Meet Zoe Newsam, the first Scottish woman to achieve both Level 3 and Advanced Water Endorsement in any of the disciplines!
In 2001 I took a guided trip in a double sea kayak in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand and came away thinking ‘Wow, that was amazing’. A little while later, and back home in the UK, I booked myself on to a 2-day ‘Introduction to Sea Kayaking’ course; I loved it. From then on, I paddled, and paddled, and paddled: breaking all the rules, going out alone because I didn’t have anyone to paddle with, pushing myself and scaring myself on more occasions than I can count. But I survived, learnt from the experience, and racked up a lot of miles.
During this time I was working in what I suppose you could call a ‘normal’ job, that paid me enough to be able go paddling, and gave me time off to do so at weekends and holidays. It involved some coaching and mentoring, in an office-based environment, and over the years I guess you could say I introduced a few friends to kayaking, and encouraged others to venture into environments they may not have thought they could. Outside the office I kept paddling: mini expeditions whenever possible; white water kayaking as another form of adventure; surfing my sea kayak and playing in tide races.
Then in 2013, beginning to sense a need for more Vitamin D in my life, I decided to do my Sea Kayak Leader training; and almost simultaneously, a voluntary redundancy offer landed on my desk. Serendipity…
(with only a Sea Kayak Leader and Summer Mountain Leader under my belt), and eventually decided to pursue an outdoor career: I’d give it a year to begin with, and see how things went. I applied myself to gaining as much experience as possible and to gaining at least Advanced Sea Kayak Leader, in order to represent the experience I had already accumulated. As it happened, I also managed to pass Level 1 & 2, and the British Canoeing Moderate Water Endorsement. This allowed me to really begin to coach in a meaningful way, in the environment that I operated in from day to day.
Now it was time to really put those coaching and leadership qualifications into practice: working as a freelance coach and guide, with real clients, most of whom are on holiday and are keen to learn. I had enormous fun, some huge challenges, and was hungry to improve my own technical understanding and coaching knowledge: I decided to stick with my chosen path and knew that I needed to move onto the next level.
I really enjoyed working with students over the course of a full year: seeing them change and grow in that time and watching their horizons expand. I also enjoyed working long term with a great mentor who supported me, but also pushed me to improve and learn. Initially I found the mechanics of the individualisation process difficult to manage and having a mentor to challenge me in that aspect really helped. Now I struggle not to individualise!
I’ve also gained a lot from the process of reflection involved in the Level 3 and from what can sometimes feel like an onerous task: writing up the portfolio. Without this, I don’t think I would have learnt nearly as much about my learning process, my own coaching, and my students’ progress.
Part way through the process, I decided to embark upon the Advanced Water Endorsement Sea award alongside the Level 3. In order to do this, I carried out the logbook pre-requisites to the letter to aid my own learning: 6 progressive sessions with a group of students and at least 15 days coaching in the Advanced environment between training and assessment. This, alongside the Level 3 12 sessions (for which I used a full day per session, over a 12 month period) meant 27 coaching days, 9 days of training and assessment, and a lot of miles driven. I also decided to ‘pass on’ the benefit I had reaped from a great mentor, and continue mentoring two developing female coaches for a year. Was it worth it? Absolutely! I passed both assessments and feel like a much more competent, confident coach as a result.
So what comes next? Well, putting both of these awards into practice: using my newly developed confidence as a coach; coaching in the advanced environment; and I hope being able to both coach and mentor long term. As far as I’m concerned, this is just the beginning of my learning journey: there is a lot more knowledge out there for me to gain and use, and a whole world of understanding to explore.
Read more about supporting Women and Girls in Your Coaching and Leadership in line with Women in Sport Week (19th June - 25th June 2017).