Friday, June 24, 2011

Faith, Results and Opinions

Okay I am about to rant and rave about one of my favourite subjects again... well kind of, from a slightly different angle.

You don't have to be a good handler, to be a good trainer.  Likewise you don't have to be a good trainer, to be a good handler.  The question is, do you have to be a good trainer and/or handler to be a good coach?  Personally I don't think you have to NECESSARILY be either, of course it is a huge advantage if you are either or preferably both.  But coaching is primarily about natural instinct, observation skills and VERY importantly knowledge.  If you are going to stand around on your feet for hours on end, making yourself hoarse trying to tell people what to do and how to do it, you better be damn sure that you are up to date in the ever-evolving sport of Agility.  Of course this does NOT mean that you have to agree with everything, but you at least have to know what is going on.  We all have our own styles and preferences and we will apply those, but at the end of the day, it is the results that matter right?

If your students are truly listening to you and practising and participating in your coaching and lessons, but their results are just not improving you seriously should take a look at yourself.  Equally, if you are taking lessons or coaching from someone and you can honestly say that you are applying every little piece of advice (oh yes, sit down with a glass of wine and be REALLY honest) and you are not improving or the results are not satisfactory then perhaps that is not the coach for you.  Okay I won't get started on the difficulty of the teaching again.  That is a whole other post.  My point is that when coaching/lessons is not successful the problem has to lie SOMEWHERE.

Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher of agility... first of all there is of course the patience issue, which is a biggie, then there is the natural talent of spotting problems or places where there is room for improvement.  Naturally being able to assess handlers and dogs to give them the best advice possible is no easy task.  Believing in the methods you train, but being flexible within the range of those methods to include all your students' different styles.  Not beating people with a cross-bar when they don't listen or practise.  This is of course, if you are not just ripping people off to make a few bucks.  As a teacher you have to take a stand, your students are inevitably a reflection of your ability.  If you are a student and you don't agree with the stand being taken, then you need to find a new teacher, simple as that.  I know I sound harsh, haha, what is new... in Afrikaans there is a saying 'ek draai nie doekies om nie', directly translated it means 'I don't change diapers' which basically means I don't beat around the bush.  There is your proverb lesson for the evening...

Anyhow, here in South Africa we have VERY few teachers and even fewer training schools.  All of them are located in four major cities only.  We also have bad traffic and very short days compared to most parts of Europe (in winter it gets dark at about 17h30 and in summer at about 19h00).  None of the training schools have access to indoor facilities (we don't have snow), few have flood lights.  This in general means that people attend the training schools that are convenient to them.  However, and shoot me if you disagree, what is the point in GOING to an ACTUAL lesson if you A. Plan not to listen, because you always know best.  B. Plan not to listen because you think your trainer is a moron. C.  You are not improving/happy with the results.  If you ask me, it would be better for you to then approach a handler/trainer that you can admire and respect and ask them if they would be willing to either train with you or give you information or SOMETHING.  So rather see if someone you have faith in CAN help you, than go to someone you don't have faith in just because you CAN.

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