The way you present yourself as a coach has a direct impact on the experience your participants will have during a Parkour class. If you are bright and collected from the off then you are setting the scene for a vibrant lesson. If you slump into the session late, apologising and hurriedly constructing sentences as your mind races to remember the plan you half-wrote, then you present an aura of foolery, and will likely not command the respect of your students. It doesn’t take much imagination to consider which of the two scenarios will more likely manifest poor behaviour and lower safety standards.
Creating a strong and positive persona is therefore a very valuable pursuit as a Parkour coach. You need to look after yourself so you can perform optimally and provide the best teaching possible. The following 5 tips outline my thoughts on the some of the best ways to do this!
1. Plan & Sleep
Modern research is building on the ancient common-sense of getting a good night’s sleep. Anything below 8 hours is likely to affect your cognitive ability and physical energy levels. Plan your session the night before (at least), and then have restful sleep so you can retain the information well. Try to maintain a regular time going to bed and waking up, and keep your bedroom cool to fall asleep easier. It may sound boring but no-one enjoys being weary and irritable in front of a class of excited kids! The clock will definitely seem to drag on.
2. Leave it at the door
Coaching involves public speaking and, to an extent, performance. In this sense you are an actor in front of a crowd, so you must conduct yourself as one. Any outside issues, difficulties and complaints should be left at the door. Don’t say things that make you sound weak. Focus on what you’ve planned and deliver it to your best. I know this isn’t simple or easy, but we need to be strong and build our inner resolve to become more competent coaches. A class given to children is your gift to them, and this should be the motivation to sweep aside negativity and concentrate on providing a great experience. You might have to fake it by putting on a brave face, but who knows, this could start a positive feedback loop with the children and end up helping you feel much better by the end.
3. Energy savers
If you’ve got multiple classes in a row, you’re gunna get tired. You’ll be on your feet, projecting your voice and actively helping all of your participants. It’s vital you can be sustainable with your energy so you can maintain an enthusiastic persona. Setting up a simple obstacle fitness course for a warm up can allow children to get moving quickly and not have to be supervised, giving you time to collect yourself, move equipment if needs be and save your voice. Moreover, try to illustrate your most important points before discussing finer details. I’ve fallen into the trap of nervously overtalking a number of times and it doesn’t half drain you, as well as stagnate the lesson.
Implementing games with no sound, Tabata type workouts and pressured group challenges can also allow you to take a step back, observe and save your energy.
4. Develop a good relationship with your co-coach(es)
Communication builds trust and healthy relationships. Get into the habit of communicating with your assistant / co-coaches regularly, so that you are on the same page with what’s going down each lesson. If you can work well as a team then you can confidently divide groups up and spread the load, which will also cut down cueing times. Smaller groups are more manageable and usually create fewer problems to deal with, plus you’ll have a reliable pair of hands to help if something goes wrong. Just knowing you have a solid relationship with your partner can help you feel confident about a session and make for a more relaxed atmosphere, which will likely be more enjoyable for you and your students.
5. Enjoy what you’re teaching!
If you’re not enjoying your own session there will be problems. Take the time to think of what excites you in Parkour and how you can bring this to your students. Getting inspiration from videos and Instagram clips is a great way of collecting ideas and connecting with other traceurs. Don’t be afraid to reach out, especially as the Parkour Coaching community is so small (relatively). Having more in your arsenal will help avoid repetitive lessons and bring everyone more variety. This in turn prevents you as a coach from getting bored with what you teach and so negates leaving a sullen impression on your students. The old Confucian adage is true – ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’
Thanks for taking the time to read! I hope you find some use in these words. I really believe putting effort into bettering yourself as a coach will make your life easier, and have direct positive impact on other lives.
Sam is a York (UK) based traceur. He is 24 years old, ADAPT lvl 2 certified and has extensive experience in coaching all age and skill groups.