Personal Coaching, Trainers, Observers, Mentors
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Personal Coaching and the differences between Observing and Training, explained.
Guidance published by Paul Dickinson. Paul has approximately 30,000 hours of on-road observing, coaching and training experience. He is a qualified advanced motorcycle instructor and examiner as well as being a qualified CBT and Direct Access instructor. He has substantial experience in assessing and developing riders’ skills and is the Chief Motorcycling Examiner for the DIA, the UK’s largest and most respected association for professional instructors.
So, if you want to develop and improve your skills, this is how you do it!
There are similarities between coaching, mentoring, observing and training, but they are definitely not the same! And, they will produce different results!
In the field of motorcycle riding which is used essentially for travel, recreation, sport and leisure, there are genuine and exacting demands required of the rider to ensure that they get the best from themselves and their machine. There is no less a demand that the rider is safe, stays safe and ideally understands what safety is.
There is fun to be had so how do we progress and get the best from our abilities? Personal coaching is the answer.
What are the definitions of the 4 separate categories of Mentoring, Observing, Training and Coaching?
For motorcycling they are best explained as follows:
Mentoring enables an individual to follow the guidelines of a more experienced and wiser colleague who can pass on their knowledge and experience. In motorcycling this is often seen as a parent passing on their experiences to their dependent, a spouse passing on their understanding and concern to their loved one, or an enthusiast passing on their experiences and acquired knowledge to another rider.
Mentoring will usually be done for free or for a low cost such as the cost of the fuel and a meat pie. There may be an annual subscription fee to an organisation that offers mentoring. The person being mentored will usually already have a range of skills to be comparatively safe both in handling the machine and in hazard perception. They may even already be at a level that exceeds their mentor.
Another word for a mentor in the motorcycling world is ‘observer’. It is a non-professional role and as such has limitations. Its ability to identify, analyse, and provide accurate feedback of riding standards for individual riders is extremely variable. There are some good observers. However, the professional industry view is that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and caution needs to be exercised when being advised by observers. Observers are enthusiastic individuals who will have taken some training in how to observe and pass on knowledge. It is possible to pass an advanced motorcycle test having been observed so this is a positive outcome but there will always be provisos with this kind of pass.
Observers are not allowed to take payment for ‘teaching’ nor are they qualified to train or coach any riders outside of the organisation for which they observe. They are not qualified either to provide CBT, Direct Access training or professional post-test training. However some observers have qualified in those professional fields. The role of observing has good intentions but the overall standards do not reach those set by professional instructors / trainers and coaches. We strongly advise that riders have professional training or coaching instead.
Training is a more structured activity, often requiring the achievement of particular goals, with the trainee being trained by practice and instruction to specific standards. It is more complex than that, but a thorough examination of the definition is best left for another article.
One way to think about training is that it is essentially teacher based learning. What this means is that the teacher is delivering lessons in a format that does more telling of information, whilst the client learns from listening and implementing that information. It could be described as a passive way of learning. These are quite complex topics so it’s not possible to provide full details on this page, but I hope that it will help the reader gain some reasonable understanding on the different roles of Mentors Observers, Trainers and Coaches.
The trainee may have no prior knowledge of a motorcycle, therefore it becomes important that the instructor / teacher is suitably skilled and qualified to train another. The teacher must know how to train the rider and, must know what the standards are to be achieved. The teacher will also need to be able to properly assess the abilities and potential of a new rider for example, and they will need experience in thoroughly understanding the level of the trainees’ skills at any given stage of the training process.
It is a much more skilled role than being a mentor or observer, and the introduction of new riders especially, to motorcycling, is therefore tightly governed. The practical elements of the process to acquire a motorcycle licence in the UK requires successful completion of the CBT course, followed by the Direct Access course. These courses can only be delivered by suitably qualified individuals or schools. It is much harder for example to train a new rider than it is to mentor or observe a rider’s existing riding skills.
Personal Coaching – the difference between average and excellent, and what I can provide for you
Coaching is a process via which the client, usually with existing experience and skills, is supported to achieve their specific personal or professional competencies or goals. It is very centred towards the client taking on the responsibility of understanding in greater detail what they are trying to achieve. It can be described as an active way of learning, as opposed to passive for teacher centred learning.
Achievement from coaching can be as much or as little as the client wants to develop within any specific or broad skill set. The professional coach understands what this entails and how to provide it for their clients.
To demonstrate how a coach works, in a non-biased way and in an area that we may recognise, the golf, squash or tennis coach is a good example. Your coach should be a professional and qualified in all aspects of the field in which they are coaching. They will have achieved very high standards themselves and they will have a substantial understanding of how the specific skills required for you to achieve change and progression are developed.
They will know the answers to your questions and they will be able to assess the different elements of your skills accurately. They will be able to provide professional, accurate and informed knowledge and their ‘opinion’ will be based on facts rather than conjecture. If there are other ways of reaching the same competency or goal, they will know how to get you there.
They will apply their expertise with their professional and accurate demonstrations, converse with you in a positive manner and with targeted questions and answers, and encourage you to develop and see things in a different way if necessary to make positive changes and to progress.
They will be able to explain exactly what they are doing and why, and very importantly, they will be able to identify, analyse and provide skilled feedback for you to develop in all the different aspects of your riding.
Your coach will be able to recognise exactly what you are capable of and work with you to reach any goal you wish. You may well have the potential to exceed the level of your coach, though it will take time, practice and change. But, unlike a mentor or observer, it would be exceedingly unlikely for a client to be at the standard of their coach – yet. The client will need to pay a coach. Meat pies and fuel aren’t enough!