Sunday, March 30, 2008

A coach's dilemma

Coaches taking a 1 Star course face a few problems, one of the most frustrating is deciding whether to fail or pass a student.
If we were to fail the student, there is no way they can rent a kayak to practice their skills, but on the other hand, passing them might not be an option. Especially for those in ODAC or other outdoor society where the chances of them going for more advanced kayaking is higher.
So we end up defering those that may pass if given another chance. Yet getting them to come down for one session and trying to assess them will be unfair to the student because there is no chance for them to practice.
The best option for them is to come down for another 2 sessions. Practice and revision on the first session and assessment on the next session.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Coaching Technique

I realised today that I am no longer as nervous as I was in the past when conducting courses. Noticed myself speaking slowly instead of talking really quickly.
Woohoo! Slowly getting rid of the nervousness and gaining confidence.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


My homemade tow line was put to the test during its first day out on the water.
The rig I set up is a simple one made with:
  1. Diving weight belt
  2. Nylon pouch from Beach Rd
  3. 7.5m of 5mm utility cord
  4. Aluminum carabiner
  5. 1 army small rubberband
  6. 6 inch fishing net float
Everything was bought from the Beach Rd area with a total cost of below $10.

Some might notice that the list above does not include a bungee cord for shock absorbing. I did buy a length of heavy duty bungee cord (the NS men will refer to it as "bicycle hook"). But I did not attach it.
I did not feel any significant jerking force on the 2 occasions that required me to use the towline.
The first was when I had a swimmer holding on to my bow while i towed a fully swamped kayak, on the second occasion I towed 2 fiberglass slaloms with the paddlers still inside. They were 2 small sized girls, with a combined weight of approximately 70kg. No jerking was felt on both occasions.
So I reckon my towline can be used to tow a paddler of 70kg in a fiberglass slalom.

The only thing left for me to do is sew on some D-rings at the side of the belt to hang my carabiner. This would allow me to reach for it easily when I need to tow.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cold Cold Cold!

Its been raining cats and dogs the past few days and coaching in the rain, really is no fun. You're cold, wet and chest deep in water, keeping an eye on the students. But, the crummy weather did provide learning opportunities.

Knowledge isnt enough.
One of the students was showing mild signs of hypothermia, he was shivering and his fingertips were pale and turning bluish. I told them that cotton made you lose body heat abt 20 times faster than usual, thats why they feel cold, yet I didn't think of asking the guy with hypothermia to take off his shirt when we reached shelter.

Self Reliance.
As I started coaching with Water-Venture which provides stuff like towlines, aquapacs, and a first aid kit in the office, I have been dependent on the club supplying all the necessary equipment. To avoid being over dependent, I am currently developing my towline and have put together a simple First Aid Kit, using a sandwich sized waterproof Lock & Lock container.
It currently contains the following:
  1. band aids
  2. sterile gauze
  3. tube of antiseptic cream
  4. alcohol swabs
  5. tweezers
  6. forceps
  7. 3M Transpore tape

I plan to include a pack of heating pads too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Coaching Refinement

After conducting a KOP for Fajar Sec at MOE JBAC, I had coffee with Bernard at Lot 1. We discussed about coaching techniques while drinking coffee and eating Ya Kun toast.

Some things I've learnt after that day.

ALWAYS conduct dry paddling
And not just moving the paddle on land, move to knee depth water and let the students know how it feels like when they are paddling properly. If they were to slice the blade, it would be evident as they would feel a sudden lack of resistance.
Dry paddling also saves you the trouble of running all over the place herding the students after you set them loose in the water.

Gain attention
Pick the rowdy ones and sit them in the front, this lets everyone know you want their full attention and you'll have lesser distractions.

Avoid multi-tasking
It helps get work done quickly, but there I can only be at one place at a time.
Say I am washing the kayak, how can I ensure if the students are putting the kayaks on the rack safely? Instead, it would be prudent to let a more responsible student do the washing which is a low risk activity. While I watch over those carrying the kayaks and bringing them to the racks.

No sharp turns during expeditions
When bringing a group on an expedition, it is best to keep the last person in view. This is to prevent the group from splitting up and in the event of any capsize where rescue is needed, the expedition leader will know that there is a need to stop. Preventing the group from spreading farther apart.

Bernard also mentioned that my coaching style is more suitable for an adult group. I guess its because the principal considerations when I coach are to provide a non-threatening environment and to be as informal as possible. I feel that an informal and non-threatening environment encourages students to ask for help when they can't perform a skill. This beats having them sit quietly in their kayak, afraid to ask for guidance.

Bernard's coaching concept is to quickly run thru the entire syllabus on the first day, leaving the 2nd day for refinement. His method is to touch and go on all the strokes, spending more time on capsize drills and rescue techniques.
I think I'll adapt his concept, with a little tweaking because I think that rushing through everything on the first day might be a bit too taxing for the students. They'll probably forget the main points on the 2nd session.