Thoughts on commercial coaching vs club coaching

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 In fact a lot of commercial coaches spend a fair amount of time improving people who have been shown out of date or downright poor technique by club coaches who may have learnt in the 80’s or before and haven’t kept up to date with the types of methods needed for the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In fact one coach I know seems to be making a living entirely from correcting out of date, and potentially shoulder wrenching techniques dished out by club coaches.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.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on commercial coaching vs club coaching

  1. I totally agree, as a ‘commercial’ coach myself, a lot of the old techniques need to be brought in line with the modern methods. Time and time again i find myself correcting the support strokes, teaching people to lean forwards etc.. Having said this, there are a lot of poor commercial coaches out there too. Perhaps this is an issue with the governing bodies, i’ve been to numerous coach update course with all manner of coaches present. Never have i seen any of the coaches running the course go through personal skills, what is old hat and the new techniques. This would be a far more valuable use of time on these courses, instead of running through new access regulations.

  2. I coach Professionally, and voluntarily. often the distinction is not clear cut. Yes there are ‘out of date’ techniques and there are emerging skills and new developments. there are also many issues on coaching and skills. it is a generalization to say club coaches are poor. or dated. and elitist for professionals to try for the moral high ground. there is a place for paid coaches and for skilled coaches, but the governing body needs to seek ways to ensure the volunteer, grassroots, club coaches are updated, supported, valued and encouraged. yet it seems that in the UK to become a coach at level 1 and 2 is now more expensive in time and money than equestrian sports and almost every other , (Possibly the most expensive coach pathway in the country) It seems that the governing body has forgotten that clubs actually do not need coaches, a club of voluntary members has ‘volenti non fit injuria’ and if the ladder is pulled up to high the losers will be the grass roots, the very foundations will collapse. leaving professional coaches without clients…

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