Aiding Effective Learning for the Canoe and Kayak Coach
I’m always really curious about how students perceive the information shared with them. I was speaking with several people recently who had all been taught the same things but by different coaches. I found it really interesting that they formed completely different opinions about the content of a lesson depending on who their coach was. Take a few moments to read through the simple steps outlined in this article that will let you shape the opinion and point of view of those you communicate with in a positive way.
A great deal of scientific work has been done on how we learn the physical and psychological things that allow us to become skilled in our sports. However, the link between the learning of the skill and our opinion of the learning process and perception of the skill is often neglected. Our perceptions and opinions can be one of the most important influences on how well we progress in our sport, and have an important effect on the rate and quality of our learning.
The Motor Skill Learning Bit
We are already aware that many new skills contain too much information for beginners to handle. It is widely recognised that learners organise large amounts of information into more manageable units. This strategy is known as subjective organisation and involves the organisation of information that must be remembered in a way that is meaningful for the individual. Other terms for this are chunking, clustering and grouping.
The important thing is that the chunks become meaningful to the individual. This implies that we have some mental strategy that associates new information with things we already know. In coaching terms this is sometimes called finding ‘hooks and hangers’ within the learners brain. For example, we might break a complicated new skill down into a series of relatively simple parts with each part being in some way already familiar to our students.
‘Hooks and hangers’ imply our memory is like storing things in cupboards. What we don’t consider so often is that our brains don’t work in a linear fashion with a wardrobe for each cluster of information, but more like a huge walk in dressing room with an infinite number of doors. This means that the same skill can be stored behind many different doors and retrieved from our memories when any of a range of similar doors are opened.
For example, imagine you’re a good skier but are now going for surfing lessons. These skills might seem totally unrelated (different cupboard doors), but when your coach starts to explain about using the edges of the board to carve on the wave, the label ‘edge’ you’ve learned from skiing gives you the information you need to help learn the new surfing skill. Although you may be forming a surfing cupboard door to store information in, the ‘edging’ label is common to both and regardless of whether you go to this label through the skiing or the surfing cupboard door, ‘edging’ now has more meaningful information associated with it in both contexts.
Now your brain is really clever. What if edging was called something else too? Well, our brains can store the same information under different labels. ‘Edging’ and ‘carving’ are very similar examples, and when learning something new our brains seek to generalise in many ways, so it may be given many labels.
The NLP Bit
We have labels for things like ‘edging’ and ‘carving’ and also for things like ‘difficult’, ‘hard’ and ‘scary’. So when coaching, if we say ‘We’re now going to learn to carve, which some people may find difficult’, you can guarantee that most of the students will generalise the ‘some people’ to mean them and also file ‘carving’ firmly in the cupboard labeled ‘Things I Find Difficult’ – and this is before they’ve even tried it!
If a coach introduces a new task with the words ‘Today we’re going to try some of the harder advanced skills’, where do you think we will file these? Even from our first few attempts our unconscious mind will be thinking ‘These are going to be hard to learn, and to make sure I’m right I might throw the odd spanner in the works to back this belief up.’ And it will do this all unconsciously so your conscious mind never knows what’s sabotaging it’s learning!
I’ve always wondered why canoeists and kayakers give white water rapids names like ‘jaws of death’, and ‘the graveyard’. I know many paddlers who have read these names in the guidebook on the way to the river and become a gibbering wreck before they even get on the water! I wonder which mental cupboard doors they’ve opened, and what else they found inside.
Lead Your students to the Most Useful Cupboard Doors
Remember, we have lots of cupboard doors with great labels on them – ‘fun’, ‘exciting’, ‘easy’, ‘simply’; so why not use these instead? ‘Today we’re going to learn some of the fun advanced skills’, it sounds better already doesn’t it?
As a coach don’t you want your students to associate what you’re teaching them with all the other things they’ve found fun and enjoyable? When they do, their unconscious mind will be generalising across what you’re teaching them and what they already have behind their ‘fun’ cupbaord door. All of a sudden they think your session is so much more fun than the one they had the previous week -you know, the one where they tried some of the harder advanced skills.
And now’s the time to consider the easiest way for you to use this knowledge. Take a moment to think about what was most useful for you in this article, and when will be your first opportunity to slide some of these simple language skills into your coaching. And have fun with it while you do!
Contact Kim for training in how to develop your skills in this area
-Effective coaching and learning.
-Increased motivation leading to enhanced performance
For details of canoe and kayak training, BCU courses and canoe coaching or kayak coaching contact Kim Bull. Training courses run throughout the North East, Cumbria and the borders of Scotland.
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