When multi-champion motocross rider Josh Coppins was a youngster, the road from the family farm to the nearby Ngatimoti School up the Motueka Valley was a pretty straight forward one.
Consequently, Coppins had no qualms about turning a brisk four-minute route into a bumpy 20-minute one because he knew his metal beast wasn't just a mode of transport for jumping fences and ploughing through ruts but also a calling in life.
"When I do the school business we talk about goal setting and dreaming big as well as safety," says the 42-year-old during a visit to a remote country school in Hawke's Bay on Friday, to impress the importance of safety on prospective petrol heads and horsey types.
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"I still dream big," says Coppins who straddled his first bike at 4 before attending Ngatimoti School whose roll of about 60 has swelled since.
"I came from an era when becoming a professional motorcycle racer was probably not going to cut it because it had seemed so far away."
The world is a smaller place now, he says, where he wants children to have the licence to let their imaginations run wild, as it were, in a safe environment.
"As a kid it was very hard not to dream of riding a motorcycle when going to school and [back] home so I definitely planted that seed very young."
Argyll East School — strategically located between Tikokino, Otane, Ongaonga and Waipawa in Central Hawke's Bay — lapped up advice from Coppins who had ascended to world No 2 at the pinnacle of his career.
Argyll East principal Julie Thelwall said the roll of 74, teachers and their families were excited about Coppin's call, thanks to school bus driver Shane Brun who had organised the visit.
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"Some have even brought along their helmets for Josh to sign. His visit is providing inspiration for our students and we feel very lucky to have him at our school," said Thelwall.
Coppins was competing in a national veterans' race in CHB last month when the school asked if he could visit but he couldn't so he had rescheduled that while fulfilling his obligations with the New Zealand Motocross Senior Championship to be staged at the Ngaruroro Raceway, along 166 Mere Rd, Hastings, on Sunday.
Spreading the gospel on sport comes within his portfolio of Josh Coppins Racing, in conjunction with sponsors Yamaha.
That includes mentoring youngsters to be realistic in life when embarking on a journey of elite sports careers.
In bedding such life values, it doesn't concern Coppins what code captures the youngsters' imagination because the dedication and work ethics required cut across them all.
"Of course, I'm a motocross guy but I love all sports so that's why I do it."
The former 12-time New Zealand motocross champion made his debut in the professional ranks in 1993 before retiring from competition in 2012. His maiden overseas stint was to Australia and Asia in the Pan Pacific. He was a privateer — securing his own sponsors in 1996 — to the world champs.
The bloke — who had straddled Suzuki (2000), Honda (2002-06) and Yamaha (2007-10) machines to represent his country at the Motocross des Nations since 1997 — had accrued a 100-point lead in 2007 but a broken shoulder blade in the 12th round had curtailed his quest.
Only last year Coppins had assumed the mantle of overall manager of Yamaha in New Zealand which takes him to missions in America, Australia and Europe.
What adds zest to his role is scouting talent for international circuits, putting to good use connections he's built during his years of competing at the higher echelons.
"We're the only brand in New Zealand that can do that," he says. "We try to create the next world champions."
The rural schools tend to be on is radar because of farming communities where boys and girls are motorbike savvy to help during work and for recreation.
"I'll be honest, I wasn't very good at school because I was a very hands-on person and always outdoors so I was very much a young Kiwi boy."
The essence of education isn't lost on him but he juxtaposes that to yesteryear when jobs came easily so going abroad to race at 15 before going on to tame the curves of the high-octane tracks of the world championships two years later.
Parents Viviene ("retired now but she thinks she's a farmer but she's really a hobby farmer") and Ted had supported him to a point but when it got serious at the international level they had to back off smartly to focus on his siblings.
Ironically it's come a full circle with Ted becoming a cog in the wheel of Coppins' business.
Coppins' had numerous turning points in his life — first-time NZ junior champion, international debut in the senior ranks, runner-up in the Australian championship, entering the Asian market to turn professional before the calling in Europe at 17.
"I probably didn't show my true potential [in Europe] until I was in my 20, 21 and then I got my first break when I finished seventh in the world championship and got my first factory ride and my first factory contract," he says of a factory-rider stint that spanned from the turn of the century to 2010.
He was beginning to tee up himself financially although winning 13 races at the world champs weren't enough to yield a series crown. He had to be content with runner-up three times.
"I should have, could have and would have — I know many athletes say that — but I had a brake failure on a downhill section and couldn't control the motorcycle to crash and getting injured to finish last to miss the last five of the series," he says of the shoulder blade injury in Czechoslavakia in 2007.
However, he had started to feel like a "made man" with a clutch of mechanics "and all you do is turn up to race".
"Obviously you are very naive in that position but as you progress you start nutting in things about pressure and nothing for nothing," Coppins explains.
"You know, you need to perform and work hard so I felt like I had definitely made it but when you're an athlete you live in a bubble and as you come out of it you tend to retire."
He says it can be an enormously difficult transition for some people.
"As an athlete, you work extremely hard but you're very selfish ... because you sleep when you want, eat what you need to, train hard and all of that about performance.
"In a way, it's quite lonely even though you have a crew around you to train and support you."
Coppins scouts talent who can emulate his feat but recognises they have to negotiate a tricky age.
"They are teenagers but we work with some wonderful families and kids so the thing that comes first for me — before performance — is their values, their respect and that's very important because they need to get through that teenage mind and need that support."
While they tend to have that dedication, it remains to be seen if the talent pool has Coppins' determination.
He has no regrets as a person but as an athlete, yes, he always gave 100 per cent to the team, leaving on good terms.
"I can still go to Europe, sit down and have dinner with these people because, you know, I have a lot of respect for my work ethics so I'm pretty happy."
While his friends keep telling him he's still living the dream there are times when Coppins isn't so sure.
"Look, I'm working harder now than ever in my new role so I'm very, very busy but I'm very fortunate to be able to do something that allows it so I have to respect that, for sure."
Wife Amy has been an integral part of that support package and remains so as he feels like he's working harder now post-professional career because he deals with a lot more people.
"It's huge, you know, because you have to be organised," he says. "I was fortunate enough that I had a very good structure and plan to know exactly when I wanted to retire."
Will their children, Myla, 11, Elsie, 8, and Nixon, 7, follow his career path?
"I didn't have too many choices but my son is motorcycle mad and he loves it but I don't know where he wants to go at the moment," he says.
"He tells me he wants to go all the way but he's definitely not ready to put in the work ethics but, hey, that can change."
The daughters are into horse riding, which keeps them occupied.