The absence of skills pre-requisites from British Canoeing’s new Paddlesport Leader and Coach Awards may have led some to thinking there is no longer any need to bother with 3 Star assessment and I would have some sympathy with them. That is not the same however as saying there is no longer any place for 3 Star training!
Both the leader and the coach award assessments have robust criteria for what is expected by way of personal and rescue skills and training with an appropriately skilled coach will help ensure there are no gaps in a candidate’s skill set as they prepare for assessment for either award. Of course, that training could be informal, perhaps run in a club setting, but it’s very easy in such situations to focus on areas you’re already comfortable with and pay less attention to those where the work may really be needed. Practicing anything that involves getting wet would be a prime example! How often have you seen others, and perhaps found yourself, practicing support strokes without really committing to being off balance? Or perhaps it’s simply practicing a skill on your stronger side and not improving the other?
A good training course, with a critical but supportive provider, should ensure that you cover the whole of the 3 Star syllabus, identifying strengths and weaknesses and resulting in a clear action plan for further development. Even where you and your provider agree that your performance meets or exceeds the syllabus requirement you should still go away with an action plan. There is, after all, always room for improvement and a new set of goals to aspire to.
I think it’s helpful to look at 3 Star training in much the same way as we look at FSRT. The course offers training in a variety of skills and scenarios without necessarily the pressure of assessment. For many paddlers this provides a less stressful and more conducive atmosphere for learning, promoting experimentation and development that can then be consolidated and applied in a range of environments. Attending a training course becomes a step along the way rather than an end in itself. Another way of looking at 3 Star course is to think of it as intermediate skills training. With no need to complete an assessment the focus turns to looking at where and how you can improve, not at where you must.
For me the reduction in pre-requisites from our coaching and leadership awards is a hugely positive step. It enables us to concentrate on appropriate and effective training and development programmes which, with good mentoring and support, should reduce the chances of candidates presenting for assessment before they’re ready. What’s the point of training? I think we all know the answer to that!