BHS National Coaching Conference 2009 Summarised

The Programme included:

* Sports Psychology with Sandie Chambers

* Nutrition with Stuart Chambers

* Rider Fitness with Jon Pitts

* Tim Stockdale's speech

* Equestrian Edge with Dr David Marlin

* Motion & Performance Centre

The Conference might have just been a perfect day for BHSAI instructors/coaches preparing for their Intermediate Teaching exam and/or anybody training others for those exams. In terms of development or improvement of my own knowledge I wouldn't say there was much I haven't known already. Having said that, there were little things here and there that I either never heard about or forgot about. Additionally, it was a great day in terms of consolidating the knowledge and re-focusing on the bigger picture. It was good and I enjoyed it. I might be wrong but I think it would be great if all the material was presented with plenty of practical examples of using it in every day life or training riders. There have been moments when the info seemed a little too dry and classroom like.

Let's start from possibly the best session in my book: the Jon Pitt's Rider's Fitness in Coach's Perspective. It was perhaps the only lecture that thoroughly engaged the audience in terms of being both educational and interactive as well as fun. A few scribbles I made during that session:

Equestrian Specific elements of focus for coaches:

* balance
* core stability
* brain: concentration, focus, confidence, memory
* co-ordination
* brave
* reactions
* cardio-vascular (CV)
* weight
* strength
* suppleness

Jon Pitts underlines the latter - suppleness - as one of the most important. He also mentioned that suppleness is often misinterpreted as flexibility. Suppleness, he said, has nothing to do with flexibility. Flexibility is for example, an ability to touch the floor with your fingers without bending your legs. The suppleness is the ability to absorb the impact of movement without tension.

Coaching Points:

Quality of Repetition
Simple Steps
How many instructions (human brain is consciously capable of absorbing only 5-9 bits of information at any given moment)

Jon also made us do a very simple exercise to prove how much our brain and body get used to certain movement patterns.
Fold your arms in front of you. Are you feeling comfortable? Which hand is showing? Now, fold your arms so your other hand is on top...feels awkward? Apparently it takes ten thousands of repetitions for the pattern to become comfortable and a second nature. If you always ride with your left hip collapsed a little and right stirrup longer half a hole, centering your position will feel uncomfortable and odd to start with. So persevere.

Jon Pitts:

Tim Stockdale gave a vary amusing and inspiring talk about how he isn't sure whether he really should be joining the BHS ;) He underlined the importance of quality coaching and correct tuition from the lowest of levels and encouraged everybody to keep coming up with initiatives to make the training more productive. Tim certainly has a talent to captivate his audience with variety of stories, the enthusiasm and very apparent passion for what he does.
His speech focused on:

* riding schools, the facilities vs quality of teaching and how it's not always going hand in hand
* ways of teaching; he condemned constant bellowing often observed in riding school's arenas
* he encouraged to understand the pupils' needs and tailor each instruction making it specific to particular rider
* goal setting/progress cards/initiatives to make training effective
* college vs qualifications vs experience - Tim wondered why are the colleges and the BHS aren't doing enough to make equine courses/degrees more practical and industry relevant. He compared what is happening in equine education sector to Law graduate becoming hairdressers. More equine students should be prepared/ready/happy to join the industry they trained to work for.

The subject that always grabs my attention is Sports Psychology. Unfortunately, the speaker who discussed this subject was simply reading from her notes that discussed very basic information which most PTT (BHS Preliminary Teaching Test - the first exam on coaching ladder) students should know already and she was so monotonous I virtually fell asleep! Sorry!
I'm afraid that from what people were saying during the first break I wasn't the only one who felt like a nap during that lecture. To be fair though it was the first session of the day and I was mega sleepy having gotten up at 4.30am AND there were stars displayed on black curtains behind the screen ;)

Stuart Chambers' Nutrition lecture with his off the notes presentation was way more interesting. I haven't really made any notes here though as most of the subjects were either common knowledge or I have covered them while at Hartpury on Rider's Performance module.

One this I did note is how to estimate your REE (Resting Energy Expenditure) to then be able to estimate how much calories do you need to maintain basic functions of your body.

(10xW) + (6.25 xh) - (5xa) + 5
(10xW) + (6.25 xh) - (5xa) - 161


In layman terms, knowing your REE helps to plan your diet in a way that protects your muscles from being eaten by your own body ;) Muscle tissue is the first one to be used for energy. If you don't provide your body with enough good quality nutrients it will start using lean muscles' tissue to produce more fat.

Another subject that is my personal favourite was:

Dr David Marlin discussed Digital Video Analysis and its usage in equestrian coaching. There are some fascinating software available that allows coaches to see details seriously superior to what you can see yourself in real life with bare eyes.
It is most likely the fact I am very visual learner myself that I have always rated video feedback. However, it is proved that:

Hearing = slow processing of information
Visual = rapid processing

Improvement depends on better retention of information. This can be achieved by:

* repetition
* reinforcement
* physical involvement

The last lecture of the day was Motion & Performance Centre's (MPC) presentation which we didn't stay on as we had to hit the road and go back. I am going to a series of bio-mechanics lectures though starting this Monday so hope I will brush up on whatever I might have missed.

What I think is the best about Conferences like this is the inspirational factor of them. The brainstorming and ideas generating effect it often has on people. I certainly came back with a few more :)

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