|Gears, gas and God|
Charlie Kosmata, Barbarian Racing team manager, compares his backyard motocross racing track to a 'Field of Dreams.' He built it for his kids and now sees it as a ministry to help spread the word of God.
|Racing with shadows|
Martin Kosmata explains what he loves about racing with the Barbarian racing team and how he handles riding alongside motocross bikes he can't hear.
Most Viewed Stories
Cross training: Motocross team a chance at racing, ministry
What originally started as an outlet for a Yuma man to spend more time with his sons, transformed into a living, breathing, state championship winning team of kids racing motocross across the state.
Charlie Kosmata, Barbarian Racing team manager, originally built a motocross track behind his home for his two sons Jake and Martin, and then by word of mouth, more kids joined the racing group expanding into a team of about 12 kids – including boys and girls.
“It was like ‘Field of Dreams,' if you build it they will come,” he said jokingly.
But in all seriousness, he noted that not only do they look at this team as a chance for these kids to race at the state level and do what they love, but they also see it as a ministry.
“Most important is that our witness of Jesus Christ is evident in our young men and women,” he said. “We understand that this endeavor is a gift, and an opportunity to show God's great love for people through His son Jesus.”
Kosmata noted that both of his sons have improved so much as riders since they took up motocross in October of 2009, despite the fact that one of his sons, Martin, is hearing impaired.
He added that at the state level, Martin has become like an icon that everyone comes out to root for because he's so fun and personable.
Martin is able to tell if someone is coming up behind him by the shadows in the dirt and by just looking in his peripheral view, he explained through sign language translated by his father.
The kids on the Barbarian Racing team range in age from 9 to 18 and Kosmata explained that the dynamic of the group has been fun to watch.
“The old ones help the young ones along and they encourage each other. As the younger ones get faster they encourage the older ones,” he said.
Since joining the team, Kosmata remarked that he has watched many of the students undergo total attitude transformations and for some, their whole demeanor has changed.
“In doing this I feel like I have gained sons and daughters throughout the community,” Kosmata commented.
In addition to ministering to new friends that the teams meets at AMX state competitions, they have also witnessed to some of their sponsors and as a result, a few have been baptized.
After Wednesday practices, he said, the group heads to junior high and high school “Upper Room” youth group at First Christian Church.
But they all clean up and shower first, said Kosmata with a laugh.
Usually about three days a week there will be team members racing around the track behind his house, he said, noting motocross is probably the second most demanding physical sport, the first being boxing.
“You need a lot of stamina and a lot of physical strength,” he said, noting that the average motocross bike is about 250 pounds. “Endurance is the key.”
Kosmata noted that motocross is said to be the perfect balance between man and machine. If you look at stock car racing the car does most of the work, if you look at bicycle riding the person does most of the work, but motocross racing is almost even.
“Every one of them out here have been out with an injury at one point,” he said. “But for them the reward far outweighs the risk. These kids are warriors — even the girls.”
Team member Kalin Croutch, 16, said that although she has ridden horses in the past, she has never done anything like this before, but because she loves the thrill of speed she decided to try it.
The first time she rode around the track she said it was kind of scary because there is so much going on at once, but she said overall it was really fun.
Her girlfriends are jealous because their parents won't let them come out, she said, noting that she doesn't buy into the mentality that girls are too fragile to race.
Another team member, Colton Keeling, 14, has been riding motocross bikes since he was 8 years old and has a total of about 15 state championships under his belt.
Keeling said that he started out racing on BMX bikes but the second he got on his first motocross bike he knew that's what he wanted to do.
Milo Gonzales, 10, started riding last month and he said he was inspired to try motocross after watching his cousin race in California.
Although he doesn't expect to begin racing for another six months, his dad said that he loves the sport and his son has posters of bikes and riders all over his room.
Chris Burton, 14, said although he twisted muscles in his arm last week and broke his leg last year while riding, he loves the sport and wants to pursue it professionally later in life.
Burton said that he enjoys flying off jumps and feeling weightless.
“You feel that exhilaration and you're so pumped,” he said.
Since joining the team he said that he has learned to be a good leader and also to be more humble about winning races.
Jens Kneeland, 18, has been riding since he was about 13 and said that he started out skateboarding and eventually progressed on to motocross.
“Eventually you get up from the couch after playing video games and decide ‘Hey I'm going to do this,'” he said.
To train, he said that he takes up swimming, running and of course riding around the track.
Kneeland added that this team is like a family to him and although he has his family at home, when he steps foot onto the track it's nice to know that he has the support of his racing team of brothers and sisters behind him.
For more information about the team or to join, contact Kosmata at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858.