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The Topper Book by Dave Cockerill & John Caig
The Topper Book by Dave Cockerill & John Caig

Introduction to race coaching course held at Queen Mary Sailing Club

by Graham Evans 15 Dec 2018 07:22 GMT
Introduction to race coaching course at Queen Mary © Graham Evans

At the end of November, we held a one day course to introduce the key elements of effective race coaching to a group of national level Topper sailors all from different sailing clubs in the London & South East region. Most of these sailors are already assistant instructors but as they are fifteen years old have to wait another year before they can attend a RYA Race Coach Level 2 course.

The rationale behind the course is to enable national level Topper sailors to become more involved at their local clubs and encourage new and less experienced junior sailors into racing at the regional Topper Traveller series. The event was hosted by Queen Mary Sailing Club, where on a wet Saturday morning, a group of Topper sailors were getting their Toppers prepared for the day ahead. Whilst they knew it was a course about race coaching it was going to be a new learning experience for them.

David Bickerton was the race course tutor for the day. David normally runs the RYA Race Coach Level 2 course over two days at various locations south of Scotland.

After brief introductions and discussions about what the sailors wanted from the course David gave a presentation of the role of a coach. David took us through the "burger" method the "filling" being the key points to improve on moving on to the ask-discuss-solve 'Traffic lights debriefing system'. The three P's (pose, pause, pounce) questioning method was also used; with a small group there was no room to hide.

We went through the purpose of a briefing. Next we learnt some tips on how to structure a good briefing. Each member of the group was given an area (starts, windward mark etc) which they had to plan a briefing and then deliver this in the classroom on video and on the water.

First to have a go was Aaron. It's not always easy being the first one, but briefing completed and filmed, it was time to go sailing. David had the video recorder to hand to record each on water training session. By this time the rain had stopped and the sailors were keen to get into their dinghies.

Whilst they are all experienced Topper sailors some issues could be spotted from the RIB. Maybe, because they felt under pressure to perform or perhaps just complacent as they were not in a competitive situation.

Debriefing back in the classroom, good humour was displayed in the reviews of the briefing and debrief of the exercise. This helped, as they all knew each other and are of a similar age.

This was followed by a further four briefings by Bill, Harry, Lawrence and Oliver.

I asked for feedback on the day and this is some of the comments we received:

"I really enjoyed the course and found it really useful. I am now confident that I could confidently assist a race instructor and could probably run some of the sessions myself. I would definitely recommend to other sailors as it will be a massive help. I will definitely go on to do the race instructor course. All in all I really enjoyed the course and felt I profited from it". (Bill)

"The weekend was an amazing insight into what goes on in coaching. It reinforced ideas I had been taught in my sailing as well as raising my competence in speaking to a group - I was given constructive feedback by the group and the instructor, so I was able to get a range of opinions on my methods. It was also extremely fulfilling to see my 'lesson' in practice and to develop skills in running an exercise with a group" (Lawrence)

"The instructor was excellent; he kept the class entertained with jokes and good PowerPoints. There was limited time to fit in the on water exercises; it could be due to the short winter days. The venue (Queen Mary) was excellent because the waterway was not cluttered, the club was very accommodating and it was very useful to have a classroom for the day". (Oliver)

The day was a success in so far as the participants had fun with their friends and came away understanding what happens behind the scene when preparing for a coaching session. Perhaps more importantly they are now keen to go back to their respective clubs and help out with race coaching. All the participants want to attend a RYA RCL2 course next year when they are sixteen; in the meantime they need to complete a PB2 and first aid course.

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