Steffi introduces us to her progression to White Water Kayak Coach

I suppose my coaching journey started back in October 2010 when I attended a White Water Safety & Rescue course facilitated on the Tryweryn. It was after my first Alps trip, and my first white water roll in anger on Rabioux wave on the Durance. This was my first experience of ‘fast and furious’ water and it felt right to learn a bit more about river safety. All I remember is how cold the accommodation was and that the dishwasher was broken. In fact, that whole place was a bit broken. It was probably even more broken after we moved several pieces of furniture when practicing our rope work. The stopper above the ‘chipper’ on the Tryweryn was also the first time I swam in a stopper – yes, back then we body surfed stoppers. On day two we covered some basic peer paddling and river leading. All that is a mighty long time ago.

In January 2011 I went on the leadership course with Regents Canoe Club – yes, we did the Vynwry and yes, we did get off in the dark.  I did actually look back on my notes after the 2020 RCC run course. My feedback from Dan Tattersall was: ‘Quicker follow up; in fact, more decisiveness.’  Sound familiar?  ‘Don’t explain too much (the upcoming features) and trust each other’s abilities.’ Boat rescues – not my strong point either.  The follow up trip that us ‘newbies’ organised brought the first tooth breaker – I believe there were three that year, me being one of them.  It didn’t put me off…

In April 2011 I did the old 3* assessment on the Nene that both Christine and Mark facilitated. My first formal qualification. The next opportunity arose as part of the ‘hashtag this girl can’ campaign in September 2011 – I had literally just finished chemo but was raring to get back to kayaking – I took part and completed my level 1 coaching qualification, again, with the club. Thrown into it, the 2* open boating and Foundation Safety & Rescue.  Inspired particularly by the many strong female paddlers in the club, I wowed to continue with the aim to ‘give back’ to the club having been given all these opportunities, fun times and encouragement.  I doubt that without these coincidences and opportunities I would have bothered.

That journey wasn’t without challenges and hiccups. After cancer and a meeting with a rock that split my lip and knocked out a tooth [two teeth now as after a 10 year break the second tooth that was hit decided to give up] I had quite a hard time to get back into paddling. Confidence!!! At least a three year battle and I still have ups and downs. Not wanting to give up, I attended a few confidence courses over the years, and I finally learned to ‘let go’ and focus on the joy aspect. I had a look at my notes from these courses and these are some which I go back to regularly:

  •         Can I see a line?
  •         Can I do that line today/right now?
  •         Do I need to set up safety?
  •         Does it look fun?

Make your decision and don’t tell anyone.  Just go for it.

From the start of the river, don’t get fixed on the features – put them in a box and decide how you feel when you get there. Visualise yourself running them and then put that into a box.  Features are boxes that we can look at later.

So, I didn’t go back to formal coaching training for some time. Again, the next opportunity came through a fellow female paddler at the club that encouraged me – Clarissa. In April 2014 I started the level 2 coaching training. Much session planning and practice ensured before the assessment later that same year. I also completed my 4* training, a pre-requisite for the Level 2 coaching award, with one of my favourite coaches – Dan Daly from Rock the Boat in December 2014. It was quite technical, but it was that detail that I really enjoyed. It might be my work, but I find the technical and psychological side interesting.   A quick brush up with a WWSR training in November 2015 before I took my level 4* assessment in March 2016 – on Ian’s birthday.  Reflecting back, that level of coaching has opened up another level of reward. I remain in contact with a number of people that were completely new to moving water. I was their first leader/coach [it still sounds weird to me] and have seen them progress since then. I have bumped into them at Lee Valley quite a few times. Both keep referring back to those two days on the river we had together as a starting point for their newly found love of kayaking.  [still weird]

In April 2017 I completed my Moderate Water Endorsement (a qualification to coach on moving water up to grade 3) training; in February 2018 I failed the first assessment attempt but after a focused development plan passed in November 2018.

Next steps?  I have done my advanced WWSR training but for now, the focus is on enjoying my paddling, build up my confidence by exploring more grade 4 and see where the river takes me.

Well, it has been a journey of many ups and downs, not least because of serious illness that led to many emotional battles; accidents that massively affected my confidence; a journey of rediscovering the actual fun; the love of a technical understanding but also the theory of learning/basic psychology which I use so much at work. It has been a journey of inspiration by many club members, yes, particularly female ones, but also some damn good coaches that engaged and encouraged me.