Training Lessons from Sage Karam, Future Indy 500 Winner


SAGE KARAMIn 2014, a 19-year-old driver named Sage Karam finished in ninth place in his first Indianapolis 500. He didn’t do that well in 2015 – he had to leave the race in the first lap, after another car hit him. But he returns to Indianapolis this weekend for his third Indy 500. At age 21, he’ll still be the youngest driver in the field and obviously, he hopes to do well.

Karam has been writing about his training routines on a blog he’s been writing for NBC Sports. His posts make for very interesting reading for anyone who is involved in training design and development. Here are some of the training approaches he’s using that can be rolled over into any effective training curriculum.

Lesson One: It Pays to Work with a Mentor

Karam has been working with a great mentor – the driver Dario Franchitti, who has won Indianapolis three times. Franchitti and Karam talk about more than driving. Karam explains, “Dario would talk to me about his first year in the sport – he had some tough times as well – and offered me life-lessons about driving, racing and the world.”

The lesson? If you want to develop top performers, mentoring merits consideration as part of the training mix.

Lesson Two: Provide a Setting Where Trainees Can Focus

Karam writes that there are plenty of distractions for Indy drivers in the weeks leading up to the race: interviews to be done, in-depth sessions with engineers who tune the car, and more. Yet he has found a way to concentrate on driver training and test laps, possibly the greatest determinants of how well he will do.

The lesson? Create a training setting where your learners can get away from distractions and concentrate on what they most need to learn.

Lesson Three: Provide Learning in the Real World

Karam’s father is a high school wrestling coach in Nazareth, PA. So the young driver went home and became his dad’s assistant coach. Karam is now proud that he and his father trained the first all-state wrestling champion in the history of the school. The lessons Karam learned have made him a better driver.

The lesson? Some of the most effective training you can offer takes place outside of the training classroom, in other contexts. So consider adding some real-world work experiences to your training curriculum.

Lesson Four: Vitality and Energy Count

Karam has also been undergoing a rigorous program of exercise and physical training with his father. He weighs only 163 pounds and writes that he is in “the best shape of my life.”

The lesson? You cannot require all trainees to exercise, but you can provide breaks, a well-lit training room, healthy snacks and other “extras” that keep trainees energized during long days of training.