Successfully encouraging learners to find the ‘right’ answer for themselves is, I find, one of the most rewarding aspects of coaching. We can only take things so far by showing and telling our students what to do. Many of the techniques we use in paddlesport are simply things we need to work out for ourselves; in coach education terms things that we need to use kinaesthetic learning to achieve.
One simple example of this kinaesthetic learning is encouraging beginners to work out how far apart their hands need to be on the paddle shaft. Typically, we ask beginners to try paddling with their hands as close together as possible, then as far apart as possible and then to find the optimum position for the technique we are working on at the time. Similarly we will often work with beginners on edging their boats perhaps asking them to number a modest edge as 1 through to an extreme edge 5 necessitating an effective recovery – or a swim.
Kinaesthetic learning is at the heart of the Guided Discovery coaching style and experienced coaches employ this pairing in a variety of situations to help their students develop their skills. Sculling, both for support and to move sideways, is another example where getting our learners to experiment with the angle of the blade on or in the water, can be highly effective in engraining that technique.
Working with a group of aspirant Level 2 coaches recently I enjoyed observing a Guided Discovery session applying this approach to exploring the effects of body position and weight in a tandem canoe when paddling in wind. The group found themselves being quite adventurous in seeing how extreme they could be in altering the trim of the boat. And, as so often, there were one or two ‘lightbulb moments’ when the extreme approach really hammered home the point of the session.