So you want to be a SUP Coach?
As SUP grows through its variety of disciplines, locations and SUP clubs, the requirement for good, fun and safe coaching is needed. This, more often than not comes in the form of a SUP Coach. So, why become a coach? There are often several reasons why paddlers attend coaching courses; to help clubs develop, to further their own skills and knowledge or to become a professional within the industry.
We are often asked what’s the first step I need to take to becoming a coach? Firstly, a good and solid skill set is essential, coupled with the desire to learn and work with others. The skill sets required will vary between each discipline you would like to coach, however initially, to coach beginners / improvers in a sheltered environment you will need to be able to proficiently paddle forward in choppy conditions, turn effectively using a variety of strokes, and handle your paddle and board proficiently.
What should you expect?
Or, ‘What do I expect from my training’? The professionalism of the training organisation should be high from the outset; lets face it we are often handing over a great deal of money and investing time. This should be reflected in the venue you walk in too, the trainer’s experience and knowledge and of course the course content. Trainers should be knowleagble and have vast experience, be able to engage and set you at ease. The training should motivate the candidate to expand their learning, be inspired by the content of the course and to leave with a greater motivation to coach others. The course content should be a balance of theory and practical. The theory should be a mix of learning through multi media, exercises, and group discussion, classroom and water based and ensure candidates are engaged and enthused. There is nothing worse than working your way through a manual, answering questions as the trainer reads one by one.
Practical sessions should allow you to try new things, whether that be new equipment, new ideas, or by being coached yourself in part. Often it may be the first time you have been coached and we certainly gain a lot from seeing a trainer deliver a session. The outdoor practical venue should be suitable and this should form the main part of the training and will equip candidates with the knowledge and skills to work safely with clients. A training course is simply that, whilst formal assessments will form the end of the process this should not detract from the learning, the focus and enjoyment of the course, there should be a separation between the two.
Coaching organisations offer a variety of routes to become qualified in the various SUP disciplines. The Water Skills Academy (WSA) approach is to deliver core-coaching courses at the entry level and beyond. WSA courses equip the coach with a variety of skills, knowledge and the understanding to deliver SUP coaching to beginners, novices and improvers in a sheltered water environment. Entry level coach qualifications begin with the WSA Safety and Rescue Course (1 day) and WSA Foundation Course (2 days training + 1 day assessment). It is worth noting at this point that a current first aid certificate is essential appropriate to the environment we work in.
The SUP Safety and Rescue course allows a full understanding and practical application of safety considerations and rescue techniques that may be needed during an on water session. The course includes, towing, incident management, board rescues and in water rescues. In addition knowledge will be gained in effective communication, equipment and recognition of other services such as lifeguards and coastguard. As a coach we may never draw on some of the techniques however others we may use regularly. This course content is designed to be effective through a range of other SUP disciplines in more adventurous settings and will equip the coach with essential safety and rescue skills and knowledge.
The Foundation Coach course is a two-day training course which will provide the coach with the skills and knowledge to safely introduce Stand Up Paddle Boarding to beginners and novices wishing to try and develop their SUP skills in a sheltered water environment. Coaches will learn and gain essential knowledge of equipment, group management and the coaching skills to effectively get students paddling. Additional knowledge will include fault finding and correction with a good understanding of technique. You will leave the course being able to plan sessions and confidently deliver them working within the structure of a club, school or centre.
The approach used for all coaching courses provided by the WSA is based on two days training and one day assessment. Unlike some other providers, it is acknowledged that two days training is the minimum delivery time to gain the knowledge and practice delivery. This adds less pressure during the course for clients and allows total focus on the training. From here prospective coaches can return when they and the trainer (following an action plan) feel ready to present themselves for assessment. This approach formalises the process, does away with the feeling of an attendance qualification and ensures that the logbook hours gained assisting other coaches have a recognised goal. Ultimately producing a knowledgeable, safe, fun and prepared coach.
To provide a coaching service to any group, whether a voluntary club coach or as a freelance coach within a commercial centre we are always asked about insurance. As a qualified WSA Coach and member you will have both public and professional liability insurance as part of your membership. However, insurance is not a cover for negligent practice.
Many coaches qualify at the Foundation level and are happy delivering in this environment. However, some choose to progress their coaching into other areas. A popular progression beyond sheltered water is open water and larger inland waterways. This is often presented or sold as tours or journeys. Our focus may shift to managing groups of proficient paddlers whilst still keeping a watchful eye on the development of the paddler. It is in this environment that we can explore challenges to develop the paddler even more, beyond the confines of sheltered water. Coaching or guiding in this environment can create its own challenges and risks. Therefore, sound advice and training in the form of an additional course is again essential to provide our clients with a fun, safe and enjoyable experience ultimately leaving clients wishing to return for more whether that be as part of group or on their own with friends.
The WSA Adventure Course is a leadership award provided through 2 days training for prospective coaches focusing on group management and leadership in a variety of environments mainly in open water, hazardous environments. Coaches will gain knowledge suitable for the remit of the award, essential safety skills and leadership strategies. Group management techniques and how to effectively use other coaches within your group, journey planning, incident management and safety will play a key focus during the course. Journeying in open water environments presents a whole different set of skills and leadership skills varying considerably from flat sheltered water environments and requires two days training in a practical setting. As SUP has developed WSA also provides this training course as a workshop for those to gain skills and knowledge without assessment.
Whether a coach chooses to continue through a coaching pathway is an individual decision. However, at any level it is essential that we as coaches stay current in our coaching and development and this includes our first aid and safety knowledge. Continual Professional Development, or CPD, is crucial if we as coaches want to continue in providing a professional image and service to those who choose to try SUP or improve on skills
To learn more, access courses provided by the WSA or transfer from your existing organization then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org