I really enjoy teaching paddlers and watching them improve individually. In turn, they feel better about themselves and contribute to the success of the team. A coach’s duties don’t stop by teaching a paddler how to move a boat. A coach is also responsible for motivating the team for peak performance – this sometimes is harder than teaching raw technique as you have to account for each person’s personality.
Each paddler reacts differently to the things a coach says. One paddler’s motivation is another’s reason to give up. Case and point was this last weekend’s time trial. Some have a desire to know every little thing they can do to improve technically, others don’t want to hear it.
Last weekend, I was tasked with steering the oc2 for a majority of the time trials we held. Unfortunately, I can’t sit on the oc2 and eat bon-bons while steering the oc2 to the finish line. Marshalling to the start line, I try to put the paddlers at ease and give the paddlers last second tips in hopes of bettering their time. During the paddler’s piece, I need to figure out how to motivate the paddler and keep him/her going at peak levels.
What I say and do differs depending on the paddler. Here are a few stories that stuck out in my mind from last weekend:
Paddler A begins his/her piece. Unfortunately, the oc2’s seat begins to slide forward and back on its track. Shortly after the start of the piece, Paddler A (who is very competitive) realizes that the seat is sliding and begins to verbally tell me about the problem. Realizing what fuels Paddler A, I tell Paddler A that s/he can stop at any time and start over. The choice was his/hers. What did Paddler A do? Paddler A ignored the inconvenience and put the throttle down powering down the course.
Later in the day, it was Paddler B’s turn. Half way through the piece, Paddler B started telling me that s/he could no longer continue. It was too hard. Had I used the tactic I used with Paddler A, Paddler B would have stopped and I would have had to paddle Paddler B to the finish line. Instead, I encouraged Paddler B telling him/her that Paddler B was not going to stop under any circumstances. I told Paddler B I had the utmost confidence that Paddler B could finish the piece. Guess what happened? Paddler B finished the piece with a very respectable time.
Sometimes, it’s not about motivating or teaching, but enjoying the journey. Here’s what happened later in the day:
Paddler C starts his/her piece and immediately notices the seat is sliding. Paddler C is not ultra competitive but is very fit and serious nonetheless. The seat begins sliding and the boat starts making a squeaking sound – almost like a farting sound. To be frank, I didn’t notice it as I was focused on steering the boat straight down the course. Rather than ignore the sound, Paddler C tells me with a chuckle (keep in mind this is during Paddler C’s piece), “That’s not me!” clearly referring to the fart-like sound. I guess Paddler C thought that I thought s/he was repeatedly farting. Being a sucker for fart jokes, all I could do was laugh.
The master steersman, coach and motivator Leon encouraging me down the course.