Whether you’re about to start a coaching session or lead a group of other paddlers on a journey, your initial briefing goes a long way to establishing the success or otherwise of the activity. Getting the words right sets the scene, helps manage expectations and underpins safety, but unless you’re well practiced it’s all too easy to miss out some important information.
The MY ABCDE framework is a useful tool that many coaches use to help them to cover the key points when introducing a session and is one which works equally well in leadership situations. If you’ve not come across it before, the first two letters are simply a reminder to introduce yourself (Me) and then the group (You). Even if you know all of your group already, there may be those not known to all of their colleagues and enabling everyone to put a name to everyone else and know something of their paddling background and expectations of the trip will make group management much easier.
The A stands for Activity and this is your chance to tell the group more about the trip and perhaps the challenges that lie ahead. Yes, it’s a canoe or kayak trip (or often both!), but what about the history of the waterway, the wildlife and the features, not to mention the pubs and cafés, that you will pass along the way?
B is Boundaries and flows naturally from your description of the activity. You can use this as a prompt to agree with your group how you are going to manage the trip, whether that’s appointing front and rear markers, paddling in pairs using a buddy system, giving an aspirant leader the chance to take the lead for certain sections or any combination of the leadership approaches that you might take. You will almost certainly want to emphasise the importance of keeping in sight and perhaps earshot of you and other members of the group. This is also your opportunity to agree any behavioural boundaries that you feel might be necessary for the group: respect for each other, for you and for the environment.
C is, as in the CLAP acronym, for Communication; your chance to agree what signals you will use and what group members should do in the event of a capsize or other incident.
D is for Doctor. It’s a bit of a cheat but it’s a useful way of reminding yourself of any medical information or injuries that have been declared on the personal details (and, if appropriate, parental consent) forms that you will have asked all group members to complete before the trip. Importantly, it’s a prompt to ask about shoulder, knee or any other issues that are new and might impact on the group’s ability to participate fully on the day.
Finally, E is for equipment, your last chance to check that everyone has food, drink and everything else they need and that everyone knows who’s carrying first aid, safety and other group equipment.
If you have other ways of remembering all of the above, great. But if not, just remember your (MY!) ABC…