Isobel Carlill, ZigZag Eventing
It’s the New Year and that means preparations for the 2018 competition season are underway, especially for us eventers! With this on the horizon I began thinking about the coaches we spend so much time riding with and learning from. Your coach is one of the most important people in your riding career and finding the right one for you can take a few tries. I’ve had a range of coaches throughout my riding, some good and some definitely not for me. Everyone has a different preference for what works for them but, generally, your coach should be someone who encourages you and provides you with the skills to become a better rider. Your coach shouldn’t make you feel incapable or not good enough, they should be one of your best support systems! I’ve enlisted the help of fellow Toggi blogger Karen McConnell, who is Head Coach at KA Equestrian, on what she feels is important to provide as a coach. So, here are a few tips that we feel will help steer you in the right direction!
- Identify your type
One thing both Karen and I agree is important is finding the right style of teaching for you. Everyone is different and a coach that suits your friend may not suit you. Karen admits to being incredibly self-critical, so prefers a coach who gives her confidence that tell her when she’s on the right track and who is kind about what she needs to work on. I like a coach who pushes me but doesn’t overload me and who is honest and blunt with me, but isn’t rude. It’s important to receive criticism that is constructive and not demoralising!
Whilst your coach should be encouraging and motivating they shouldn’t push you outside of your comfort zone. There’s a big difference between achieving more in a lesson than you thought you could because your coach constructively got you there and doing it because your coach told you to and you’re scared not to! I’ve had coaches who have pushed me to do more to a point where I’m not comfortable and it’s not an effective way of building confidence. I now have a coach who has gotten more out of me than I realised was there and has pushed me, but never scared me. It’s important to feel secure and comfortable when riding with your coach.
Just like it’s important to feel secure with your coach it is also important to feel like you can be honest with them. Some days you might not want to jump above a certain height or you might just want your dressage lesson to be relaxed and fun. There’s no shame in that, we all have good days and bad days, and you should be able to be honest with your coach about this. If you feel too intimidated to do this, you may not have found the right coach!
Karen highlights how important it is for your coach to be encouraging and supportive and is something that is essential to her to provide as a coach. Within her teaching Karen says “there are riders I know I can push and those that really need their hand held and it’s my job to assess how best to work with each individual.” By adapting her style to every individual Karen ensures each rider leaves their lessons feeling accomplished and, most importantly, full of encouragement. I completely agree that a supportive, encouraging coach is essential!
The best coaches I have ever had are the ones who are able to read me better than I can read myself! Like I said earlier, everyone has good and bad days. Some days you’ll go to the yard and be tired or stressed and your riding will suffer because of that and on other days you’ll be full of confidence and ready for anything and everything. Your coach should be able to tell when you’re having an off day and be able to work with that as opposed to against it. Karen agrees, stressing “There are times you need a metaphorical kick up the bum and others when you need to take it easy and build your confidence. It’s important for a coach to be able to read the circumstances and adapt accordingly.”
I hope both Karen and my tips have helped give a better idea of what you should look for in your coach, so here’s to a great 2018 season!