Will coaching be the same post-lockdown?

SUP Boulters May20 (2)It’s been fantastic this month to back on the water even though we’ve been restricted to paddling either as a family group or with only one other paddler. I’ve certainly enjoyed the chance for some ‘proper’ exercise using both boats and boards.

But I’ve also continued to enjoy the increased online activity. And as we slowly emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown there seems to be an emerging debate about the role of new technology in coaching and learning in sport. British Canoeing, like most other organisations, has increased its digital ‘offer’ during this period and it’s hard to see why we might want to roll back on this. We’ve become accustomed to eLearning for our coaching and leadership awards over the last couple of years; webinars and online discussion groups for coaches and leaders have blossomed during lockdown and British Canoeing is now promoting its guide modules as online development opportunities for all paddlers.

In the middle of the month I joined paddlers from all over the country (and Norway!) for a British Canoeing webinar on decision-making and using video to support it. An online poll revealed that 85% of those of us taking part had used video as a coaching tool and 29% were using it frequently. I include myself in that latter group. Lee Pooley had opened the webinar with the thought that one definition of coaching is about maximising decision-making opportunities and there was strong agreement that video can play a key role in that.

There were a number of useful take outs from the session particularly around the practicalities of shooting and then reviewing video. I’ve found the combination of GoPro to capture the video (either helmet-mounted or fixed to a boat/tree/tripod to keep my hands free) and a large phone or tablet for immediate review works well. I’ve also become a fan of Coach’s Eye with its ability to review frame by frame and layer over arrows and highlighting (other sports coaching apps are available) for more detailed analysis. Sharing the footage for post-session review on a larger screen, either face-to-face with the paddler(s) or through a file sharing service such as Dropbox can has proved very effective as well. The idea that we might use video for pre-analysis was a particularly intriguing suggestion which I’m looking forward to experimenting with.

But take these thoughts a step further and you have to ask how long before more – even most – of our coaching is delivered online? Is it necessary for coach and performer to be in the same place at the same time? Why shouldn’t the performer video themselves (or have a partner do this) and then review the footage online with their coach who might be anywhere?

As we moved beyond the tight restrictions forced on us by the Covid-19 pandemic questions are being asked about what a new normal will look like. Increased use of communications technologies by all of us at work and at play seems an inevitable outcome. How that changes the role of coaches and coaching will be interesting to see!

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