The first Community of Learning event

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Hear from Darren, who facilitated the first Performance Coach Community of Learning event in England.

At the start of the Autumn, I was privileged enough to be part of the facilitation team for Paddles Up Training’s first ever Performance Coach Community of Learning event, hosted at the Mount Batten Centre in Plymouth.
What a weekend it was! These community of learning events are a real departure from any other course or award currently being offered by British Canoeing Awarding Body (or any other NGB from what I can see). The weekend is not driven by a syllabus or assessment criteria but by the learners on the event, their aspirations and areas of interest. To give you some idea of the process behind the range of topics we explored – we asked each coach to send us three hot topics they would like to focus on for the weekend. We were then able to pick a selection of topics that complimented each other and would allow for some great conversation and where appropriate, challenge some current thinking. The topics our team came up with were wide ranging and included:

  • An ecological dynamic approach to coaching and skill acquisition,
  • Educational philosophy – how do we live our philosophy and how does it affect our learners,
  • Motivational interviewing and it’s links to emotional intelligence
  • Finally, how do we make accurate observations of performance

What does this mean in practice, how does the course look and feel? 

  • We’re able to explore and go into far greater depth in specific areas that have real relevance to the people in the room. For some people, the topics were completely new and challenged their way of thinking around coaching. For others it was an opportunity to articulate their practice, philosophy and approach with regards to specific subject areas.
  • There wasn’t a course tutor. Lee and I were there to facilitate the discussions and keep the weekend rolling, not deliver the “course”. From my perspective this felt super refreshing, I was as much a part of the course as the rest of the participants there that weekend. I shared my thoughts and experience from my own coaching practice but they weren’t the “answers” they were just my opinions and no more valid than anyone else’s. I know this is the case on any course, but there is no question in my mind that delivering part of a syllabus in a set amount of time, does change that dynamic somewhat.
  • You come away with more questions than answers. Any one of the topics we looked at over the weekend, you could write a doctoral thesis on and still only scratch the surface. This is a good thing. We weren’t saying this is how you must coach because your ability to replicate that on assessment is what we’ll measure you on.  Participants can take the topics we explored and dive deeper into it theoretically, or through practical coaching and use it, develop their thinking further or get rid of it if it does sit well with them. The assessment will now be more along the lines of; looking at why do you coach the way you coach, how does that fit with your philosophy and how does it benefit your learners?
  • The weekend was not without its challenges (Covid aside). Just like paddling, people come with a huge range of different levels of knowledge and understanding – facilitating inclusive discussions and activities was not always easy. But everyone really bought into the ‘check and challenge’ spirit of the weekend and were able to shine a light on their practice and explore the questions that arose.

What absolutely stood out for me, was just how passionate and committed the coaches on the weekend were. Hugely experienced and very competent practitioners in their own right but still really hungry to develop their performance and practice. And their understanding and ability to articulate that coaching is a continuous journey. You’ll never reach the end of was a real inspiration and a privilege to be part of.

If you’re interested in attending a Community of Learning event or becoming a Performance Coach, find out more here.


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