Good coaches are highly sort after in individual sports such as golf and tennis, but Down Under in the sport of kings they are something of a rarity. That was until now!
Individual sports stars Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Sally Pearson needed coaches to become champions so it makes sense for jockeys to hire a coach of their own.
Jockey coaches are used overseas and while local riders work through their apprenticeships but Victorian senior riders have started to turn to a coach.
Jockeys get plenty of ‘coaching’ via social media platforms every Saturday but the recently retired James Winks has started formally coaching riders.
Winks has branched into coaching riders after a health scare brought his career to a close after five Group 1 victories among his 838 wins in Australia and Hong Kong.
“The reality is any sportsman has a coach up until they retire but for a jockey, it’s a case of ‘good luck and do your best up against the likes of Olly and those that have been in the game at their prime for so long’,” Winks said.
Winks has started working with Melbourne jockeys Ben Allen, Jordan Childs and Jake Noonan as well as their Sydney counterpart Regan Bayliss. He’ll start coaching Sam Clipperton in the coming weeks.
Winks said his work focused on pinpointing the little things in races that make or break jockeys in the cutthroat business of racing.
“There’s definitely things that I learned competing overseas in Hong Kong against the greats and riding against the best here that I’ve already been able to pass on,” he said.
“It’s about just keeping them focused and on the right track to get the best out of their ability.
“It’s a matter of dissecting things and why they went to plan or why something didn’t work and what to do to rectify anything that needs fixing.”
Winks has nothing to do with chasing rides for jockeys, leaving that to their managers. However, he does the form for all his riders’ mounts in order to provide the best possible post-race advice.
Pre and post-race conversations also focus on jockeys’ preparations for their rides. Winks said part of the role means he’s a sounding board while jockeys work to either lose or maintain their weight.
“Being a jockey is a lifestyle, not a job,” Winks said. “Everything in a jockey’s life revolves around riding and that’s where their mental state also comes into it.
“Losing weight before raceday, it’s a battle before the battle on raceday, and many people don’t get that but I understand the mindset they get into.”
Winks said he was content to stay with five riders in order to give them all the required attention to help them develop their talents.