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I have the pleasure of writing this post in a beautiful town called ‘La Rosiere’, a fantastic ski resort nestled high up in the French Alps.
I’m here with my two good friends Ryan and Pete, celebrating Ryan’s 30th birthday, all of us rookies on the slopes, with a day each of prior practice one way or another.
In the build up to our trip, I opted to not take any indoor snowboarding lessons, partly because I have been too busy to take a day out, and partly due to thinking I wouldn’t need any (hindsight is a wonderful thing!)
Pete on the other hand, invested in a few lessons prior to arrival, mastering the basics. Ryan is one of those annoying friends that are just good at every sport, very natural.
I think it’s fair to say that when it came to snowboarding this week, I would be your classic case of ‘all the gear but no idea.’
So off I went on the slopes with Ryan and Pete, naïve to the struggles I was about to face. Falling over was inevitable, and plenty of that occurred as I tried to figure out exactly what I was supposed to do. Within a short period of time I had become pretty adept at staying upright, starting and stopping and moving to the LEFT.
But here lies the problem, I couldn’t move or turn to the right. Not at all. I had no clue how to transfer my weight, and to be honest didn’t have the courage to try. Here’s where the excusesstarted, blaming my natural knee alignment, position of my feet in the bindings, even the board!
The only way I could move to the left was to keep my body forwards so the board wasn’t facing the correct direction. Nevertheless we decided it was time to go up the chair lift and give it a bash.
I became pretty good at getting down the slopes without falling over excessively, but the problem isI was doing it all wrong! I wasn’t snowboarding properly, I had adapted a style which was safe but not technically correct. There was no future progression at all with this poor technique. I was inawe of all the boarders performing slalom turns, drifting the back edge out, and all I could do was ‘feather’ myself down the slope facing one direction.
I had developed a bad habit, and couldn’t feel how I would ever be able to turn my board sideways on to the slopes.
Ryan and Pete were already rather proficient, so in conjunction with feeling a little deflated about my lack of technique, I now felt like I was falling behind. But it gets worse. Ryan and Pete both wanted to help, and in came the ‘feedback frenzy’. I was bombarded with coaching points (all valid I’m sure) but there were far too many things to think about, none in harmony with another or consistent in the approach.
Frustration + lack of self esteem + feedback frenzy = A very unhappy Nick
There was only one thing left to do. Take a lesson from a professional. So off I went to the ski school to book in a 90 minute session with Yann.
That was the best 60 Euros I could have spent, and I only wish I had done it sooner, particularly when I know the importance of mastering basics prior to learning skills!
Yann was a professional coach, and immediately put me at ease. He built rapport before the session by asking questions to get to know me and my level of experience.
After a short 5 minute ride up the chair lift, Yann had me perform numerous drills and progressions, following a short discussion on some basic mechanics (position of centre of mass, body posture etc.)
For each drill/progression, he first explained WHAT I would be doing and HOW, then showed me a couple of demonstrations, before asking me to perform it.
We repeated this process several times, occasionally changing the drills but often keeping them the same. Yann continued to remind me of the technical points, showing me demonstrations and continually asking that I understood. He did this over and over again. Repetition was key. You see, Yann understands the importance of excellent communication and ensuring his student is clear on instructions.
In short, I finished my 90 minute session with Yann competent enough to turn both ways, 180o and 360o. It’s amazing what the right guidance can do.
The last few days has reinforced some key coaching tips for me:
Interestingly, this is the first time in a LONG time that I have received any coaching, and therefore received feedback, instruction and advice on something technical.
Are you receiving coaching at all?
Being on the RECEIVING end of coaching, instead of the PROVIDER is a very different experience and puts a lot of perspective on our role as coaches. I would thoroughly recommend that anybody who is not receiving coaching should give it a whirl. Even just a quick lesson in a basic sport. Reflect from the experience, what did you like about the instructor? What didn’t you like? What could have been done to improve your understanding?
Suddenly, rapport building, communication and encouragement becomes far more significant to you, just like it is significant to your athletes each and every day.
I’m about to head out on the slopes for day 3, optimistic that I can retain my learning from my session with Yann yesterday. I have several drills and progressions that I can now perform to ‘recap’ on the basics and am sure it will be a great day!
Who you take advice from matters. Respect the importance of basics.
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