I was asked the other day what would be the one thing I would advise to improve someone’s coaching. It didn’t take long to come up with my answer – start with the basics. Or as we would call them in paddlesport, the fundamentals.
It’s no accident that the British Canoeing 1 Star training notes start with an emphasis on “developing the foundation skills and enabling progression towards the blending of the body, boat and blade required to be efficient and effective”. The section on forward paddling highlights the importance of an upright posture. So many problems that paddlers face in their later skill development stem from leaning back and not properly engaging the pelvis. Without that engagement we lose the dynamic interchange between upper and lower body, comprise our ability to rotate our trunk and hence our ability to generate power and move our craft forwards, sideways or wherever it is we want to take it.
As well as being upright, our coaches are taught that posture needs to be active (dynamic!) which when linked with effective connectivity between body, boat and blade enables us to generate and transfer power efficiently. As coaches if we look first at a paddler’s posture, connectivity and power transfer we are in a very good place to start identifying potential problem areas and discussing with our paddlers how their performance might be improved. Through that discussion we should then be able to address the fourth fundamental, the one that’s more difficult for us as coaches to identify and interpret, which is of course ‘feel’.
Looking at these fundamentals and using Body, Boat, Blade (and Brain) together with our other analysis and decision-making tools should enable us to iron out many of the issues acting as barriers to our paddlers improving their performance.