As I paddled through my own journey in life I began to feel much more confident. It is at this point I decide my future career and passion is to be in paddlesport. So I needed to start aiming for my Qualifications and look at which courses I needed to take.
A lot of my training involved kayaking and canoeing with friends and peers at every given opportunity. I was away from home a lot but I could sense that hunger for more growing. I have always been one of those people that throws myself fully into something I enjoy. Once committed, I give it my all, and for me paddling and Coaching was becoming my addictive therapy.
One of the first qualification courses I attended was my Foundation Safety and Rescue Training. This took place at East Barnby Outdoor Activity Centre. I had bought all the rescue gear I needed and Mark had me practising my throwline technique before I went. This day the course was being observed by Ken Hughes. (Nothing like pressure when you’re being observed by one of the best training providers and assessors in the industry).
The day is spent in the water, as you’d expect and to be honest I find this one of the most physically demanding courses. I guess it didn’t help that I wasn’t that long out of surgery again for my Crohn’s, but hey that’s going to happen throughout my life so I can’t use it as an excuse. The biggest difficulties for me were the rescues. I’m not the strongest of people and at 5’2″ and 50kg I’m not that big either. So when faced with rescuing people a lot heavier than me I initially found it difficult. I have since concentrated and perfected technique rather than relying on strength.
The next rescue course though I fully enjoyed. This was the White Water Safety and Rescue Qualification. Held in December at Dog Leg and Low Force on the Tees, this was a two day course with a group of peers and friends. It was absolutely brilliant.
I was cold, wet and in stitches constantly but boy was it tough going. I had a great team around me and we made every element fun. This Qualification is extremely important and the course teaches you so much about water safety.
One of the parts of the syllabus we had to cover was live baiting. Basically your team mates clip a line to the loop on the back of your PFD while one of the team volunteers to throw themselves into the fast flow of the river. The aim then is to leap out from the safety of the side like a flying squirrel and grab the team member as the river pushes him downstream.
So off I go, leaping up into the air before plunging into the bloody freezing river below and grabbing the shoulder strap of my team mate. The bankside team then pull us both to safety. Absolutely brilliant course.
Final Coaching Assessment
So as my training intensified it soon became time for me to go through my final Coaching Assessment. I had chosen Lizzie Harrington aka Lizzie Canoe, to assess me for my final, all I need to do now then is chose some suitable Guinea Pigs (I mean pupils) for the assessment.
“Oh boys…Mummy needs a favour!”
So, on what is a freezing, dark and wet day in Winter, I rope in my 3 sons to be my students.
For those that haven’t met them, my sons are all over 6 ft and practically live in the gym. Solid muscle and bloody heavy! But they were happy to help me out. They had all the gear they needed but it was my first time coaching them, and all under the scrutiny of Lizzie.
It started well, with me teaching them various techniques before heading downstream for a journey. They all wanted to do a Seal launch off the side and they all did great. It was on our return journey that Tonie, the eldest and largest of my 3, said “erm Mum, my Kayaks filling with water”
I turned round, and sure enough I saw big T sinking lower into the water in the kayak as it filled up, with the hopes of me passing my assessment with it. Oh no, I now have to rescue the heaviest person I know. He is also my son, and he’s in Mark’s kayak, and this is all being watched by my assessor. Talk about pressure.
It took some doing to get the very heavy Pyranha emptied out across my bow and I managed to get Tonie back into his boat, but boy was it hard.
Thinking all hope is sinking I know the final thing I have to show is a self rescue. I had to roll, and when I mean had to, I really did. If I didn’t pull it off I’d really lose all my confidence. But do you know what, I thought ah what the hell, what’s the worst that can happen? So I went for it.
Set up position, tuck in and go for it. Under I went, uncoiled, placed my arms and head and up I rolled. BOOM. I did it. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. My confidence restored, I finish the session and got the boys off the water.
Time for feedback from Lizzie…I passed. WooHoo, I couldn’t believe it. I was finally a qualified Coach. I was absolutely over the moon. And to have done it with my boys was extra special, (though choosing pupils a lot lighter and smaller would have made my life easier)
So that’s where it all began. I had achieved my first round of Qualifications. My Coaching life started, and I have never been happier.