You may have noticed that we’ve been a bit quiet on our end over the last few months. We’ve been a bit pre-occupied due to the arrival of our new baby Elke Mae in August.
Elke is now 9 months old and I’ve had some time to reflect on the past year. In particular, how the experience of having a baby affected my coaching practise.
Most every mum-to-be experiences some sort of anxiousness around the upcoming birth and what life may bring post arrival. For me, one of my concerns was around my ability to keep coaching far into my pregnancy and how quickly I could return to it afterwards.
I have been fortunate to have had a performing career of 15 years with only a few injuries during that time. The few injuries I sustained along the way, at most, had me out of action for about 6 months at a time. As a coach, I’ve always been very physical demonstrating EVERYTHING, and spotting students comfortably.
But last year, while pregnant with my first child, I quickly realised that for me, training / demonstrating and pregnancy were not compatible and so my teaching practise had to change dramatically. At first, I was in shock – how could I possibly teach effectively without demonstrating? What about spotting?
For me, language became my new teaching weapon. Suddenly I became super-aware of the need to clearly articulate the right words to ensure my students could see the skills clearly in their minds. As my pregnancy progressed this became ever more important as some days I had no choice but to instruct from a chair!
You or your students may have had an experience before of working with a coach who isn’t your regular. The oft made remark is that ‘a different explanation helped me understand what I was struggling to grasp’. So when I was no longer able to demonstrate, or offer a physical correction, my only choice was to try alternative descriptions to my usual ones. As a result, my coaching vocabulary feels like it has tripled in size.
What surprised me the most, is those students who were convinced they were purely ‘visual’ learners. Thankfully all my students were supportive of my choice to continue coaching while pregnant, and together with my new found vocab we discovered a new method of communication. It was like unlocking a new level of Zen mastery – choosing few words, but the mightiest ones.
Language is so emotive and powerful; as coaches we don’t give our teaching voices enough credit. Rather than take the time to choose words that resonate clearly, it’s easy to stick to the same old descriptions and rely on demonstrations to pick up the slack when that fails.
Some of us use language without thinking – bombarding students with overly detailed and fluffy wording. Then after 10 minutes of explanation we are asked the dreaded question “ah… so what do I do first?”.
Another big change for me was moving away from relying on spotting for students to master skills. I started reviewing my old notebooks to remind myself of some long forgotten drills and conditioning for each skill, so I could eliminate the need for spotting – much safer for me and my back! Which in turn meant more attainable progressions for students and fuller class plans. Of course there are a handful skills that really do just need to be spotted, I’m not advocating removing spotting altogether. In my case, it was lucky that I had Dan and other coaches to jump in for a couple of minutes from time to time.
Lastly, and this has changed since I have returned to coaching post-bub, is my understanding of circus from a complete beginner’s field of reference. For the first time in my life, I can’t just get my feet under the bar without touching it. I can’t just do a chin up. I can’t just knee climb a tissu. Walking in the shoes of someone who hasn’t got the strength of a gymnast is a gift. It allows me to move more slowly and precisely in classes, to explore transitions and fluidity even more, to keep coming back to perfect technique, and most of all – enjoy myself.
I’m hoping that this article gives a little perspective on how coaching while pregnant and in recovery is totally do-able and how it will enrich your teaching practise.
If you are interested in improving your coaching technique, check out our upcoming courses on the bookings page of our website