Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Putting Racing into Perspective - a critical skill for adolescents

what is really important to kids...

This past week I participated in a ski club exchange with kids from our club in Canmore and kids from Chelsea and Gatineau, QC.  It was a fantastic week - one of those experiences that will stick with kids - the right mix of adventure, fun, new experience, and community building.  Its something that 12 and 13 year olds in our club eagerly look forward to as they grow.  We've done a few of these exchanges with Chelsea as well Whitehorse.  Always incredible experiences. 

Usually as part of these experiences we throw in a race event as part of the exchange program.  This past weekend all of the Chelsea kids and Canmore kids raced in the season opening Alberta Cup races in Canmore.  As part of the lead up to the races we did a race prep session.  I led this session and am pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Pleased because I think most of the kids were engaged with the session.  Here is what I did:

I did a question response activity.  I put sticky notes and pens on each table, enough for every kid.  The sentences I asked kids to complete were:  Success is....    When I am doing my best effort, my body feels like...   Pride in my effort looks like...

I chose these questions purposefully.  First, I wanted kids to think about success in a broader scope than finish position. In a sport like cross country ski racing, you need to do this.  Only one person wins the gold medal, everyone else doesn't - certainly we can be a bit more creative about success than finish position.  Secondly I wanted kids to think about best effort and what their body signals and sensations would be telling them if they were doing their best effort.  Sometimes its our bodies that let us that we are really trying our best.  Thirdly, I wanted kids to know that someone was watching them and that what was going on in their heads shows on their face.  I created some expectations that I wanted them to do their best and that I wanted them to feel pride in their effort.  So what does pride look like when you wear it. 

The adolescents I worked with in this session were for the most part very engaged in answering these questions and came up with surprising and authentic responses.  Kids this age think about this stuff and sometimes, well ok, maybe always, need some help framing what a race is all about. What is success?  What does pride look like? these are important questions that help to frame a race for kids.

I share this out because I think its important to voice the power of our roles as coaches and the importance of reinventing the work you do with kids every year.  Great teachers and great coaches do that work - they reinvent their role, their processes, and their learning activities to meet the needs of each new group of kids they work with.  Its what I strive to do - reinvent myself regularly; keep myself current, and always find an edge to the work where I am using my skill set to help kids develop a love of being active, a love of cross country skiing, and a love of being an athlete.  I encourage you to find your own edge and to go for it!

Roy Strum
Canmore, AB

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