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I'm posting this is the Safety/Training forum because if you're hanging around here you might be thinking about instructing)

So, you think you may want to become a motorcycle instructor. Good for you! I’ve enjoyed it for 13 years. But let me give you some words of caution before you make the jump and grab for the brass ring.

First: If you want to the “The Guy” you may end up being “That Guy”. By this I mean if you want to be the expert, if you want to tell people what to do and how to do it—coaching may not be for you. When I was trained as an instructor they used a “boot camp” philosophy that was pretty brutal. Two mistakes while working with students, in the classroom or on the range or combined, and you were asked to leave. No lie. There was a Master Instructor who was “That Guy” and seemed to enjoy it; he came in the classroom on the first night of instruction, told us “I’ve never seen more pathetic homework in my life”, did a little berating and walked out to “finish grading this junk”. The poor ******* who was instructing us tried to pick it up where had he left off and I raised my hand and asked, “Are we washed out already?” I think this was a seminal moment for our state program because the Chief Instructor had to talk us down and actually sent us on a break to chill. He also saw what happens when you treat volunteers like conscripts. That’s OK, that’s the way it used to be and things have since changed considerably. I survived but hey, when I was a teen I was given the choice of “Go pick pineapples in Hawaii or go to the California Youth Authority”. I picked pineapples (literally) and I got used to people telling me what, how and when to do stuff. Unfortunately Rider Education is, at the core of it, voluntary and volunteers don’t like to be treated like convicts. You’re neither Corrections Officer nor Drill Instructor, you’re working with folks who want to learn and want to be in a nurturing environment. If you learn better with someone screaming at you and spittle landing on your visor then, well, you’re special, there’s no need to share that love.

Second: Love. Yup, both the passionate and agape kind. You should love bikes passionately and people unconditionally. If you aren’t a rider, if you don’t really dig riding, then you’re going to be working in difficult situations with grumpy critters that you’re going to get tired of. Same goes for loving working with the people involved. Dumb things happen as well and dunderheaded people enroll. This is a “managing expectations” issue for you as well as the students. Can you handle working with folks who sometimes just cannot seem to get it? Low tolerance for mechanical ineptitude? If you love the sound of your own voice you might find yourself in a bit of a bind as well. Being right and making sure everyone knows it is self-love (get your mind out of the gutter), vainglory, narcissism—call it what you may but you should be teaching for others and not yourself.

Third: Patience. Think about that first piano lesson, or that first dance lesson, or just Algebra One. Some things you took to like a fish to water, others you foundered, flopped and failed and some took lots of reps and serious concentration. Welcome to motorcycle instruction! Some get it, some don’t, some will and some won’t. If you aren’t comfortable with people making the same mistake repeatedly, if someone saying, “I’ve got it!” when they don’t got it or folks simply ignoring what you say then this may not be the job for you. Coaching is teaching. As one of my motorcycling instructor heroes says about recruiting Instructors: “We can make a good teacher into a good rider, but we can’t guarantee a good rider will be a good teacher—look for folks who can teach. Riding is secondary.” Patience is one quality teachers need in spades.

Fourth: Taste test. Audit a course. Go in, offer you want to be a part of the show and you’ll find most programs will want you to sit in on a couple of rounds of instruction so you get a feel for what’s required. Go. Watch. See the good and the bad. Be honest with yourself, reflect on what you see. If you think it’s your thing then move ahead with the process. For a lot of Coaches you’ll be working weekends—that means 5 days at your normal job followed by 2 days teaching new riders and then 5 more days at work. If you work a couple of consecutive weekends you can wind up with three weeks between days off.

A couple of asides:

Terminology is vitally important to training. It allows a common language for all. It also assumes you’ll use it. Essentially you’ll be working off a script. The terms are important so one instructor isn’t saying “squeeze the handle” and the other one “yank on those binders!” By using common vocab and instruction it keeps confusion to a minimum. You will be expected to use the common vocabulary and if you can’t that will be a problem.

People skills are paramount. You can’t be That Guy. You need to be able to help folks work their way to the correct answer. This isn’t a “because I say so” business, it is a “how ‘bout you and I discuss it during the break” business. You’re going to be working with frustrated people, bored people, people who “already know this sh^t” and “I know how to do it and this is crap” people, silly, happy and angry people. If you can’t roll with it then you’re going to have a problem. You’ll have teenagers, retirees, househusbands and housewives, true rookies and returning after a 30 year lay off people. You’ll deal with every flavor person imaginable. Be ready.

Longevity. I got a message yesterday from one of the other graduates of my instructor prep class. 2003 was our first full year. Turns out only she and I are still instructing. The other 8 or so have retired their whistles. Average life span for an instructor is about 5 years. Odds are it’s not going to be your primary income and as a secondary income it’s OK but it eats your weekends, no surprise that the business kind of chews through instructors.

I love instruction. It’s great to see people grasp new concepts, execute using new skills and see the pride of accomplishment in their successes. Do you have what it takes? I don’t know but if you think you may—give it a look, it never hurts to check it out.
 

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I'm on my 3rd year as an instructor, and teach most weekends during the season. It can take up a lot of your free time and no one is going to get rich doing it.

It is rewarding, however. The moment a struggling student has that light bulb pop on over their head and realizes that they really can do it creates a great feeling.
 

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I was considering becoming an instructor, and I have heard things about these programs... I already have spent a lot of time teaching mathematics to anyone 3 to 30. You get many different types but can only help certain ones.
 

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Most students can learn to ride. Some may not be able to pass the exam the first time through, but I think just about all of them can learn something.

There are a few people that for whatever reason just aren't coordinated enough to operate a motorcycle safely.
 

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Interesting thread and some good points. Patience, love/passion, and people skills are all paramount to being a good coach. I've been coaching riding for over 11 years now and I still love it as much now as I did when I first started.

I'd like to add flexibility and adaptability to the list of coaching attributes. Not every method works for every student and sometimes you have to switch things up, make things, up, change things up or invent new ways of spreading the message so that each and every one of your students can understand.

This also means adapting your personality a little bit to fit well with the personality of the student. I'm a super vibrant, up beat, enthusiastic person that likes to high five, hug and fist bump my students but not everyone is as open to that kind of enthusiasm :p Sometimes I have to dig out my more serious, formal side and tone down the fist bumping so that my student can actually listen to me.

One of my favourite things about working at the California Superbike School is that Keith Code has developed such an awesome training program for the coaches that it doesn't matter what coach you get, we all say/teach and communicate in a similar way but all of our various personalities are allowed to shine through.

I cannot explain how happy coaching makes me and how much joy I get from seeing my students improve. It's such a rewarding and enjoyable time that it's hard for me to call it a job.

What other traits do you think are needed to be a good coach?
 

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Quality of Students
By Brent Allen

I was talking today with a Teacher. Of a core subject. You know, the kind of subject you never wanted to take but had to. To the point: this Teacher believes that they are working with–well, to use a metaphor–are building a house with rotten wood. By this I mean this teacher feels an adversarial relationship with the students. They are sub-par. They are not as high quality as we were at the same age. In the motorcycle metaphor they are the squids, flip flop, non-gear or helmet wearing, heavy-browed dunces we like to laugh at.
That’s cool. I get it. We often make ourselves taller by making others shorter. I may be doing that at this very second. Probably am.
The reason this eats at me is that in terms of education her students are at immediate disadvantage. By assuming that a portion of her students (large or small) is dull or slow or–insert less offensive teen complaint here–the class begins with predisposition to be ready to give up on some students. Why? Because what can you do with rotten resources? Not everyone can make the grade!
Bull****. Pure bull****. (And I know bull**** pretty good).
The problem is where you believe the problem is. If the problem is kids need to be able to spit out the quadratic equation? Yup. Some can’t. So…throw them on the scrap heap? This particular teacher was pretty clear that “you can’t save them all.”
Bull****.
Motorcycle training can be the best example of TEACHING you’ll ever see. Why? Because it’s truly student based. It’s nurturing. It’s about how what individual students learn, not passing rates. To me, this “teacher’ isn’t. They are an educator perhaps, a clinician who running the the bloody triage of American education has adopted fully the American business ideal of “cost of business”. In other words, you have to throw some raw materials away because you can’t make them what you want them to be. It’s war. Some of them are going to die.
Again, bull. (Tryin’ to clean up my language.)
What I love about teaching motorcyclists is that the Teachers teach. This is a bit of the dream world on earth. The goal isn’t passing the test, the goal is that the rising tide lifts all boats. I taught a beginner’s class with a couple of raw rookies as well as experienced riders.
They all learned and improved.
Imagine if you looked at your motorcycle class and, seeing a few backward baseball caps, a doo-rag and tattoos, you said, “Some of these dopes aren’t going to pass. Oh, well.” Who, in the name of all that’s holy, would want to teach like that? Here is the simple beauty of teaching riders:
They all learn. Every. Single. Damn. One.
The philosophy of the folks in motorcycling is that everybody learns. You may not make standard but that’s OK. The true test is inside you. Did you learn? Did you improve? Are you better for being in the class? I’ve never seen anyone–AT ALL–every say, “I didn’t learn anything”. What a blessing to work in that environment, a place where you don’t throw out the sub-par you work to bring it up to par.
I teach High School, and yes, some of teachers give up on kids; often before they even meet them. Children are viewed as raw material and often discarded. I sorry for that. It just is.
I pray that never reaches into the Rider Education world.
 

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Focusing on the Person, Not the Subject

Coaching is the key to unlocking the potential of your students, your organization, and yourself. It is based on the concept that individuals learn most from the everyday application of skills and by trying things out in practice.

"Not only is there no established body of knowledge called coaching, but the coach often has less expertise that the one being coached. The coach does not need to impart knowledge, advice, or even wisdom. What he or she must do is speak and act, in such a way that others learn and perform at their best."

The coaching is all about helping others to identify and define their specific goals, and then organize themselves to attain these goals. Coaching deals with building an individual's personal skills, from setting the goals, to communication, management style, decision making and problem solving.

You are there for the students so take some time before, and during class to learn a little about them and use that to make them comfortable. Don't be afraid to laugh a little, no better way to lighten a mood and reach people at times than through humor. Treat the students as equals! Compared to us they may just be starting out in the riding world, but in many areas of their life they have skills and experience that are far superior to what we might know. Our students are not just kids out of school, they are Doctors, lawyers and professionals in their own right. Also be professional, lead by example with your fellow coaches. I have been on the range with coaches I had never met before class, and the students thought we had been working together for years.

As the saying goes "You don't get a second chance to make a first Impression"
 

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Coaching

What makes a Good Coach

The goal of a coach is to bring out the possibilities in the student. Coaching is a question-based enlightening, inspirational and energizing process by a coach to orient a student to the realities of a situation and to help them remove barriers to optimum performance and achieve desired goals.
Coaching is an Art, the coach is fully engaged with the student and the process of coaching becomes a dance between two people, conversationally moving in harmony and partnership. At this point the intelligence, intuition and imagination of the coach become a valuable contribution- rather than being interference from the student.
1. Knowledge
2. People Skills
3. Personality (Be about others)


Knowledge

Being a rider is not enough. You need to be able to ride well, well enough to not only demonstrate the techniques required but also well enough so that the students have confidence in you as a rider. As a rider coach you are only teaching the basics, but at the same time as a rider and a rider coach you need to be able to ride beyond those "basic" skills and be able to answer questions about things beyond those basic skills even if you are not teaching them. Being able to answer a question builds the students confidence in you and allows you to easily get the students back on track. You need enough knowledge to get the job done and while you are only teaching basic skills you would not have someone who graduated the sixth grade teaching the next sixth grade class.


People Skills

Communication and how people relate to you are keys to good people skills, it is not just the students, it is the other coaches and people who we deal with in any circumstance. On the Range you are a team so dealing with the other Coach is as important as dealings with the students and the students also see these dealings and take from them as well.
Trust: Another Key, is to gain the trust of the students, when they trust you they listen, and are willing to try what you say even if they are scared.

Don't make conversations about you, turn your attention on the student, they will share more about themselves with you, and when this happens, a bond is formed. Now the students trust you


Personality

The right attitude. The same attitude needed for learning is needed for coaching, having the mind of a child, willing to open up, try new things, ask the right questions and build that trust with the students. Learning requires a safe low stress learning environment, making it fun helps to reduce stress and in turn helps the students learn. If the coach is stressed the students will also be stressed.


Coaching, Adult Learning

Although adult learning is relatively new as field of study, it is just as substantial as traditional education and carries and potential for greater success. Of course, the heightened success requires a greater responsibility on the part of the teacher. Additionally, the learners come to the course with precisely defined expectations. Unfortunately, there are barriers to their learning. The best motivators for adult learners are interest and selfish benefit. If they can be shown that the course benefits them pragmatically, they will perform better, and the benefits will be longer lasting.
Coaches have to be sure to act as facilitators, guiding participants to their own knowledge rather than supplying them with facts.
To help them do so, they should draw out participants' experience and knowledge which is relevant to the topic. They must relate theories and concepts to the participants and recognize the value of experience in learning.
Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Learning has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities to be of value to them.


Questions

The Ability to ask effective coaching questions is a core skill of a professional coach - no matter what field you are coaching in.

What to ask when to ask it, The Key is Observation! What needs to be fixed!
Observation is the key, you are a trained observer so use your eyes, what did you see and what was the result of what you saw?
1. The rider, did you see what the rider did or did not do?
2. The Bike, did you notice any changes, direction, suspension movement, etc.?
a. What do these changes indicate, what causes these changes?
3. What is the one thing you can fix that will have the greatest impact on what you observed?
4. Now what to say to the student. (Ask a question that will get the student to tell you what they did or did not do that will fix the largest problem)
a. how far into the turn were you when you turned your head?
b. how far through the turn were you when you applied the throttle?
c. What did you see as you applied the brakes?
d. how far into the turn were you when you released the brakes?

Here are four keys to powerful coaching questions - four criteria to assess your own coaching questions against:
1. Are your questions non judgmental? Ensure that your questions do not infer a right or wrong answer - so that there are options for the coachee to explore.
2. Are your questions simple and succinct? Making your questions complex you may think infers you are an expert. Actually the short and simpler the question is the easier it will be for the coachee to understand, and very often a short question if well structured can be extremely powerful and encourage your coachee to really apply themselves.
3. Are your questions open? Check that your questions do not elicit a yes or no response as that will often stifle the coaching conversation abruptly.
a. Coach: Did you turn your head? Student: Yes. That did not work or get the desired result so next time Instead
b. Coach: How far through the turn were you when you turned your head? Student: 1/3, Ahhh, Should have been sooner huh?
4. Do your questions reflect your clients language? Listen carefully to the language your client uses. Do they most often say "I think", "I hear" or "I feel"? Using different language to your coachee can render your question "un-hearable". By changing your language you will increase the likelihood of your coachee connecting with the question.
 
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