As I continue reading "The Little Book Of Talent", one of the really interesting chapters are on defining and developing the two types of skills; hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills refer to a skill that must be done and repeated with machine like precision every time. A Soft skill is more about building the ability to recognize patterns, becoming agile and flexible to many different situations.
When I read this chapter through my BMX filter, I can see how hard skills and soft skills totally relate to BMX riding. To me a gate start is something that is going to be almost identical no matter where you go. Your set up and form will be something that will stay consistent and requires a huge amount of accuracy, thus making this a Hard skill. This is important to recognize because it shapes the way we would go about training a hard skill.
Gate starts need to be trained slowly and more methodically than working on a soft skill. You would want to prioritize this kind of training by doing starts after you warm up but while you're still physically and mentally fresh. Gate starts shouldn't be done to failure or in an exhausted state. Building the fundamentals are going to be essential to this process. If you have a terrible start this would be where you would want to really focus and visualize a good gate start. If you can't balance very well, start there. Practice balancing and nothing else for a week or two before moving on to the actual start. Balance sitting, standing, left foot, right foot forward, eyes closed, these skills are fundamental to building confidence and a great gate. Think about what it takes and pay attention to how you look while doing it. You will probably want to fall back into what you already know, but it's essential to maintain working on doing it the right way and building a new skill. The author compares skills to sled tracks in the snow. It's hard to erase the old tracks but it is possible to build new tracks that are deeper.
I would consider riding the rest of the track a soft skill. These skills need to be built through practice but not necessarily the same way as you would train gate starts. You need to work on taking jumps in multiple ways, different speeds, choosing different lines around a berm and working on race strategy by trying different moves. Trying different lines on a rhythm section after a race would be another way to develop soft skills. The goal is to be as flexible as possible, possess many bike handling skills and be able to read what the competition is doing before they even do it. Seriously buy this book! It has tons of tips that relate to so much in bmx, other sports, music, and life.