Our safety officer Ben offers a break down of the new training and awards programmes

Regent’s club trips are all organised and led by volunteers, and paddling with a club is a great way to learn kayaking through informal learning from more experienced members. Many of our leaders don’t have any formal qualifications, but their experience and enthusiasm enable us to run a whole range of white water kayak and canoe trips.

That said, doing formal coaching or leadership training can be very rewarding and a great way of improving your own personal paddling skills. The few qualified coaches we have in the club are always in high demand and it would be great to see more members pursuing these qualifications. Qualified coaches bring so much to the club, we currently offer generous subsidies to anyone interested in doing this training.

What’s the difference between Coaching and Leading?

Coaches teach people to kayak and have improve their personal paddling skills. The real skill of a coach is being able to watch someone paddle, identify what they need to improve, and then devise a task or a set of lessons for them so that they significantly improve their paddling. To run any coached course for RCC or otherwise a coach must have a recognised coaching qualification.

Leaders are always experienced paddlers who can judge the conditions and group ability and lead that group safely down the river. We focus on peer paddling, so everyone in a group is empowered to act if necessary, and nominated leaders are normally the most experienced peers in a group. They can offer “top tips” to paddlers following them but are not qualified to coach people further. At Regent’s leaders often don’t have any formal qualifications, but we do recommend getting the training as a way to improve your skills on the river.

Why might people be interested in getting Coaching or Leading qualifications?

These awards have been developed by paddling experts at British Canoeing. At Regent’s we learn from each other all the time, and that’s great. But there’s also something to be said for doing a structured course which follows a syllabus designed to cover everything you need to know. It can consolidate what you’ve learned already and fill in any gaps. In addition, you will have an award which is recognised wherever you go paddling.

Learning to coach has benefits both on and off the water. On the water one of the best ways of improving a skill is working out how to teach it; off the water, coaching is a transferable skill. Coaching techniques in other walks of life are heavily influenced by sports coaching.

What awards does BC offer and what’s the difference between them?

BC offers training and awards in pretty much every paddlesport discipline you can think of, from SUP to canoe polo. For Regent’s paddlers the White Water Kayak and White Water Canoe awards will probably be the most relevant. There’s a lot of information on the BC website, and a summary of the basic whitewater kayak awards is listed on our Training page including:

Personal Performance awards

These awards are about improving your personal paddling skills. This includes decision making and group skills as well as technical ability.

Leadership awards

These recognise the additional skills you need when leading others. Three levels are relevant to Regent’s club paddlers:

  • Sheltered Water (paddlesport leader)
  • Moderate Water (white water kayak leader)
  • Advanced Water (advanced white water kayak leader)

All these awards focus on personal paddling skills, rescue skills, safety, leadership and group skills. There is a two-day training course for each award followed by a one day assessment, though you will need experience as well as training to pass.

The training can be an excellent way to improve your river skills and we’d recommend this for all members looking to feel more confident on the river, the assessment can be taken up to 3 years after the training.   

Coaching awards

These awards are about teaching kayaking. This could be helping complete beginners to learn the basics, or helping more advanced paddlers improve. Either way you would learn to plan and deliver progressive coaching sessions. Coaching well is a real skill and a lot gets covered in this training, from understanding different learning styles to assessing progress and making sure your coaching is enjoyable.

To do these awards you would first do core coach training, which is not discipline specific. Then there are awards for many different paddlesport disciplines. For white water kayaking the awards are:

  • Kayak Coach (sheltered water)
  • White Water Kayak Coach
  • Advanced White Water Kayak Coach

Becoming a coach takes time and commitment – as well as completing the training you need to show that you are putting what you are learning into practice and keep a diary of your coaching experience.

What other training could I think about doing?

White Water Safety and Rescue – this is another BC course which is strongly recommended for anyone who is paddling white water regularly. It covers safe paddling strategies and a variety of different rescue skills. It’s typically a two day course.

First Aid – also strongly recommended. Any first aid is useful but Wilderness First Aid is a popular choice, as we often paddle in rural locations where help could be several hours away. This is a requirement for the leadership and coaching awards.

Personal Paddling skills – there are lots of ways to improve your own paddling skills, starting with paddling regularly at the canal to strengthen your forward paddling (the foundation of all white water skills!) If you are thinking about paying for coaching, Lee Valley offer some good evening courses or you could team up with some friends to hire a coach. The BC Personal Performance awards have replaced the old ‘star’ awards and offer progression in personal skills from flat water to advanced white water (grade 3/4 (5))

OK I’m keen – what should I do now?

It depends what you’re interested in. If you want to do a course (leadership, personal paddling, first aid, safety and rescue – whatever) it’s cheaper to team up with some other members interested in the same thing and hire a coach together. Do some research into courses and work out what you want to do, and contact [email protected] to put a shout out in NfC to see if anyone else is interested.

If you think you might be interested in becoming a coach, get in touch with our safety officer Ben ([email protected]). Ben is currently going through coaching training himself so can talk you through what’s involved in more detail. There’s also a heap of information on the British Canoeing website.

If you have any other questions about coaching and leading, or about training generally, get in touch with Ben and he’ll be happy to help.