Friday, August 2, 2013

Good coaches continue to train, and widely

This we believe: becoming certified is more of a commencement than a conclusion of coach education. We gained our first certifications five or six years ago, but that was just the beginning of our journey toward becoming capable coaches. And we're still progressing along that path.

For us, continuing coach education takes several forms. These include:
  • Training in a variety of environments
  • Training in a variety of paddlesports
  • Training with a variety of high-level coaches
This process is time-consuming, expensive and often humbling. But it's also engaging, exciting and eminently rewarding.

Over the past few years, we've had the privilege of working extensively with Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme of Body Boat Blade, International on Orcas Island, Washington, and Scott Fairty of Summit Sports in Brighton, Michigan. Last month, we spent five days in Chicago working with Nick Cunliffe of Kayak Essentials in Anglesey, North Wales. And we just returned from eight days with John Carmody of Sea Cliff Kayakers in Boothbay, Maine.

John Carmody.
We chose to work with John for both his reputation and his location. He's a BCU Level 5 Sea Coach -- the highest coach certification in the BCU system -- who combines a deep knowledge of seamanship and human biomechanics with paddlesport and coach education. And he's based on the craggy Maine coast, where an understanding of tides and current, weather and navigation are non-negotiable and provide good preparation for paddling in the UK (home waters of the BCU) and other ocean environments.

A lighthearted moment on the beach.
We signed up for a BCU four-star leader training with John, but he also invited us to observe a private lesson and a three-star assessment, as well as observe/assist with a three-day course for a group of eight students and their coach, Sylvain Bedard, from Quebec. This gave us seven days on the water with John, along with two days of navigation training on land--experiences that expanded our understanding of the ocean and his approach to coaching in ocean conditions.

A conversation before a daylong journey along the Maine coast.
Because we recently completed a BCU Level 2 coach training, we appreciated the opportunity to see the principles we've been thinking about put into practice by someone who makes it seem effortless. Like any good coach, John chooses a progression based on the students' goals and skills, and selects a venue to match. The Maine coastline offers plenty of opportunities to work in current, tides, swell and surf, as well as chances to maneuver around, over and between rocks and ledges.

John consistently displayed many of the coaching strategies we are working on:

  • individualizing instruction for each student
  • leaving room for experimentation
  • making use of the environment
  • incorporating a journey
  • using varied practice to keep students engaged and learning
  • keeping a sense of humor

John demonstrates proper paddle position while ruddering in a boat made of sand.
John has travelled the world, but there's one place he's never paddled: the Great Lakes. We're thrilled that he'll be a featured coach at the upcoming Gales Storm Gathering symposium, October 11 through 13 in the Apostle Islands. Registration is limited to 60 participants, but there are still some spots available. Register today and you'll be able to work with John, too, without the trip to the east coast.

It's not unusual to find John coaching from the beach or standing in the water.

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