Recently I have become aware of a certain amount of negative opinion of commercial coaches held by those who coach on a voluntary basis. Recently I was speaking to one club coach at my club who was quite vocal in their dislike of people who make money from coaching. A common complaint is they think that commercial coaches are killing the club coaches off, and that commercial coaches are only doing exactly what they are doing but with the addition of money. As if commercial coaches are somehow driving around in Mercedes S Class cars and buying apartments in Monaco or some such thing!
I thought I would offer my defence for commercial coaches, as well as a bit of a reality check for those who are against them.
First of all let’s clear a few things up. Commercial coaches aren’t rich! Secondly not all of them work full time at being coaches. A fair few of them hold down day jobs as well, and then work full days at coaching at the weekend. If they want to charge for their time giving coaching, why shouldn’t they? They have after all spent an enormous amount of time, effort, and money into getting their skills, qualifications and knowledge.
Next let me tackle the idea that commercial coaches are merely doing what club coaches are doing but simply with the addition of being paid. Club coaches, for all their good and noble intentions, are not always as up to date as people who do coaching for a living, both in coaching methods and in technique. In fact a lot of commercial coaches spend a fair amount of time improving people who have been shown out of date or downright poor technique by club coaches who may have learnt in the 80’s or before and haven’t kept up to date with the types of methods needed for the shorter modern boats.
In fact one coach I know seems to be making a living entirely from correcting out of date, and potentially shoulder wrenching techniques dished out by club coaches.
There are exceptions of course, but from what I have seen over the time I have been involved in kayaking this is an issue that is fairly common. I highly applaud people who give up their time to help with coaching in clubs and introducing people to the sport, but the simple fact remains that as paddlers and as coaches they are generally not even approaching the abilities of many of the commercial coaches I have been with.
Why would we expect them to be? A commercial coach is providing a paid service so they should be much better in ability and knowledge than someone who only paddles once or twice a week! They spend much of their waking time improving what they do and keeping current with the latest thinking and methods.
The fact is that both have their place. Club coaches are often instrumental in introducing people to paddling and taking them out on their first trips. They are great at doing this, but club coaching often falls short when developing people past the intermediate stages. However they should not be resentful if someone wishes to pay money to spend a day, a couple of days, or even a week or more with a commercial coach really getting some focussed, high quality input into their paddling skills, unless of course they are worried that they might come back with better knowledge than themselves!
A club coach simply cannot provide that sort of time or focus. If you are a club coach who is resentful of commercial coaches, please remember that you are free to charge for your coaching if you so wish as well. It is your choice not to.