My Journey Through the Advanced Water Endorsement Scheme

So... my latest foray to Scotland saw me successfully complete my Advanced Water Endorsement assessment - I'm now an Advanced Water Endorsed UKCC Level 3 Kayak Coach in White Water - there is no higher award in the current BCU coaching scheme that is open to new applicants after the last of the Level 5 Training courses finished in 2011. There are only two of us in the UK at the time of writing that hold both of these qualifications so I guess you could say I'm one of the first of the new breed of top end coaches coming through.

I thought this blog would help those going through the process that I have been through to gain an understanding of what to expect and provide a point of reference to the key points that I picked up along the way... So I hope it's of use...

My journey along this path has taken lots of time and effort, but it was well worth it! Throughout this article I've highlighted in bold the key points as I worked through my process which will have subsequent blogs linked to a new topic to help you gain a greater depth of understanding - you'll soon get the drift and as you'll see below, a link is already in place to cover TTPP principles in more detail...

This award is aimed at UKCC Level 2 coaches and is based around the application of UKCC Level 2 coaching behaviors in an Advanced Water environment, however there is no reason why you can't take a UKCC Level 3 approach to the programme and apply a more long term and individualised approach to your coaching.

By that I mean we're not necessarily looking for a quick fix in one session, but looking to put a progressive set of sessions together over a longer period of time aimed at meeting the development and needs of the student over that medium term. Sure, tactical fixes still have a place in our toolbox as an enabler, but here we're concentrating on a longer term learning outcome with a more student centric approach that results in a longer term skill development that will aid a greater retention of that skill and thus will lead to a more skillful and autonomous paddler. This is the approach that I took as a UKCC Level 3 coach.

My journey through the Advanced Water Endorsement started in November 2012 with my training - 3 days spent under the guidance of Ken Hughes working with a group of real students which gave a great insight into the coaching behaviors and safety considerations required to coach at this level. It was also fantastic to get great feedback from the students on the quality of coaching they had received even on the training course!

One of the key points for me from a UKCC Level 3 perspective is.. know your students aims and objectives, understand what needs to be worked on over a period of time and get their buy in into a programme aimed at those very needs that you have identified. This will require a certain amount of negotiation of goals and objectives that the students present and the needs that you identify after a period of observation.

I started off with a core group of 4 students from Liverpool University. These soon, through natural attrition, dropped down to a group of 3 as personal circumstances arose around University timetables for lectures etc (yes students do go to them apparently!).

The very first session was purely an observation session from my perspective on a section of grade 3 on the Tryweryn. This was very informative and allowed me to, through the tasks I set, observe their performance and gain an understanding of what needed to be developed to meet their goals which I had earlier ascertained over a cup of tea in the cafe. So piecing this all together like a jigsaw, allowed me to:

  • Understand their goals and objectives - where they want to take their paddling in the future
  • Profile their current performance through the practical tasks I set against the profile of their goals
  • Develop a plan that met the needs of the students whilst delivering against their goals
  • Negotiate and gain agreement to the plan that I had developed

That's one of the key points here for me, developing a plan that meets the needs of the student and assists them in achieving their goals. Without that process, it would disengage the students and ultimately lead to failure of the medium term plan that was developed if it was purely coach led - we must focus on a student led outcome rather than what we would like to coach!

The second session was spent developing the fundamentals to enable their future development with a correct technical application of strokes in a variety of rapids down the Upper Tryweryn (varied practice!).

The third and fourth sessions were on the River Leven in the Lake District. Here I introduced leadership and group management principles into their paddling repertoire and also continued the skill development principles introduced in session two.

The final two sessions took place on the Tees at Low Force, introducing key stroke application and timing on the rapid below the bridge before heading up to Low Force itself for the culmination of the programme with a session on the drop.

My assessment with Glenmore Lodge took place on the top section of the Findhorn in Scotland which was running at a great level given the rain we'd had. A group of two unknown students and a delivery of two sessions throughout the day each of about an hour in length along with some time leading the group through between coaching venues.

So where do I go from here? Well I also have a passion for open canoe coaching so I plan to develop this side of my coaching further over the next year or so!

Thanks for reading. I am always available and willing to support or mentor coaches so if you are looking to develop your coaching style, or are looking for a mentor to support you through your development then please do check out my coach support page or get in contact with me and we can discuss your needs.

I'll touch on the items in bold in future blogs.... so keep an eye out for the next article...! I hope it helps on your journey...