George Fell - First Aid and Outdoor Activities - Level 5 project

Solutions - What does it mean for my coaching?

Here are some thoughts. They might be useful if a piece of coaching theory is getting in the way of your coaching.

Don't take the theory too seriously.
If it inspires you to try something different or if it seems to work for you - use it! But be aware that people have an awkward habit of not fitting into boxes. If lack of theoretical knowledge is constraining your coaching then go out and learn some more. If some other factor is limiting your development as a coach then go and work on that instead. Certainly my experience is that most of us are limited by lack of technical understanding of boating, lack of confidence, by poor observation or by our delivery rather than our technical understanding of coaching. Also be aware that you'll meet people who know loads of theory but can't coach for toffee and other people who have no idea about any of the theory who are great coaches.

Try to keep an open mind.
Just because some coaching doesn't fit in with your idea of how it should be doesn't mean it's bad. For example, last year I sat in on a very directive, non-individualised, coach-centred introduction to whitewater session. Exactly the sort of session we're encouraged not to deliver. My immediate reaction was eughh, I wouldn't do it that way; but it was safe, the clients had a great time, and learned loads. By most objective criteria I can come up with it was a really successful session. It's hard to separate what's good effective coaching and what simply agrees with my prejudices.

It doesn't have to be true or consistent to work.
I've been lucky to work with some really good coaches, and they've told me some really clever things. It's just that some of those really clever things don't agree. Some of the things they told me on reflection were wrong, but that doesn't matter. They got me to try new stuff and experience new things. We're never going to have a definitive best way of doing anything. In many ways that's great. Wouldn't it be dull if all you had to do to become a great coach was to watch a video which told you all the absolute best ways to teach stuff?

If it works for you use it; if it doesn't bin it.
Reflective practice, reviewing whatever you want to call it is a good thing. Get feedback from yourself, your learners and other coaches if you can. If something worked or didn't, work out why. Go back and look critically at what you've done. How can you make it better next time? In the absence of any absolute facts in coaching, getting feedback, valuing it and using it to improve must surely be part of the solution.

Beware the coach who tells you "this is how it must be done".
There's more than one way to skin a cat and there's more than one way to coach cat skinning.

Trust nobody!
Just because lots of people believe something doesn't make it true. If it feels fishy, try and find out where it came from, see if it's relevant to boating and if there's any evidence that it actually works.

Try to coach best practice.
So you need get out there and share with other people to find out what best practice is. You go to all that effort and then suddenly it'll change. What to teach and how to teach it aren't carved in stone, they're more like shifting sands.

Keep changing what you do.
Keep playing, keep experimenting. There is no one size fits all, single best way to coach anything.

Boat more! Coach more!
Reading this article won't make you into a better coach. Reading this or any article, stealing any useful concepts and then getting out there and actually putting them into practice might. Especially if afterwards you go on to evaluate if they actually worked or not. If you look at excellent coaches, for all their differences one thing they tend to have in common is that they're getting out boating lots at a high level and they're coaching lots.

On to the afterthoughts