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Paddle Awards Practical Workshop in Bristol

The day started with a holistic overview of the changes to the Paddle Awards and Personal Performance Awards which raised a lot of questions and debate, starting the day off enthusiastically. 

The coaches broke off into smaller groups, running practical bank based sessions using the laminated cards I had created. We initially focused on the Paddle START Award, looking at the student / learner centred approach to delivery, which was a real eye opener for some and a challenge. The mini bank based delivery sessions focused on the preparatory stages of delivery, discussing a range of the groups questions and made the coaches realise how much Paddle Start content there is, once they delved into the content. I then ran a complete introduction, from kitting up to getting onto the water, to show the group how to flip the content on its head and get the participants involved with the early decision making, right from the START.

The coaches then got onto the water and we looked at what is actually involved, or needed, for a new paddler to paddle and return to the bank. We looked at the skills a paddler would need, as well as really focusing on HOW the coach would achieve this. We shared lots of ideas and really exposed the new focus on the holistic paddler approach. The aim was to highlight how positive this is and I am confident they all embraced the new ethos, once they had a chance to play and explore this.

The next focus was on the environment and ensuring that we are part of that journey with our learner(s), giving them the opportunity to make those decisions early on, through lots of questions and using the resources available.

During a working lunch, the group decided the jump straight to the EXPLORE Award, rather than looking at the DISCOVER Award as planned. This opened up many debates and questions, especially around the practical skills and we also talked about standardisation and the challenges that is presented on any of the awards. 

It was interesting to run a really short session looking at a specific skill. I chose moving sideways and asked them all to list the top 5 things they considered important to evidence, in a performer, if observing this as part of the EXPLORE Award. Out of the five things listed, at least 4 things were re-occurring for every coach.

We then went on to look at the practical delivery and options for developing skills through to, and beyond, the EXPLORE Award. It was highlighted the importance of not looking at the awards in isolation but in relation to an individual learners needs and their aspirations to progress at their own pace. It was really useful, as we had the opportunity to observe a group of younger paddlers having a trip from Frome Canoe Club and another group from Canoe Avon, who were working through their DISCOVER Award. 

A good day, well received and a really engaging group of coaches who want to progress and deliver the new awards. Reassuring for them, that what they do and have done, is great, and some changes might be needed. 

Remember "if we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we've always got"! 


Joe Jordan, South West Wessex Regional Coaching Rep