As some of you may know, I am currently in China running coach training and assessments as well as helping clubs find a great business model that works for them.
One of the biggest blocks both coaches and clubs have to greatly improving, is their excuses. The biggest one - This is how we do things in China.
Well I'm sorry, but that just doesn't cut it with me. That is limited thinking as while ever that is believed, change is impossible.
Let me tell you about a recent experience I had, and the power of changing simply our thinking.
When I am working with a new club, the first few days are spent observing, asking questions, being curious and getting to know all the personel involved in the running of classes, as well as coaching to get a true feel of what it is like in the arena. It gives me an idea of the culture of the club, as well as begins to develop rapport with those who I am ultimately serving. It also give me time to develop a picture of where there a problems, and what are their strengths.
One particular club, I noticed the coaches were unwilling to move more than a few metres away from the clients, so did very few activities, exercises or games. Most was done on the lunge or with coaches running along side, even when the older more experienced riders were riding independently in the arena, the children and coaches both seemed bored and uninspired. However, I could tell the coaches genuinely liked working with the kids but I could sense some frustration.
As I got talking with the coaches, I became aware of some limited thinking. The coaches were unwilling to encourage the riders to go out alone, or participate in games, as the parents, who were always watching wanted the coaches to stay alongside and keep the children safe. I don't disagree with that in the beginning, children need to be safe, secure and effective before being asked to ride independently, however this was simply downright boring and many kids were totally disinterested and unengaged.
I asked the coaches, "Who educates the parents in the process of how children learn, and what skills are required to ride a horse?". "No one", they replied. "So how do they know what you should be doing in the lesson" I asked. "They don't know, they just want to see their children trotting and making progress" they replied. "So what happens, if you do an exercise that involves picking up objects, or going around bending poles?" I asked. "They get angry" They replied "Ok, so just so I am clear. The parents believe learning to ride involves trotting in circles on one rein continuously. I am correct"? "Yes" They replied. "And even with all you coach training, you listen to the advice of those who know absolutely nothing about horses or riding"?. With their heads lowered, "Yes" they replied, "But that is how we do things in China. If the parent are unhappy, they don't pay"
You can see there in lies a problem. I decided to write a pamphlet that was given to parents when they booked their children in for lessons, with a brief note on what will be involved in their children learning to ride, including exercises, games and group activities. I outlined the benefits, and described in detail the purpose and outcome for each exercise. It stated the progressive steps in skill development necessary to become an effective rider, and gave the parent more clarity around why games and enjoyment and engagement were necessary for young children.
I also designed 4 levels of skill development cards, each with 20 skills that would be marked of with a star as they were achieved, and gave each child one to bring to lessons so they can see their progress.
I also educated the coaches in the skill development progression, gave them exercises and games for each level and helped them to fully understand how to slowly move from high dependence on the coach, to independence, and how to know when a rider is to move onto the next step.
The coaches were genuinely interested and inspired to do something different in the arena, and with the parents now wanting the coaches to do more interesting things in order for their precious little people to gain each levels skills development card, the coaches now had more opportunity for creativity and imagination in the arena. I also made sure they were able to describe to the parents what they were doing and why at the end of each lesson, as to further educate the parents, and develop trust in the coaches abilities.
Within two days, everything changed. The parents began laughing as the children were trying new things and enjoying themselves, the coaches energy changed to a more positive and progressive response, the children made HUGE advances in the riding, and the arena had a feeling of fun and growth.
The owners of course were very happy as in two days, parents began booking lessons in blocks of 10, and taking out yearly memberships. Their profits dramatically increased.
The only thing ultimately that changed, is we threw out the excuse of "That is how we do it in China" and created a new motto, in "This is how we do it here"
So what's your excuse?