Q: “What tips and advice do you have for an aspiring driver coach/data analyst?”
A: Overall, get as much varied experience as possible, no matter what that takes. If it means volunteering to work with a driver and/or team, go for it. And variety is super valuable.
On the coaching side, instruct for various schools, at all levels of the sport – you’ll learn something from all of that experience. Personally, there are times when I’m coaching a race driver when something I learned while instructing cops and military personnel in pursuit driving has helped. Or experience instructing a different sport or activity helps, too.
Notice that many of the very best driver coaches were not necessarily the most successful race drivers. In fact, some of the best drivers don’t make the best coaches because they haven’t had to figure out what it took, themselves.
Having said that, it’s critical that you can relate and empathize, so you need some experience. Do what it takes to get at least that minimum amount of experience.
As for the data geek role, it’s much the same – get experience. Work with as many teams/drivers as you can, and use as many of the different systems. At first, it’s best to be a generalist, before you ever begin to be a specialist with one specific system. With data, I’ll add that you need to learn as much as you can – that’s a must, obviously. Fortunately, there is a ton of resources out there to help you learn more.
In fact, something that certainly covers the driver coach role – and I think the data analyst, as well – is that to be a great teacher/instructor/coach, you first need to be a great learner. If you’re not passionate about learning, then I think you need to find another profession.
Oh, and one last thing about the coaching role (can you tell I’m a bit passionate about this?): Your personal motivation is probably more important than anything. If you don’t have a burning desire to help others, then you’re never going to be a great coach. If you’re wanting to be a coach because it’ll keep you near the track, and it’s just a job…well, okay, go ahead. But understand that you’re never going to be as good a coach as someone who truly loves coaching and helping others. For me, I made the switch when I took my helmet off. As a driver, it was all about me. As a coach, it’s all about the driver I’m coaching. That’s why it’s not for everyone.