If you grow up close to the banks of the mighty Murray River, you’ll know the appeal that Australia’s largest tributary has on the water-skiing fraternity. Head out to the Murray on a summer’s day and/or during the school holidays, and you’ll see why…
Growing up in the small town of Bundalong, near Yarrawonga on the Murray River in Victoria, placed Jades Oates firmly on the same page. But there was also something else tugging at his heartstrings when he was a junior – motorcycles.
So, while the family would make a beeline to the Murray at every opportunity, he would remain on terra firma doing what he loved most - if he got the parental green light.
Three decades later, Oates is now one of the pre-eminent motocross coaches in Australia, with the last nine years spent as a valued member of the Yamaha BluCru fraternity. Of course, a lot happened in between, including competing in the national motocross series. Still, coaching is his raison d'être: the main professional and personal motivation for getting up in the morning.
“My career didn’t fall into place the way I wanted because of many things out of my control – constant injuries being one of them,” says Oates, who is now based on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, where he lives with his wife and two young daughters. “That’s why I am so passionate about coaching; I want to help riders avoid the mistakes that I made. My career has certainly given me a deeper perspective on how to coach, and I have always enjoyed it – and still do.”
I am so passionate about coaching; I want to help riders avoid the mistakes that I made
Unofficially, Oates began coaching when he was just 16 years old – a period when it’s sometimes nigh on impossible to get ‘boo’ out of someone that age, let alone imparting pearls of wisdom. But Jades broke the mould, chatting to young kids, assisting with demos – as well as racing in the MX2 class at the time.
Two years later, when he reached ‘legal’ age, he completed his Level 1 coaching course. Shortly after, he ventured to the famed Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra to upgrade that qualification to Level 2.
His chosen career had already taken shape – and with sheer willpower, an unwavering commitment, a genial manner, a sense of fun and a methodical “cross the I’s and dot the t’s” approach, Jades still kicking goals 15 years later. “I’ve been coaching full-time since 2015, right after I broke my back a week before the national motocross series opening round, which also coincided with the birth of my first daughter. I was 25 at the time, life had changed, and I realised it was time to put all my eggs into the coaching basket.”
Until that time, Oates had raced in all the major motocross classes – MX1, MX2 and MX3. The Yamaha collaboration began after he was approached following a spirited performance at Coolum (Qld). The next thing he knew, a Yamaha contract was placed in front of him with an offer to become a factory-supported privateer and host 28 coaching clinics throughout the year. The broken back scuppered the racing ‘wing’ of the contract, but the coaching gathered momentum at an extraordinary rate.
I didn’t get into coaching because of the money – I just like to help people out.
At its zenith, OatesMX was running more than 100 schools yearly, but that “insane” workload was unsustainable – he was getting pulled in all directions. “These days, we aim for about 50-52 schools per year, focussing on the mantra of ‘working smarter and not harder’,” says Jades, who has a 2023 YZ450F as his ‘work’ bike. “We also do private coaching and title pre-clinics and rotate through about seven different tracks, so riders are subjected to different conditions.”
The curriculum comprises off- and on-bike training. Principles imparted at the schools are similar to those used by Jades to train six pro-level riders – his full-time private clientele, all students receive the same dedication from Jades and his team. “I see the six pro guys about 3-4 times per week,” he explains. “On Tuesdays, we hit the sand tracks; on Wednesdays, it’s the hardest pack tracks we can find. It’s challenging work but also extremely rewarding.”
Jades also looks after the Yamaha bLU cRU come-and-try events. The Yamaha initiative utilises a fleet of Yamaha fun bikes, an inflatable circuit, and Jades’ coaching prowess to give the next generation of motorcyclists their first taste of life on two wheels. “To be the person to provide a child’s first experience on a motorcycle, and to see the level of excitement it delivers, is truly a rewarding experience, and one I never get tired of being part of. Working alongside like-minded people who also share the passion and enjoyment and giving back to the sport we all love makes being part of the bLUcRU team pretty dang awesome.”
After all these years, Jades’ passion meter is still at the upper end of the scale – no, actually 10 out of 10 – and that doesn’t show any sign of wavering. “I’m a realist and a people person. I didn’t get into coaching because of the money – I just like to help people out. Once the passion isn’t there, I will get out of coaching. Simple as that.”