Coaching Basics for OC6
Controlling the Group
For this article we will assume that you know your paddlers and know their capabilities, illnesses and injuries and other “duty of care” factors.
First – when you are the coach you need to “touch base” with each and every person in your control! It doesn’t have to be a lot, even just an encouraging word here and there. This is in addition to the prior to getting on the water briefing and the after paddling round up.
To do this genuinely you need to be able to eye ball every paddler at least once during each session.
How do you arrange yourself to manage that?
Several principles apply:
1. When you are the coach it is NEVER about your own training.
- If you are steering you should be competent enough that steering doesn’t take up your focus too much. If that is not the case, then sit in seat 5!
- NEVER sit in seat 1! How can you see anyone behind you? if you are a seat one paddler and the coach, you will need to hand over coaching to an assistant once in a while so you can paddle without thinking about others (good for any coach to do!)
- Try to choose the slowest canoe so you have everyone else in front of you most of the time. If you find yourself in the fastest canoe, swap out and get behind people.
- Arrange with your steerer to hang close to other canoes and to swap around which canoe you are with.
- Eyeball paddlers, make notes, keep track of who you have seen and commented to and what you said.
- Keep your mind just on the one point you set up at the beginning of the session – this will help prevent confusion in yourself and your paddlers!
2. Regardless of the focus of the session, it is ALWAYS about technique!
- Following on from the discussion above, even if the session is about physiology, make sure there is still a focal point for technique, that you refer to constantly throughout the session.
- It can be simple, “we are doing a long steady paddle today with a few “ups”. I want you to refocus on your (……….) at each change of pace. Steerers, please call the re-focus and check that everyone is on it”…..
- Then, as coach, you need to give every person feedback. Regardless of the length of the sets, allow a minute or two in the breaks to give feedback. Everyone likes to know you are paying attention to them.
- If you have limited time in between long sets, make you comments short, not too critical or overly involved, and only on the one focal point for the session!
3. Keep the “phone book paddling” to a minimum!
- “Phone book paddling” is simply referring to the random numbers we use to make sets and reps – 12 minutes 85%, 3 minutes 75%, 2 minutes 60%, 8 minutes 95%, … – you get my drift!
- Keeping canoes together is hard enough, but when you have a long complicated set, people miss the change of pace, or the change of pace isn’t really anything that can be controlled that well in an OC6!
- Remember OC6’s tend to be on at sprint pace, on at marathon pace, or off! There is not a lot in between! So long sets will invariably wind down to a relatively easy aerobic threshold (NOT anaerobic threshold) and have little fitness training.
- Longer sets of shorter, more intense intervals, will always be better conditioning, even for ultra marathons! Make the “ups” UP and the “downs” DOWN!
4. When I am assessing coaches on their practicals, only two things can send the learner coach back to the drawing board:
- The first is leaving ANYONE behind. Again – as coach you should be BEHIND all canoes. If any canoe is falling too far behind change the paddlers around to make them more even. Yes, there are times that you will be working on a racing crew – in that case delegate other coaches/steerers to be in charge of the main group and do your thing. No-one should ever paddle off into the distance assuming everyone is right behind them, but I sure see it often, and too often from learner coaches!
- Apart from not being able to “coach” the canoe that is lost in space, you have a major duty of care issue on you hands!
- The second is being focused solely on the physical aspects of the session. Just the numbers. Just getting the work done. Of course there are times to “just get the work done”, but it can never be divorced from technique! Practicing garbage technique will result in a severely reduced physical capacity! Good technique opens up the whole body, increasing the strength, power, aerobic capacity, and endurance of the paddler as well as improving muscle fibre recruitment patterns, and body balanced movements that are less prone to inducing injury.
Finally, for the rest of the mob:
- Hang with your coach!
- If the coach’s canoe is slower, don’t leave it behind. Circle around behind it.
- Go in the same direction as the coach’s canoe!
- Don’t go off and do your own thing unless pre-arranged
- Your steerer is in charge of your canoe, but the coach is in charge of the session and all canoes. Steerers have a responsibility to convey the coaching messages throughout the session.
Remember, coaching is about THEM, not YOU!