This post looks at the arguably the most important skill for the coach
By Dave Rossetter – paddlesport instructor at Glenmore Lodge
With accurate observation and then the analysis of that allows us to ensure that we are coaching the correct skill for the student in the environment that they are operating in. When looking to observe performance then there a few things we can do to help our performers and us. Starting our coaching from a point of fact and not assumption is a key skill that we need to hone. Without these skills we may be providing our paddlers with poor or misleading feedback / information and even starting our coaching in the wrong place.
- Coach and paddler agree on which skill / manoeuvre is to be practiced
- Paddler practices skill
- Coach observes and analyses
- Coach and paddler provide feedback, agree goals and modify task(s)
Once the paddlers is active we need to have ways to observe the skill. Here we will look at tactics to help achieve good observation and analysis of a performance.
Big picture person/observer
What jumps out at you?
This is a very intuitive approach. Seeing the whole picture and your ‘gut’ feeling aids you in your observation.
This relies on your experience/knowledge of the sport/craft etc.
Technically focused person/observer
Due to the coach being aware and knowledgeable about the discipline and the skills within it they therefore can look straight to probable causes. The coach can then focus their observations into specific areas.
Likes things in their constituent parts.
Why does it do that? What’s the cause?
This is really useful when the problem is subtle or disguised/confused.
Here you can start using specific tools to allow you too be specific and measurable with your feedback. This could include number of strokes, speed and time.
Here we are looking at frameworks, flags and markers. Please note that there are other ways to structure your observation and analysis this is just a starter.
Use of a ‘FRAMEWORK’!
A range of factors that are linked by each other determines the performance of the paddler. We need to be able to identify at any one point what one has the bigger impact and therefore is the limiting factor in the performance.
What do you know of your discipline?
Did they achieve the outcome?
Boat positions/Blade positions/correct speed/correct shapes
How did the performer deal with the wind/current/tide/waves?
What about the environment – did they use the correct tactic for the environment?
Use of effort? Is it efficient?
What were they trying to achieve?
How is the bodies ‘function’?
Are they fit and ready or is there a limiting factor that needs addressed?
How is the minds ‘function’?
Do they cope under pressure? How do you know?
What barriers are going on in their head to impair the performance?
Things that indicate that something is or isn’t happening. These really help out with your approach to what is happening during the performance. The use of flags can allow us to be very deductive. Some examples are below but another could be head coming out first on an eskimo roll.
- The look on someone’s face
- White knuckles on the paddle
- Head/chin position
Allow us to compare results and provide the performer with evidence. Markers allow the coach to accurately measure the performance. We can use natural markers such as points on the body or boat or create our own using tape or pen markings.
- Hands reaching above shoulders in a manoeuvre
- Markings on a boat where the water comes to
Have the following with you to help out with those deductions or to create markers:
- Roll of electricians tape
- Create a raised point on the gunwale of the canoe so the paddle feels where the hand is.
- White board marker pens
- You could put marks on the boat where the paddler has to look or where the paddle enters/exits the water at.
- Note pad/video camera
- To record your findings to allow you to be accurate with your feedback.
VISUAL What you see
What jumps out at you
Observe the full picture and using the frameworks of above to help on your evaluation and next coaching point. Questions you may need to ask yourself/performer:
- Was the outcome achieved?
- Did they achieve the outcome in the time allocated?
- Did they use enough effort?
- Was it predictable?
- What does your experience tell you?
AUDIO What you hear
The sounds and rhythms
During the picture can you tune into all the sounds and rhythms that the performer has.
- The noise of splash on the bow as you paddle forward, during a turn the spillage off the stern would give some examples of the sound.
- As the performer is forward paddling is the stroke rhythmical or has a pattern.
- Questions: did the performance have a consistent sound? Was the performance rhythmical?
KINASTHETIC What you feel
Self check and internal pressure points
Self check exercises will allow our performers to internally check themselves and give internal markers as to what is happening during the performance.
- Internal pressure points work as flags to indicate that something is happening during the performance.
- Questions: existing pressure points are where? Do they change when the skill is under pressure?
- Number scales for edge control exercises.
A useful coaching maxim
I hear and I forget / I see and I remember / I do and I understand
People generally remember:
- 10% of what they read/20% of what they hear/30% of what they see.
- 50% of what they hear and see.
- 70% of what they say and write.
- 90% of what they do.
So go and get doing!
Positions for all this to happen
Dynamic – it’s time to be on the move! You will see different things from different views.
Same level/standing up in canoe/from the bank/from behind/in front.
Make sure you get enough information i.e. repeated performance, ask questions.
Do you need to use a checklist?
- Where are the eyes looking? What is the head doing? Does the face tell you anything?
- How does the paddler respond to external changes?
- How does the boat move through the water?
- How is the pelvis set? How do you know?
- Are the connection points active?
- What muscle tension score would you give the core?
- Energy in vs energy out.
- How are the shoulders/arms moving?
- What muscle tension score would you give the shoulders/arms etc?
To put all of the above information into a plan that allows our performers to be active and involved so we can observe and help them with our analysis the following mnemonic will help:
Check Out what actually happened.
Give the performer time to repeat the performance while you are dynamic in your observations.
Ask questions to deepen your understanding of your performance.
After the performance seek clarification from the performance by asking questions. Remember and give time for the answer and don’t ask too many questions.
Challenge or Create exercises or activities to enhance or adapt the performance.
This where you use the information gathered above to create new activities or exercises to help your performer.
You must remember to also challenge the skill to enhance the performance.
Offer Help and support to the performer that enables them to be a more independent learner.
Point the performer to areas of help or support such as resource materials, equipment etc.
Work together, coach and performer to make your sessions active FUN!
Happy paddling and hope to see you on the water.
Dave is the full time paddlesport instructor at Glenmore Lodge – Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre. He has been involved in the development of the new awards and provides expert advice throughout the industry on all things to do with coaching, safety, leadership and personal paddling. He is passionate about all things paddling and specialises in white water kayak and open canoe where he will most often be found. He is supported in his paddling adventures and coaching by Pyranha Kayaks, Mad River Canoes and Palm Equipment.