School sports are a great way for kids and teenagers to stay active, learn the importance of sportsmanship and understand dedication. School sports, however are limited in what they can offer. So what happens when what you love isn’t an option?
Tanque Verde Sophomore Ryan Decker turned his motivation into an early career. When Ryan’s obsession with motor sports wasn’t an option in school, he did what any dedicated athlete would do: he made his own options. With a little inspiration from his dad, Robert Decker, Ryan became one of the most promising junior jet-ski racers in the state of Arizona.
Ryan’s interest in motor and engine sports began when he started riding dirt bikes at the early age of six. Racing was always a fun pastime for Ryan but he seriously began considering competition at age 12. After having trouble finding courses around Tucson and some safety concerns from Robert, the Decker boys decided they needed to find a compromise. That decision led to inspiration at the Jet-Ski World Finals, an international closed-course competition held annually at Lake Havasu.
What prompted Ryan’s final decision to compete? He was told it would be too hard and he wouldn’t be able to do it … but he knew he could prove them wrong. Four years, multiple wins, and several sponsorships later, it’s pretty apparent he has done just that!
Ryan entered his first race in Parker. “Mostly I learned a lot,” Ryan says about his first race, “and met a lot of really cool people.” The people involved in the races are a big reason Ryan keeps racing. “They’re people that inspire me to be a better person.”
Chris and Rachel McClugage are two of those people, and both Ryan and Robert feel that they taught Ryan a lot about the sport. Chris is a world-renowned racer, a pioneer of the sport, 14-time World Champion and a sponsor who also acts as a mentor to Ryan. Rachel, Chris’s wife, is also a world champion jet-ski racer.
After getting some wins under his belt, Ryan’s next goal was to find sponsors. “I just wrote some e-mails and sent out my resume,” says Ryan modestly. What he received in return were responses from three big-name jet-ski product lines: Hydro-Turf, MACC Racing and Liquid Militia.
“I had no idea he was even building a resume,” says Robert. “He came up to me one night and showed me the letters; he just keeps surprising me.” About being sponsored by such recognizable brands, Ryan says, “The free stuff is cool, but the best part is the rewarding feeling that somebody actually wants to support me in what I like to do.”
As Ryan’s early career thrives, the races are getting bigger and farther away. Robert and Ryan recently came back from a race held annually in Florida. While Ryan is focused on the win, Robert’s emphasis is real-world knowledge. “I try to teach him something on every trip; things that most teenagers wouldn’t know.”
From this knowledge not only has Ryan formed his own company, RD Racing Team, LLC, but he also does all the recordkeeping on his computer’s Quickbooks program. Although the business portion surrounding the sport is a lot of work, it’s worth it to race and Ryan has realized that this knowledge will benefit him for a lifetime.
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