#BCCoachConf 2016 #coachlearninginsport

I am grateful to Darrell Cobner for sharing news of a British Canoe Union Conference held last weekend.

The program is here.

I missed this tweet

The theme of the conference was Coaching Chaos – Making Sense of the Coach’s Learning Journey.

From the program flyer:

At a time when coaches from the field suggest they gain little from the coach education process … this year’s event will focus on exploring the learning journey of coaches, scaffolding learning and developing coaching practice to improve participant experiences.
During the weekend of the conference, there were a number of theory sessions to provide a context for practical sessions. Speakers and facilitators included:
  • John Lyle (Crafting Knowledge, Developing Expertise)
  • Martin Chester (The Coach’s Learning Journey)
  • Bill Taylor and Ryan Groom (The Coach as Educator)
  • Lara Cooper (Reflective Practice)

syI was fortunate to have spent many years in canoe slalom and am delighted to see such a great mix of theory and practice. I imagine that as the conference was open to all levels of coaching there would have been some fascinating conversations about journeys and the scenery on the way.

The title of the conference and the themes discussed prompted me to think about praxis … the mix each of us has of theory and practice on our personal #coachlearninginsport journeys.

My praxis started at Symonds Yat and is still going thanks to conferences like this.

Watching #rio2016 in England


I am in England at the moment. This is the first time I have been here during an Olympic Games since the Sydney Games in 2000.

When I left for Australia in 2002, Sport England’s World Class Potential and World Class Start programs were in their infancy. The sport system was trying to come to terms with the changes that were occurring as state sponsored athletes and coaches were transforming the performance landscape. A new generation of Performance Directors were accepting responsibility for long-term athlete pathways focussed on Olympic success.

Fourteen years on, it has been fascinating to observe how these changes have been embedded in people’s consciousness. Daily news items about Team GB’s successes are discussed on national and local television.

Just how pervasive this consciousness is was brought home to me during my stay in Bath. I sat in a cafe and heard a couple at the next table discussing the intricacies of Bryony Page’s trampoline routine that won a silver medal. In a queue for a bus, I overheard a group of people talking about Laurine van Riessen’s bike handling skills at the velodrome. Both were informed, interested exchanges.

Amidst the excitement of Team GB’s performance, there have been three experiences that have stood out for me in the first week. Before I mention these, I do want to pay my respects to the ways in which athletes talk about their performances and their humility about their successes. Throughout the first week I sense that the Team GB ethos has been very powerful. A system that was naive in 2002 is now a highly sophisticated, successful culture.

My three experiences of delight:

  1. Joe Clarke‘s gold medal run in the K1 canoe slalom class.
  2. The GB swim team‘s competitiveness and the emergence of their relay success.
  3. Max Whitlock‘s two individual gymnastic gold medals (floor and pommel).

Each of these has a personal resonance for me and I hope to write about each of them in a subsequent post.

This has been a most surprising week. It is very different to my experience of Olympic coverage and conversation in Australia.

I am hopeful that my professional stranger place in British sporting culture will sharpen my focus about performance environments.

I have had just one recurring angst in this first week. Many of the programs that have been successful express relief that they might receive funding for the Tokyo cycle to 2020. It must be very disconcerting to be a less successful program (defined by medals) in a vibrant Team GB. But this is another conversation.

Photo Credit

Rio 2016 (Ian Burt, CC BY 2.0)

Open to Change?



I had two excellent opportunities to think about openness and change today.

First up, I received a link to Harold Jarche’s review post of David Price’s Open: How we’ll work live and learn in the future.

I appreciated Harold’s summary of David’s SOFT model in this graphic:


The second opportunity for the contemplation of openness came from colleagues in canoeing via Facebook. It was definitely illuminated by this box in Harold’s matrix (Trust/Business):



Edit imageTouch imageShare image


Like many others, I have been profoundly disappointed by the International Canoeing Federation’s (ICF) lack of movement on gender equity in the Olympic disciplines of flatwater and slalom.

This was my post from earlier this year about the ICF’s position.

I was interested, therefore, to read of Richard Fox’s latest contribution to the ICF’s consideration of equity. (Background: the International Canoe Federation (ICF) announced on Saturday it would push to have women’s C1 slalom and C1 200m sprint included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.)

Richard wrote an open letter to the ICF. I have placed my own emphases within his letter.

Dear ICF Board of Directors

Thank you for distributing the press release “C1 Women’s Canoe Events Proposed for the Tokyo Olympics”.

It is positive to see a clear ICF position on the inclusion of more events for women in the Olympic Games. On face value, this can be taken as very good news and we can imagine this shift represents an exciting new opportunity for the Nanjing generation of juniors as well as some yet to start in the sport.

In contrast, high level female athletes continue to be significantly restricted in their access to canoeing events in the Olympic Games relative to men and will have to wait another seven years to see any change. Therefore, assumptions of a positive reaction regarding the potential inclusion of new women’s events in Tokyo should be balanced with a reality check.

We should not overlook Rio in promoting a Tokyo solution and the fact that the ICF has chosen to abandon the trend it started lightly in London 2012 where the men’s C2 500m was replaced with the women’s K1 200m. Instead, the ICF proposes to maintain the status quo of significant gender imbalance until 2020 which means that in Rio 2016, like in London 2012, only 5 out of a total of 16 Olympic gold medals will be available to women.

As it stands, only 1 female athlete per nation is able to compete in a canoe slalom event at the Olympic Games compared to up to 4 men per nation. The men have 3 events to choose from, as opposed to the women who can compete in just 1 event.

The exclusion of women from all canoe class events across both sprint and slalom disciplines at the Olympic Games is a remarkable situation for the ICF to maintain until Tokyo when other sports are clearly shining under the light of increased gender diversity.

The fact is there are 5 canoe class events offered for men  across  sprint and slalom and not a single women’s canoe event, which means our sport will remain firmly at the bottom of the league table when it comes to gender equity measures in Rio 2016.

What has changed in recent years, and this is acknowledged in the ICF article, is the rapid and highly significant growth in participation of C1 women’s event at all ICF world championship events. The numbers tell the story and there is clear evidence that women’s events are on the rise, particularly when measured against other existing Olympic events. If they are “ready for Rio” now, why wait seven years to do the obvious?

Unlike other sports, the ICF has not taken the opportunity to propose a quota neutral solution for Rio, i.e. include an additional women’s event while removing a men’s event, because it is too tough. But standing still is certainly not reflected in the ICF slogan, ” always moving forward”, either. It is a battle of conscious and unconscious bias, where neither side wins until gender balance is achieved.

Open to Change?

Harold opens his review of David Price’s open with a quotation that ends “The genuine democratisation of knowing is still being fought over”.

Equity in canoeing is a contested battleground. On reading Richard’s open letter, and identifying my own points of emphasis, I am hopeful that an observation I made earlier in the year resonates with the exhortation for the ICF to be much more pro-active in change:

I do think we have an important window of conscience available to us in canoeing. We should mind the gender gap as a moral imperative. ‘Mind’ in the sense of thinking deeply and ‘mind’ in terms of being concerned about decisions and their consequences.

Photo Credits

Open Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry (Alan Levine, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photos of Sportscene Contributors (Doris Corbin)