I want to start with an apology. An apology to those that I have coached prior to going through the award. The process of the course takes you on a journey that:
So I now know what I was missing. The line ‘you don’t know what you what you don’t know’ comes true here!
My background in education goes along the lines of not understanding its relevance of where it fits in and how to make sense of it. To this end, sport along with craft and design held a strong hold over me. Both these activities made sense to me. I understood the reasoning behind what we were getting taught and where / how to apply the learning or new skills. Throwing myself into sport became critical for me. It shaped my understanding of the world and opened up avenues of coaching, personal challenges, travel and business opportunities.
Paddlesport has been very good to me and very good for me. I set up my own paddlesport coaching company quite a while ago. Using my paddlesport qualifications and understanding of the sport allowed me to work at a lot of levels within the sport. I was still challenged with context and the application of the skills. I was always keen working with mentors, peer coaching attending conferences and the like to further my knowledge and understanding. Having left school with little in the academic world, it was difficult to engage with higher / further education.
Then it all changed!
The opportunity to be part of the pilot cohort for the UKCC Level 4 came along. Having been involved in Coach Education at all levels and development of the awards, I was captivated by the opportunity to deepen my understanding. Being able to apply and then ultimately getting a place started 2 years of learning to do my job better!
The course for me started back in May 2014. It is a 2 year distance learning Post Graduate Diploma in Performance coaching and linked to this is the British Canoeing UKCC Level 4 award. There are 3 residential every calendar year. The opportunities enable reflection on previous modules, sharing learning with others, get set up for the next modules and also engage with a speaker on part of the subject matter.
As stated previously, I haven’t done much within the world of further studies. For me, my studies were much more specific around the next coaching level or books and writings from within the sport. To this end, British Canoeing’s support through the process has been awesome.
Starting the course in May gives an opportunity to use the summer to get into writing, reading and setting work patterns to get you up and running. Once September comes around, there is plenty to do including getting into the university online platforms, library, reading lists, books to source and then the ever looming deadlines. Oh and it’s Autumn – that means water and busy paddling season!
One significant aspect of the process that the visits lead to professional discussions after some coaching. These allowed me to delve into the ‘why’ and the reasoning behind the decisions. These decisions around what practice, how long to practice, how to help the paddlers with their reflections and how to ensure that learning took place. This for me was vital to contextualise the theory and see it in action.
It is all very well listening, reading and writing about coaching constructs and theories. How to apply it is what I am all about. How does this land in my world when it’s difficult to press pause on the activity? To be able to share this with peers and lecturers was invaluable. It also helped shaped thoughts for the assignments. To take this process into working with coaches and leaders at various levels has really inspired / challenged me.
My view of the world when I was at school and certainly in my early coaching career can be described well by the following picture:
Based on this, I have been working hard on working out what the individual needs:
‘The conditions that we create for our learners are vital, with the emphasis of learning being on the student who is learning.’ (Jarvis, 2006)
During one of the assignments, we spent a bit of time looking at learning principles and our views on this. This part of the course linked a lot of the other areas together. It started to make sense of when things work or don’t.
Phil Race (2014) gives a great help here in that to aid learning, there needs to be seven critical areas:
This has started to be at the forefront of mind now, especially within Coach Education and mentoring.
Reflection therefore also comes through. We spent a bit of time (a lot of time) within the process of reflecting - when this reflecting is happening, how it is happening, looking at reflecting in activity and how to adjust plans, as well as reflecting on activity to make sense of what has happened and to develop new options for the future. This with decision making and linking in with the learning principles brings a few other areas into the sessions. These options are:
These would bring two small areas but lasting impressions on me. Here it would be difficult to highlight two years of learning as there was a lot to mention.
It is busy and there can be dark times. The social aspect of this process is such a fantastic resource and for me was vital and needs to be utilised. It kept me on track and helped me through those dark times where things just don’t make sense.
I started with an apology as I felt a lot of the time that I was lucky in what I was coaching. Understanding technical and tactical components of the sport are areas that I am good at. I knew how to construct sessions but now I feel more equipped to do my job at helping paddlers understanding how to learn.
By understanding motivations of the paddler, hearing their story and developing the goal with them has all become higher order priorities for me.
To be part of the community learning and understanding coaching is something that I now strive for and search out further opportunities to develop.
Many thanks to British Canoeing for making it happen.