by David Robinson of Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre
As part of my own CPD I recently enrolled on to an Advanced White Water Leader Course. It was great to get some paddle sport training again, as a coach I’m often the one giving out coaching advice but rarely receiving it. The course was fantastic with a real emphasis on professional guiding and professional leadership.
One thing we looked at was being able to adapt our leading in order to ensure the group were all part of the adventure. What do I mean by that? Quite often, and especially when we are in challenging environments, if we take the lead we can easily become the autocratic captain assuming responsibility of the group. Whilst there is a responsibility for the leader to look after the group, there is still a responsibility for the other teammates too - to look after each other.
A good analogy that was given to us referred to being in a car. When you’re a passenger you switch off and let the driver do all the work, you don’t start reading the signs and judge the stopping distances (well usually we don’t anyway). You switch off and let the driver concern themselves with all that.
The same can happen on the river, whereby the group just rely completely on the leader and then simply follow them like ducklings behind their mother. If this is happening you have to question how much they are part of the adventure and how much they are simply following a kayaker.
When we’re on advanced white water we need everyone to be drivers. So you need to make sure your clients are active in the adventure, and not just your passengers as you paddle down the river. This means adapting your leadership and moving yourself around the group, if the river eases off for a bit - put someone else at the front. If there are rapids where participants can practice specific skills encourage them to challenge themselves. We’re aiming for our participants to be more involved in the adventure making their own decisions and thinking about where they are going.
I’ll be looking to adapt my leadership as I spend more time on the river, and hopefully the result will be paddling with active engaged paddlers receiving real paddling adventure, rather than passengers simply following me from A to B.
The coach who delivered the course was Ross Montandon who runs New Wave Kayaking, who mainly delivers white water training. I thoroughly recommend Ross, very professional and great to learn from.
Photos were taken by Ross during the course, thanks very much for letting us use them.
For more information about Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre
For more information about Ross Montandon