A Coach or Teacher?

Recently I’ve discovered a bit more about myself. You could say I’ve been on a journey of self discovery, but that makes it sound like a whole street lighted up, when in actual fact it’s just a lonely lightbulb.

I’ve been having showjumping lessons at a new local venue. I first went there to practice jumping at a different venue with lots of colourful fillers. 

The instructor who runs it has a very calm manner and is fairly dictatorial but in a positive way – trot a circle, change the rein, relax your knee, bend the elbow – and it’s very relaxing and really let’s you empty your mind of life’s clutter.

The warm up is pretty basic with the odd positional correction and suggestion to improve the way the horse is going. During the warm up you discuss how the jumping has been going and any concerns. Then this instructor builds an exercise and you ride through it with comments and chance to improve.

Personally I find it relaxing, I think I actually thoroughly enjoy the learning process, and find that I focus completely on the moment, and having critique whilst I ride the course, or the feedback after, allows me to make any adjustment which is shown by the improvement in the second attempt. The end of the lesson always ends on a positive note and you go away believing in yourself, knowing what to practise, and confident for the next lesson.

Sometimes I find that if you’re doing an exercise in a lesson that you’re familiar with, the instructor running through the aids makes you pay attention, and check each one so that you ride the movement correctly. Even if you can list the aids it can be helpful to have someone reminding you in case the effort of thinking about your inside leg means that your outside rein has gone walkabouts.

Now I think I teach in a similar manner. Or at least I like to think I do. 

On the other side of the coin I recently had a dressage lesson and the approach was definitely coaching, rather than teaching. I came away from the lesson quite disparaged. I felt like I wasn’t capable of achieving, and that I was wasting my time and efforts. It wasn’t the instructor’s fault at all, but I realised its my reactions.

When I’m told to do something which I find difficult, for example I know I drop my shoulders, but repeatedly telling my to bring them back makes me retreat into my shell. I get tense and obviously rolling my shoulders back becomes impossible. Then the cycle continues. And of course Otis picks up on my tension.

I’m aware of my faults so I respond better to subtle hints or reminders whilst we look at the bigger picture. Another thing I’ve realised is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and live by the whole “practice makes perfect” ideal so I like the repetition of an exercise adding in another factor to think about each time, so the boundaries are pushed until it’s perfect. I don’t like switching between different exercises or just being given feedback for when I ride at home- I can’t remember it by then!

This is more of a coaching technique I  believe; critique what you observe on the day and prepare the rider for self teaching. 

Now, I enjoy teaching myself, and am self motivated, but I like homework and help with directing myself, otherwise I can’t decide which area to improve first so don’t make much progress.

These lessons, combined with watching some other lessons and instructors, has made me aware of the fact that there are hundreds of approaches to teaching and learning. As an instructor the ability to adapt your teaching style, whether it’s dogmatic or laissez-faire, to suit your client and enable them to best learn, is what makes you good.

As a client then, you shouldn’t be afraid to look at other approaches to teaching, or even other explanations, as it can give you a better and more complete understanding. However, us instructors do value loyalty! But doing a bit of research and asking questions can help your instructor explain or adapt their technique to you.

So all I’ve found out about myself is that I respond well to a quiet mannerism, and a style of teaching based on repetition so that I can digest and practice each element. I think this comes out in my teaching, so hopefully my clients like learning this way!

8 thoughts on “A Coach or Teacher?

  1. devaneyvi Aug 27, 2015 / 1:55 pm

    It’s crazy how many different approaches there are to teaching and learning.

    I haven’t figured out, which I respond better to, yet.

    • therubbercurrycomb Aug 27, 2015 / 1:59 pm

      Yeah as well as the shouting, directive approach that you need for large groups of children, versus the interactive approach, and all the other ways, there are also different learning styles to take into account – ie kinaesthetic, visual, aural etc.
      I think I’m a kinaesthetic learner as I like to know the feel I’m aiming for, but I know I also like visualising things 🙂

      • devaneyvi Aug 27, 2015 / 2:00 pm

        I’m definitely a visual learner, once I can what something is supposed to look like- then I can focus on feeling that change or correction.

  2. Tracy - Fly On Over Aug 28, 2015 / 2:46 pm

    Figuring out what style works best for you is so important, I think. I really don’t respond well to the “coaching” method you described.

    • therubbercurrycomb Aug 28, 2015 / 6:58 pm

      I had a funny lesson once – coaching style – and she said “now you’re going to ride some movements from your tests, tell me what you’re doing and I’ll critique it”.
      Completely blew my mind. I couldn’t think of something to do, verbalise it, process the feedback and then do something different!
      Keep it simple – tell me what to do, critique it and I’ll repeat the movement!

  3. firnhyde Aug 30, 2015 / 1:19 pm

    I despise the run-around-in-the-arena-and-shout-all-the-time-as-loudly-as-possible-with-swearing instructing style. It makes me irritated, upset, edgy and resistant, like a naggy rider makes a horse annoyed. (Although I admit with particularly absentminded students I do exactly the same thing!)
    My instructor can frustrate me when things are going really wrong and I want him to stand in the arena and shout at me what I’m supposed to do, but his teaching style fits me perfectly. He tells me what movement or exercise he wants me to ride. I go out and ride it, then I come back and ask, “How was that?” and he tells me what was good and what was bad. He only shouts when I’m in danger of actually injuring myself or my unfortunate mount. He seems to be of the opinion that I have to remember my own aids, and live with the consequences when I don’t, because he’s not always going to be there to shout when I forget.
    There’s no shouting to annoy me or my horse, I learn to ride independently, and I absorb a lot more of what he tells me because I’m sitting quietly and listening instead of trying to ride and listen at the same time.

    • therubbercurrycomb Aug 30, 2015 / 9:19 pm

      Haha sometimes you have to shout at kids and run around to position yourself best to encourage the ponies to go straight over the jump and not edge towards the gate 😉
      As an adult though, being taught like it has the same effect as you. Your instructors method sounds useful but I think if I had a problem I’d want more hands on like you say 🙂 sounds like you work well together though.

      • firnhyde Aug 31, 2015 / 9:47 am

        Well we all have times when things go south and you have to RUN AND SCREAM to prevent an absolute disaster!

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