Sunday, September 15, 2013

4 questions for: Steve Macdonald, on Coaching the Mind

Steve Macdonald.
We're eagerly anticipating the arrival of Steve Macdonald, a BCU Level 5 Coach from Scotland who is a technical adviser to outdoor centers in the UK and is also certified in telemark and Nordic skiing as well as mountaineering. Steve is one of the featured coaches at the upcoming Gales Storm Gathering in the Apostle Islands. He will also be offering a number of BCU courses in the Chicago area, which are co-sponsored by Have Kayaks, Will Travel and Summit Sports, during the week before that event.

One of these is the three-hour Coaching the Mind module, which will be offered on Wednesday, Oct. 2 in the evening in Oak Park. We talked with Steve about this course, which is being offered for the first time in the midwest.

Have Kayaks, Will Travel: What excites you about this module?

Steve Macdonald: The fact that it allows coaches to understand a bit more of the psychology that their clients might be experiencing. This can help them get the best out of a coaching episode and, more importantly, their ongoing paddlesport development. Mental skills are very fundamental. People have confidence issues, anxiety issues and all of that stuff, so it’s very relevant.

HKWT: What do you find participants gain from it?

SM: I think it broadens people's coaching, moving it away from just thinking of coaching only in terms of technical skills. You're familiar with TTPP, right? Generally, recreational coaches are focused on techniques and tactics, and [this module] helps make them more holistic coaches.

HKWT: Will it also be applicable to people who teach or coach things other than paddlesports, such as gym teachers, soccer coaches and ski instructors?

SM: Absolutely. We’ll look at how mental skills training is going to help in a training context, in a performance context and even in a competitive context. Some of the key things that we’re going to be focusing on are imagery, concentration and attentional focus. We'll look at how to manage anxiety and deal with confidence issues, making sure people aren’t overstimulated by the environment. It’s all about preparing people to be doing something in an environment when that environment might be stressful. There’s lots of sideways, tangential applications.

Steve coaching a group of students in Ireland.
HKWT: Will this be primarily lecture, or will there be other activities as well?

SM: It should be interactive. There will be information at the front, but then we'll go out and workshop some of the strategies we’ve been talking about. There's no point in doing it unless we're doing it, you know? We're paddlesport coaches; we understand that learning has to take place in a practical context. The games, activities and exercises we do will be to reinforce the theoretical stuff we've been discussing.

You: This sounds great! Can I attend?

HKWT: Yes. The cost is just $35 and you can register online here. We should know the exact location of this module within the week. If you have questions, post them as comments here or contact us at kayak.bp (at) gmail (dot) com.

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