhere—no matter how
much talent he has. These wonderful amateur
contracts don’t come cheap. There is an inevitable
“keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that comes with
THE LIFE CYCLE
OF A DREAMER
HE HAD SENT ME ON THE ROAD TO MISS
THREE WEEKS OF SCHOOL, HAD GONE
THROUGH THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, AND
SPENT COUNTLESS HOURS AT DUSTY DIRT
TRACKS ONLY TO COME TO BELIEVE THAT
THE JUICE WAS NOT WORTH THE SQUEEZE.
As you can see from Daryl’s duck-taped visor and mismatched
gear, the Ecklund family was on a budget (his dad watches
over him in the background).
On his Pee-Wee, Daryl’s dad let him ride across
the street from their house to practice jumping.