Understanding Student Needs and Objectives

Through delivering such a broad range of courses it's important for me as a coach to understand the needs and objectives of my students at the various stages in their learning. Why is this important? Well, for example, I may be running a White Water Skills Development Course in a grade 2/3 environment and, after a preliminary discussion with my students I find that I have one who has an objective to run grade 4 rivers in the French Alps next summer.

Great, we coaches think... a nice SMART objective:

  • Specific - I want to run grade 4 rivers
  • Measurable - We know from our guidebooks which rivers are grade 4 in the Alps so performance can be measured against these rivers
  • Achievable - As long as the Alps trip is far enough ahead to allow student development
  • Realistic - It's a realistic objective for the student to achieve
  • Time-bound - It has a date or trip in mind to achieve the results by.

As a coach I then need to understand their current performance level. The very first session I would then run is purely an observation session from my perspective on a section of easy grade 2 moving water. This, for me, is very informative and allows me to, through the tasks I set, observe the students performance and gain an understanding of what needed to be developed to meet their objectives which I had earlier ascertained as outlined above.

As the session progresses it becomes clear that the students performance on grade 2 was not skillful and a number of fundamentals required some attention. It is clear that the students needs differed from their objectives. Now for the tricky bit....negotiation. We as coaches need to piece a development path together that addresses the needs and the objectives of the student. So for example:

  • Student Objectives: Paddle on grade 4 in the Alps in the Summer
  • Student Needs: Develop a skillful performance on grade 2/3 before progressing this into a grade 3/4 environment

Once this process is complete we can then enter into the coaching side of our job. However it's important that the student buy's into the plan that you have formulated and is fully engaged otherwise the outcome will not be achieved.

So, in summary, piecing this all together like a jigsaw allows me as a coach to:

  • Understand their goals and objectives - where they want to take their paddling in the future
  • Profile their current performance through the practical tasks I set against the profile of their goals
  • Develop a plan that met the needs of the students whilst delivering against their objectives
  • Negotiate and gain agreement to the plan that I had developed

That's one of the key points here for me, developing a plan that meets the needs of the student and assists them in achieving their goals. Without that process, it would disengage the students and ultimately lead to failure of the plan that was developed if it was purely coach led - we must focus on a student led outcome rather than what we would like to coach!

Thanks for reading. I am always available and willing to support or mentor coaches so if you are looking to develop your coaching style, or are looking for a mentor to support you through your development then please do check out my coach support page or get in contact with me and we can discuss your needs.

I'll touch on the items in bold in future blogs.... so keep an eye out for the next article...! I hope it helps on your learning journey...