Life is a journey on two wheels

In November 2015 I signed up to become a British Cycling level 2 coach.  Easy, I thought, I know a lot about cycling, I’m a CTC ride leader, Club Road Ride secretary, Club kit Secretary and I used to be an active Level 2 windsurfing instructor; therefore the transfer of skills should make this a breeze to complete.

My application was reviewed by British Cycling and a short while afterwards I received confirmation that I had been selected and approved to partake in the training and that a welcome pack explaining the requirements would be forthcoming.

It arrived!!

Oh dear, what had I done? The breeze had suddenly developed into a force 9 gale! The sheer volume of administration, learning, practical assessments and mentoring was quite something.  I’ve never been one for giving up before trying, but the thought did cross my mind as I knew this would have a significant impact on other areas of my life.  Family time, cycling, weekends, evening, building projects… everything was now going to have to take a back seat and the sooner I could complete the course the better.  I was later informed that I had a full 12 months to complete the administration and practical delivery of my assignments but at the time I was under the impression that I had just 3 months after the first assessment weekend.  And that was another thing! What did they mean, assessment weekend?  I thought I’d been accepted!

Now with a certain level of trepidation I awaited the weekend of the 6th of February, where I was going to spend the whole weekend being assessed on my ability to cycle, coach and be coached.

In between time there was a small matter of a First Aid refresher course.

The weekend came and I grabbed Ludwig out of the garage and stuffed his panniers full of books, warm clothing, food and drink for the cycle over the hills to Elland for my first assessment day. I was the first one there- an Army thing!  You’re late if you’re not there 10 minutes before you should be and I was certainly not going to be late for my first day so with a full half hour of contingency thrown in I arrived 45 minutes before the official start time despite having to ride through sleet and snow on the hills.

One by one my fellow course attendees trundled in until 15 of us stood outside a classroom whilst 3 BC mentors/ coaches were setting up the training schedule, it felt like a throwback to the corporate training days of the 90s with a good mix of 80s secondary school education thrown in.

The dreaded “death by PowerPoint” presentation was ready to roll and our assessors / mentors opened up the show.  As “rain stopped play” for the morning session PowerPoint did certainly do its best to live up to its reputation, but we survived and it was the content that kept us alive, it was actually very informative.  Mid to late morning the clouds lifted a little and we were ushered outdoors to do some practical assessments.  The day continued in very much the same vein and by the close of the day we’d managed to complete all the pre-requisite elements despite the weather, and the dreaded PowerPoint.

The ride home was a beast. Extra books, but less food and drink meant that I had just as much weight to ride back home with as I’d rode there with and the beastly West Yorkshire hills combined with the, now very familiar, wind and rain certainly made it a tough one.  An evening of studying and session plan writing ensued before an exhausted wannabe coach collapsed into his bed.

Day two and lady luck shone down from the skies, actually it was something called sunshine but only for a few fleeting moments.  Panniers packed and eager to deliver my so called “ambitious” session plan I cycled off.  Whatever processed me to coach hill climbing on a flat tennis court I will never know, but that’s what I did.  Weather once again dictated the running order of the day but so did the alphabet and having a surname beginning with L I was going to end up doing one of two things. First in the second group or last in the first… I was last in the first.

Ambitious but it worked, well done! And I’m happy to say that you’ve passed your assessment weekend all that you have to do now is……..
Oh boy the list grew even bigger!

The ride home was a weird one I really wanted to get home and see the kids, but I didn’t want to have to reveal to the wife how much extra work I needed to do between now and the end of April.  Add in tradeshows, my mum’s investiture (MBE) a sales summit in Spain she was going to have her hands full with the kids and she was already at the point of overflowing without me throwing any more water into the cup.  I left it that night as she’d just had a massively tough weekend with the kids!  What I also did was leave it a little longer and tried as much as I could to complete the admin in the short moments I had at lunchtime or on a Thursday evening.  Did I mention my trips over to the shoulder specialist in Wrightington – Wigan ?? Oh well sorry they needed to be thrown in there too.

My wall planner appeared to have contracted measles, multi-coloured dots everywhere and barely a moment to breathe in-between any of them.  6 sessions minimum I was meant to deliver as part of my ongoing assessment and what I didn’t expect was the sheer joy I got from watching the ones I was given the honour to coach improve.  In fact it became that infectious that I took on extra sessions and began coaching the tiddlers too.  More by accident than anything else because my little angel Daisy wanted to learn how to ride a bike like daddy (why on earth she’d want to learn how to keep falling off at high speeds whilst off-road and downhill I have still yet to understand) but coach her I did and along with that came a second wave of coaching euphoria.  Within a very short space of time I was hooked!  I’d now got the right balance of coaching the adults track sessions on a Friday evening followed by the Sunday morning tiddler sessions where it is all about smiles, killing cones and Haribos.

Before I knew it, day 3 had arrived and it was the final assessed performance upon which my future as a coach was going to hang.  Of all the days preceding this, the DBS, the child welfare assessment, the first aid, the 2 day assessment … the list goes on and on, this was the one which I personally had the most anxiety towards.  In some ways it felt like it was my last shot “the gunfight at the OK Corral” and if I got it wrong everything else would have been all a waste of time.  My plan was a decent one, I’d even delivered it as part of one my 6 sessions, but nonetheless I was a little nervous.  No Ludwig this time, but the Carbon Trek made an appearance and was chauffeured to his stage in my trusty old Volvo.  Again my military timing ensured I was there in good time but not first on scene this time.  My confidence grew by the minute as I spoke with some of the others who talked of unexpected mishaps during their session deliver, none delivery of sessions, no session plan written for the day and the wry smile; akin to the that of starting a race on a damp rainy early summer morning after a winter of wet outdoor training rides, whilst others around you told tales of heated garages, turbo trainers and chocolate puddings, drifted onto my face.  Those without training plans were given a break and the opportunity to write them up before we went outside and in the meantime, I went out and carried out my risk assessment whilst visually setting up and going over my session plan.

Finally I was on! The others had all done really well and it was now my turn.  I delivered it to the best of my ability and was therefore happy no matter what the outcome, I couldn’t actually have done any more.  Fortunately it was enough, in fact my mentor even said that he was going to plagiarise part of it and include it in one of his own sessions later on in this season.

So I’d done it.  The only thing left to do was clean up the admin and submit the entire coursework to my mentor electronically.  I was given a verbal, “you’re good to go” and had to follow up with BC in a few weeks to see where things stood.

Finally today I’ve received my certificate, dated the 24th May 2016.  A roller-coaster of events and 6 months of hard work.  All this has kick-started my journey as a cycling coach, and I can’t thank those who helped me get here enough.  There is one person though who deserves the most thanks of all and that is my wife Karin. Without her tireless work with our two young, challenging, but beautiful children I would not have been able to even start the course, never mind complete it.  She has sacrificed more than I have on this journey and I can’t say that it hasn’t been without tears or a few choice words, but stood by me she has and I am eternally grateful to her for this.  The enrichment coaching has since brought to my life is overwhelming and if I could share just a fraction of this with her I’d be more than happy to do it all again.