Driving Tips and Tricks

Ok folks – I know this database…a bunch of hard-core drivers with a passion for our sport, AND a passion for sharing our knowledge, or at least our self-perceived knowledge!  And of course, we’ve passed the sniff test as applied by the Bentleys, so there certainly is a reasonable amount of credibility that comes with being published here.  So this is a story of an epiphany I had while babysitting my two-year-old grandson.  And it’s turned out to have created a fresh way to present a very fundamental message that we all share with our students any chance we get, “Keep your EYES UP!”

My son and I had drawn duty to care for my three grandsons on a toasty Arizona afternoon.  Immediately, we go on the offensive, announcing, “Let’s go to the park and play!”  Certainly, the boys would love this, AND it would use up some of their boundless energy, AND get us closer to their Mom returning home.  Their ages are 5, 4, and 2.  These kids are outdoor kids, and the 5 and 4-year-old are already pros on their regular bicycles – no training wheels for these guys.  So they jet off to the park with my son, their Uncle, and I’m working with Bobby the 2-year-old to get him to the park as soon after them as possible.  Thinking he could poop out on the way back, wise old Grandad grabs the umbrella stroller to bring along, as Bobby is a stocky and sturdy 2-year-old, and Grandad fears having to carry him back home like a sack of potatoes – a daunting task on a hot afternoon. 

Well, Bobby decides he wants to help, and we unfold the stroller and he decides he’s going to drive this stroller to the park.  Cool by Grandad, and we’re off down the sidewalk.  Well, our progress is right up there with our beginner group drivers – he’s being jerky with the stroller, gets very short spurts of momentum, but then is misdirected off the edge of the sidewalk and in the imaginary tire wall about every 50 feet.  At this pace, the big brothers will be bored and ready to come home by the time we get to the park.  Enter Grandad, big-time driving coach.  After carefully analyzing the driver issue (we at HOD call it, “Diagnose the Driver”), I see that Bobby does not have his eyes up at all.  In fact, his eyes are down!  He is walking behind the stroller, pushing along, but he’s not quite tall enough to see over the back of the stroller, so he is regularly looking down at the sidewalk and when he does so, he immediately loses his bearings, and drives off randomly to the right OR left into the grass.  My initial instinct is to grab the “wheel” of the stroller and add a firm direction, and just allow Bobby to push….great teamwork – Bobby is the horsepower, and I’m the navigator – and we begin moving.  But I have a pang of conscience at this point – and then an “Aha” moment.  I’ll lead Bobby, giving him a higher target to see, hoping he will be able to follow the target.  So – I let go of the “wheel” of the stroller and scamper around in front.  Initially, I had to walk backward in front of the stroller, and keep eye contact with Bobby – but then simply called out “Follow me Bobby” – and he smiled broadly, putting his pedal to the concrete and pushing hard straight and true down the center of the sidewalk.  Seeing me ahead, he relaxed, got his balance, squared up his grip on the handles of his car/stroller, and hauled the mail.  I then had to let go a bit and trust him, as he was going to run me over if I continued to walk backward.  Turning around, I went into a light jog, and we were at the park within 5 more minutes. 

Ok – this is corny and a way for a Grandad to tell a story about his grandkids…but in our everyday life of teaching, I figure having one more way to explain the value of vision – to make it a funny story – might help it sink in for folks…so feel free to tell the story about Bobby looking down and driving off, and looking up and finding his rhythm to chase his Grandad if you think it might help the message sink in.  Cheers.

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