By the time this article is published, the training programme for 2005 will have been completed. So, this is a good time to look back and consider what eventuated and what we can learn from that to do better in the new year. I hope I’m not too close to the issue to make meaningful observations – but risking a slightly myopic view on the subject, my impression of the overall composition of the 2005 programme can be summarised as: an effective mix of skills training events; successfully and safely delivered to a consistent and high standard, to a large number of club members.
The Sea Skills award (our Grade 3) continues to be the main benchmark for paddlers in the Club and as such is pivotal for the set-up of the training program. The format of training delivery for it took a significant change from the previous year. While quite effective and popular with the trainees, the course in 2004 required an on-going commitment from both the participants and the instructors over many months. This year, two Sea Skills programs were delivered in compact, two-weekend packages. Of course, it is not reasonable to expect anybody to be turned from a novice to a Sea Skilled paddler in just two weekends. That is why the stand-alone modules offered throughout the year were so valuable and as a whole, formed a comprehensive program framework without forcing a large number of trainees and instructors to commit to a multi-month schedule. By picking several of the events throughout the year, club members were able to piece together a complete program to suit their schedule and needs.
Training events included specific sessions for rolling, landing and launching through surf, and forward paddling technique. For the first time, we also offered “Introduction to Sea Skills” weekends. This module is designed to introduce relative novices to the range of basic strokes and skills, which form the core of the Sea Skills award. It provides a logical first step in a learning path for a new member. As discussed above, by choosing from the stand-alone skill modules and the Sea Skills courses a fully rounded program was able to be constructed. The rest is up to the individual paddler wishing to improve his padding. Putting in the time and effort outside of club-run events is a prerequisite for improving ones ability and fitness. Experienced club members were also catered for by offering surf skills and forward paddling at the appropriate level.
The size of the Club Training programme delivered this year has been impressive: the number of trainees multiplied by number of days of training represents one measure of the magnitude of effort expended by our volunteer instructors. The figure for this year comes to 299 (note: does not include the numerous Tuesday and Thursday night training paddles put on by Rob again this year, this alone is a hugely valuable resource to club members). This measure might be repeatable enough to provide a basis for comparison in the coming years, or to other organisations. Just stop and think for a moment: this is equivalent of taking one person out to for training each working day for well over a year non-stop.
Training formats and standards easily provoke a passionate discussion in the paddling community. While there are endless permutations available to construct a training programme, the consistency, flexibility, standard of tuition and sheer volume of training delivered in 2005 makes me take my hat off to the volunteers behind making it all possible: Rob Mercer, Sharon Betteridge, Andrew Eddy, Keith Oakford, Mark Sundin, Stuart Trueman, Richard Birdsey. These club members have set a standard which is hard to maintain, but with everybody’s support we hope to repeat, or even improve on the results of 2005.
… and Grading
As some members would be aware, the Committee has been looking at ways to improve the current club paddler grading system. Feedback from trip leaders indicates that there is a need to lift the standard of Grade 2 paddlers, and to make it more consistent. Currently, paddlers are able ‘self assess’ themselves to be at Grade 2 level. It is hardly surprising then, that the actual skills and abilities of paddlers presenting themselves for Grade 2 trips vary considerably. A better-defined basis and a means of confirming that the paddler has reached this level would be useful.
Why hasn’t a new standard for Grade 2 been set yet, after some 6 months of deliberating on the issue? The initial idea was to use the AC Intro to Sea award as a basis for our Grade 2. It would provide a readily adaptable, defined standard in a similar fashion to the Sea Skills award. However, on closer examination the Intro award requirements do not seem to represent the needs of the Club. Also, the impact of delivering training and assessing members to this standard would require quite a lot of Club resources, which are precious and few – despite the fact that we (soon will) have 3 assessors (Rob, Andrew and Stuart). Your Club Committee is now sounding out the pros and cons of a new internally developed standard, and the means of determining when paddlers have reached it.