Greetings! Last year we hit our 5 year anniversary for the Gales. It was a landmark year. One that I felt was very important for our fledgling event to hit. We had great conditions, great students, and some amazing growth opportunities. This article is a note on the purpose of the Gales.
In an effort to answer the proverbial question “why the Gales?” we are writing a series on coaching philosophy. This article is titled “feedback loop”.
Many events will provide instruction, and even great feedback. But feedback to students is why they are there. Students crave feedback, but they want it at the right time and in the right circumstances, with the right intent. We’ve strived at the Gales to be as dedicated to giving the right feedback, at the right time, in the right tone.
Here are some thoughts on feedback from our perspective that may help you understand why this event is so special.
Feedback has to be timely, thoughtful, and make an impact, or to use a made up word “impactful”.
A few thoughts on timely feedback.
Feedback has to be given at exactly the right time. The right time is relative to when the student needs to hear it. Picture skiing down the slope at high
speed and having someone shout, “face your torso down the fall line”. Maybe helpful, or thoughtful, but certainly not timely.
The timeliness of the feedback is relative to the student and the skill. You have to think first, why am I providing feedback? Is it to improve performance, note/reinforce a good performance, make an important note about safety, or is it just to fill empty space? If you are interrupting an activity that someone is engaged with to provide feedback, do you really need to to do that? Probably not? When we think about the right time to give feedback to a student you have to be thinking about how they are perceiving the skill, or task they are performing. If the task is hard, and they are struggling, they will look up and seek a way to improve. If the task is easy, they will do the task and then probably either move on to doing it in a more difficult manner, or sit with their paddle in their lap.
They key point is that we are watching you to see when you are looking for feedback, and trying to give it at the moment you make eye contact, to ask a question, or even just to confirm that you completed the task.
There are sometimes environmental considerations involved where giving feedback is really challenging. Surf is the big one where the environment is so dynamic that you have to sometimes wait for long periods to get back to shore to give feedback. Or wait until you are way outside the breaking zone to give any feedback.
It’s important for us to not try to give complicated feedback in a dynamic environment, because you’re not going to hear it anyway, you have to wait until people can focus and think. In current this is often in the eddy where the water is holding students in place.
Next a few thoughts on thoughtful feedback.
Simple direct feedback is often best. There is a great apocryphal story about Einstein getting a golf lesson. I don’t even care if it’s remotely true for the record. Einstein goes to a golf pro to get a lesson. He’s trying to learn how to drive, so the guy is telling him, tilt your hips, swing your arms, keep your eye on the ball, follow through etc. He keeps giving what he thinks are helpful tips on driving the ball. But Einstein is clearly getting more and more frustrated. Einstein finally picks up the basket of golf balls in frustration and throws them at the Golf Pro, and says, “catch one”.
Thoughtful feedback should also be taking into consideration the student’s aims. This is especially important to understand for the Gales. While it is regarded as a rough water paddling event. Rough water is relative for every student. We are not interested in frightening students, we are interested in challenging students. And that is different for each person. So, if a student’s aims are simple, such as;”I just want to get comfortable in little waves”, our feedback should be centered on comfort, not performance. “You looked very loose, and you braced well in that clapotis Larry!” Is probably enough. While, feedback such as “You might really need to think about, upping your cadence and dropping your hands more”, might be less thoughtful as an example. Or if a student is trying to learn how to get comfortable in waves. Where if we are working with a student in an environment where they are confident and they are working on performance, that feedback might be just what they need.
Impact, or our made up power word of “Impactful” feedback is last.
When you are going to make an impact on the student’s performance you have to make a decision about what the biggest problem is and choose to say only that.
This should be based on paddling fundamentals, (posture, power transfer, connectivity), but this is a whole separate article. Suffice it to say our coaches are always thinking about the most concise, impactful, nugget they can give based on the students aims. Often this is based on observation and other good coaching practices. This impact, is what we hope makes a difference to our participants, and make you come back for more. I know I’ve had that impact statement from many coaches, and it’s what makes me love the coaches and their influence on my time on the water.
And this is where we have to plug the coaches we have for the Gales. We have been very fortunate to have the BEST, coaches in the midwest and from around the country, they have consistently demonstrated over a long period of time that they can really bring it.
We look forward to seeing you in October.