Steffi went for her Moderate Water Endorsement training and encountered giraffes, gorillas and mice.

Who would have thought that coaching white water skills can be a matter of story telling and visual/mental pictures. The level 2 coaching seemed to have been a burden of paperwork, sprucing up on technical knowledge and passing on that knowledge to keen learners. Whilst we started off in the Getafix HQ ‘classroom’ – a cosy living room area with bean bags and a log fire. Our group of four ‘wanna be coaches’ didn’t spend hours going through the BC handbook, completing notes and preparing session plans, we soon packed our bags to get ready to go on the river.

Bear in mind… On average, people remember 3 points +/- 2 points. Bring in nerves and adrenaline, the reality is that most people can only manage 1 point. So….some of the key points I took away from the training was:

  • Get planning before hitting the water – have a think about the river and its features and think about how these river features could be used to facilitate learning
  • Create themes
  • Reduce talking about theory and find ways to get students to learn by feeling

To put this into context, on my journey to learning how to coach students on moving water, I encountered the mental picture of Easy Jet to introduce edging/breaking in and out of eddies. Visualise this:

Easy Jet being a cheap airline, they always take off facing the ‘wrong’ (upstream) way. So, the plane accelerates (over the eddie line) and takes off. The first thing the plane then does is turn around to face the right direction = breaking into/turning into or out of the flow/eddie. Let’s practice:

  1. Arms out to the side and pretend to be that turning airplane (= introduce edging)
  2. Start paddling (accelerate) and use that image of turning the airplane to turn the boat (= introduce edging on the move)
  3. On the next go, get students to point at their parked car (inside turn hand) = introduces holding the edge
  4. On the next go, get students to point at their parked car with the opposite hand = encourages further body rotation
  5. On the next go, get students to point at the distance (the eddie) = introduces positioning and angling the boat
  6. On the next go show students a number indicating how many strokes they are ‘allowed’ to get into the eddie

And here is where I met giraffes, gorillas and mice.
4 strokes = paddling like a gorilla (power strokes)
6 strokes = paddle like a giraffe (effective, smooth strokes)
10 strokes = paddle like a mouse (accelerate)

On the second day of training, we continued this theme of gorilla, giraffe and mouse on the different rapids of the Dee. It might sound insane, but try this! We ran the bottom rapid at Mile End Mill. We checked and planned our lines and went for it. Feedback was given using this theme and the second run – top bit, more mouse; second bit, more giraffe; third bit more mouse. Job done. Smooth!! Somehow I knew exactly what was expected and how much power to apply. No worries about where to look, what to do, which way to edge etc etc… A simple way to break down and feel your way down the river with a visual image that is easy to transfer to the river features.