Today I received my certificate for BCU UKCC Level 2 Coach. This means I am now qualified (according to the BCU) to coach canoeing in sheltered water. Of course I’ve been doing this for the last couple of years anyway but I do feel a lot more capable now I’ve gone through the courses. It is a lot of hassle though and a lot of time (I did my Level 2 training over a year ago).
I don’t remember much about this, it was over a year ago and it was very cold, possibly not best done at the end of November. There were four days of training, some classroom based, one pool based session and plenty of outdoor sessions. There’s some new teaching styles, a breakdown of practice styles and an emphasis on observation and improvement rather than following a pre-set plan.
The Other Bits
Between training and assessment there are a load of pre-assessment tasks. Managing the paperwork, finding courses and people to help with these is a significant undertaking. The BCU’s paperwork is full of mistakes and inconsistencies as usual which doesn’t help.
The first task is a supporting module which means three hours of computer slides, in this case about coaching children and young people. Not terribly interesting, would have been more useful if there actually were some young people to coach rather than just slides explaining what menarche is.
You have to do a course in safeguarding children. Just finding where this course is being held is a struggle, I was pointed at a web page that listed dates from previous years but no future dates. Hidden in SportScotland’s website under a link for 2009 was the dates for 2010. Another three hours of not very interesting computer slides and exercises. Only interesting thing was noting that the British people there were far more paranoid about paedophilia than the continental Europeans in the room.
Then there was the Long Term Paddler Development web module. This website was full of so many inconsistencies, typos, missing text and repeated text that I sent a complaint to the chair of the SCA coaching committee (no reply), the SCA coaching coordinator (who told me I could find the answers in a book, despite everything saying the answers are on the website) and the BCU (who said they incorporated my long list of corrections and will review the site, we’ll see). The quiz to pass the module can only be attempted once every 24 hours and because it asks questions that don’t have answers on the website I had to fill it in about a dozen times before I passed. The content is minimal too, I can see the point of being aware that top athletes start as children and vary their training with age until they become elite but that could be covered in one diagram. Adding on recreation to the mix is an obvious late attempt to make it relevant to the majority of canoeists (non competitors) which doesn’t work at all. Very frustrating and a complete waste of time.
First aid training was interesting and fun. Having an outdoors course is important.
The most important bit is the six progressive sessions. Finding punters to follow the sessions is difficult and finding a mentor who is suitably qualified and has the time to watch and review the sessions plus go over all the paperwork is tricky too. After a couple of false starts I did get a group going (the trick is to get them to pay in advance, else they won’t commit). Writing lesson plans is surprisingly time consuming but a useful exercise in getting good sessions.
On top of that there is another 10 hours of kayak and 10 hours of Canadian coaching to do. Easy enough since I’ve been running club nights this year and doing various trips.
The assessment at Glenmore Lodge starts the day before with a session collecting the multitude of paperwork together. After going through it all I discover I’m missing my supporting module certificate, instant fail. You have two sessions with real students. Although the paperwork says you will be contacted before to work out what students you have and what sessions to plan for, this isn’t true. We were told the night before and I spent a late night planning. You are meant to show a good range of teaching styles, observation and all the other necessities of running a good session. In the end I pitched some stuff too high for the students and didn’t show good observation. Then on my personal skills I ended up not being able to control a Canadian on a windy loch, turns out I’m not a very experienced Canadian canoeist, shame I had to find out on the assessment.
So a few months later I did another assessment in Wales. They also didn’t tell us what to expect beforehand so I planned a couple of sessions which didn’t get used. Instead we met the students on the morning and did the sessions after 20 minutes planning time. Strangely they went much better, I was able to put my knowledge of slalom to good use. One student was notably cheeky (“I’m a three star paddler”, “I’m warmed up now”) which helped because I could show her what she didn’t know.
However I didn’t do the warm up before moving boats. I also didn’t bother with helmets for anyone since it was flat water. Doing warm up before moving boats is logical (moving boats is the most strenuous part of these sessions) but I’ve never seen any professional or amateur coach do it. Likewise helmets for flat water seem excessively hassleful but I guess you have to cover your back and there might be hidden objects in the water. After arguing the points the assessor took pity and passed me.
After several weeks of asking I got a replacement from the SCA for the supporting module certificate I had lost on my first assessment. This was then sent back to the SCA along with all the rest of my certificates so they could sign me off as having enough certificates. What a messy system. It then took 3 months for the BCU to send me the final coaching certificate. I wonder what they spend three months doing.
I’ve definitely become a better coach from doing the courses. The mess of paperwork is horrible. The amount of bits that need done is a hassle, but I’m not sure what one I’d remove. Oh yes, Long Term Paddler Development, get rid of that for sure.