This week I started working with a new student. I asked her to ride around for a few minutes so I could have a look at how her and her horse went and to see what required work. Right away I noticed a few things going on which were fairly easily changed and would make for a more pleasant experience for both horse and rider……and right away I set about making those changes.
After about five minutes some sort of a light bulb went off over my head and my ‘reasonable’ internal voice went ‘back up the bus lady!’. As a coach I’d just made what I believe is a fairly large error. I’d not even spoken to this person about what they wished to work on or any larger issues we may have been dealing with!
Sure she’d probably still have had a good lesson but I wouldn’t have known what she wanted to aim for in her riding. She may not even have cared about what I’d isolated as an issue, or worse, she may have felt she was unable to speak up about what she really wanted to work on.
As a coach I aim to help people work towards their goals. Goals come in all shapes and sizes and my number one rule for myself is to ensure we work towards the students’ goal, not something I might like to direct them towards. Of course I am sometimes required to push people through a roadblock but it’s still got to be towards their aims, not mine! As the coach it’s my job to listen, even to those things which may remain unsaid and to assist the student to achieve what they aim for.
On the other hand it’s part of your obligation as a student to ensure you keep the lines of communication back to your coach open. You’re paying for a service and the experience must be a good one for you to continue to pay for it. If you are not satisfied with the service you’re receiving speak up! I can’t stress this enough. If you’re not understanding what’s asked of you, if you are feeling too pressured, if you don’t agree with the training being shown, if you feel like your aims have changed, let the coach know. Most coaches I know are delighted to hear feedback even if it may be negative. I would certainly much prefer to know if I’m not coming up to the mark in an area directly from a student rather than hear it fourth hand a month later when the student’s moved onto someone else and I’ve not had that opportunity to address the issue. Hearing negative feedback can be very confronting and sometimes upsetting. It’s what you do with that feedback that counts. It may make you a much better coach.
I’m unsure if it’s a feature specific to the equestrian world but when you hear someone bagged out by an ex student for their teaching methods it’s often pretty vicious. Of course then the ‘story’ is passed on and goodness only knows how much actual truth remains in it. Take the opportunity at the end of a lesson to bring up what you’re dissatisfied with if you are concerned, it’s your money after all! Even if the teaching relationship is to end you can still be a polite and professional about it.
So much of what we do in our coaching life is listening and watching. However the communication channel must be a two way one for both parties to get the most out of it. It’s what we do with information, both positive and negative, and how we frame it back to our students in a way they’re able to move forward that really counts!