Sea Kayaking, Chicago, ACA, and Community

I was pleased to learn my Sea Kayaking ACA Level 4 Open Water certification will be official this week. So I ask myself how do I feel about it? I feel like I am really just beginning. I’ve been exposed to enough people, conditions, and experiences to know that I have really only scratched the surface of a very big watery world. There are possibly further certifications in the future, maybe not another sea kayaking certification right away, but certainly not done.

So the question is, what did I want going in to the certification and what did I learn coming out?

First things first, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I did and do want the respect of my peers and fellow coaches. Let’s just get that on the table. If I said that wasn’t true, I would be lying.

Certainly anyone who has met me knows I am ambitious and competitive by nature. I have played sports for most of my life competitively. More recently I’ve been more involved with distance running and cycling. I played a lot of competitive soccer. I tried out for teams, made some, got cut from others. It is hard getting cut from a team where you felt you deserved a spot. Inversely suiting up and stepping out on the pitch for the first time amongst your peers was possibly one of the best feelings known to man. This was especially true when you touched the ball for the first time in full knowledge that you deserve to be out there because of how hard you practiced, how much you wanted to play, and how hard you played in try-outs

I also had many more altruistic goals of becoming a better instructor, and learning to do this from others who make their livelihood doing so gave me a lot of insight. I have been instructing at symposiums, working with students through Lee’s for about five or six years, modeling myself on other instructors, or going through trial and error. The big thing I learned from the ACA certification is how to approach a lesson for different types of learners, and how to structure activities. Further, I started paying much closer attention to my stroke mechanics in order to better model for students watching me demonstrate.

There have been a few e-mails blog posts, and discussions over time on certification and the politics of sea kayaking, that made me think about how sea kayaking is really not that different than any other area of life.

We are political animals by nature. All of us, in some way crave power and influence. For some, it is simply a matter of having enough power to determine our own destiny. For others it is a desire to influence what is perceived to be the common good. In some cases, there are a few who seem bent on curving events around themselves, like a bend in a mighty river to create a lagoon or pond with their toys and all of their friends around them.

Fortunately my club, and my direct group of paddling buddies is a group based on a microcosm of meritocracy. Most of us are not this lucky, and some that deserve to be celebrated are not, and some that don’t deserve to be celebrated are lauded with a laurel wreath and fine wine.

While I went into the certification trying to test, or prove myself, I think I came out feeling more like I needed more experience and more coaching time to really be a better instructor. Sometimes in the midwest that is hard to do considering how many good instructors there are. It can be challenging to run your own show and learn from your own mistakes, when there are so many fine coaches around who are there to not let you fail.

Based on the number of trips to Chicago, I stayed with the Bloyd-Peshkin’s alot, and also got to spend a lot of time with Lyn Stone. I am really grateful for the friendship and sense of community that I was welcomed into from the Chicago folks. I may have gotten a certification, and learned a lot if I had gotten my certification in Rhode Island, but I don’t think I would have created the connection I have with the Chicago Folks. So the net benefit of the experience might be my coach certification. Or it might be a lifelong friendship with Lyn, Alec, Sharon, Jeremy and Hannah?… I know which one I value most.

Alec Bloyd-Peshkin-Fellini

Keith and Fellini working together

Lyn Stone, the house of strokes diagnosis

Sharon and her Mad Skillz