Paddler Retention

General slalom chatter...rant about the bad, rave about the good
baronhetzvanrental
Posts: 17
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:39 am

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by baronhetzvanrental » Thu Sep 26, 2019 11:53 pm

I also wonder if it the way we behave towards younger paddlers plays a part in retention.

Many juniors have made comments about how they are spoken to by adults when they are off the water and they don't want to be around people like that.

I know of several paddlers that have stopped any serious slalom, in no small part because of the way they've been treated by adult volunteers - snippy/rude/derogatory comments - often said without thought or realisation by the adult can sit with them for a long time.

(I hasten to add that I am no angel! I learned this after I was inadvertently rude to a teenage paddler when making an off the cuff comment and a parent raised it with me)
If I could, I would. But I'll capsize instead.

Mike Mitchell
Posts: 107
Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:44 pm

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Mike Mitchell » Fri Sep 27, 2019 9:54 am

There is no easy answer for this question.
Paddlers will give up for a number of reasons and some may just need an excuse to pack it all in.
I think we need to look at Scotland they have numbers.

Having paddled from the age of 13 I have probably packed it in more than anyone. Usually just down to bad results at the end of season and being exhausted from overtraining. But I am an addict, and addicted to the wonderful sport.

Over the last 5 years we have produced a lot of paddlers at Wyedean and to date not one has retired from the sport.
This is probably down to a strong club support, We haven't got any champions, but we have fun and enjoy paddling.

What we need is strong clubs all over the UK.
At the moment funding goes to regional squads, paddlers get taken into these squads as soon as they are on the ranking list if they are young and trained up really fast. Then the goals are set and if they don't make the required standard they get kicked off. The pressure to deliver results is high and if there is not a strong club to go back to they drop out of the sport.

So at Wyedean we have half Welsh and half English paddlers, The Welsh get coached at Cardiff on a Tuesday and Thursday evening and then weekends away. The English are in the Souther Region and have to travel weekends to Lee Valley 3hours or HPP 2+ hours away. They also train at Cardiff and have to pay for any coaching and water time.
Its really hard keeping a split Club together.

This year from the 15 beginners I started off I have 2 that have stayed with is and are training Slalom 2 times a week.
They have not competed yet as I don't want them on ant squads.
One is Welsh, One English and they enjoy paddling together, so my intention is to give up my paddling and coach more so as to keep all my paddlers in one Squad.

WHAT WE NEED IS CLUB FUNDING AND SUPPORT.
STRENGHTH IN DEPTH MAKES FOR A HIGHER STANDARD AT THE TOP.

Steve Agar
Posts: 55
Joined: Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:30 am

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Steve Agar » Fri Sep 27, 2019 10:30 am

Mike,
I couldn't agree more. If we want more people involved (as both retention and making sure we can offer the newcomer something sustainable are really important), we have to make our club structure stronger, and try and keep more paddlers engaged locally rather than push the achievement pyramid as being the only goal, as we all know what happens when aspiring paddlers are either prevented from climbing on, or simply fall off when the sides become too steep (and the top always seems to be in the clouds from which the gods rarely descend). On a national level, I think the change to Vets rules has successfully demonstrated that we can make room in the sport for those who want to maintain the balance of competitiveness and enjoyment.

chriswilde
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Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 8:41 pm

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by chriswilde » Sat Sep 28, 2019 10:12 pm

Absolutely agree with this:

WHAT WE NEED IS CLUB FUNDING AND SUPPORT.
STRENGHTH IN DEPTH MAKES FOR A HIGHER STANDARD AT THE TOP.

Need the coaches to work with club coaches and value what we do, help us to develop ourselves and the paddlers.

CeeBee
Posts: 297
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2007 9:12 pm
Location: Falkirk

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by CeeBee » Sat Sep 28, 2019 10:52 pm

I think we already have a very high standard at the very top.

However, we might not in the future if we continue with the current approach. Clubs run events and can only run events if they have sufficient active club members to do so. It takes a few years for a new family to get fully immersed in helping and if they start with the club and then migrate to a squad leaving their club behind, we will not have clubs to run events.

It is also quite demotivating for clubs to invest a significant amount of time and energy in the first few years to get their paddlers to a good standard to then lose these paddlers to squads. Of course paddlers want to improve and they may well get training that their club cannot offer but these opportunities should be created with the club not independently of the club.

All squad coaches and staff need to have objectives that they are measured on that encourage these young coaches to work with and support clubs.

Arrowcraft
Posts: 60
Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2015 6:46 pm

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Arrowcraft » Tue Oct 01, 2019 8:21 pm

Some interesting points raised.

From my own perspective, I can say from the people that I have coached into Prem, that the goal was to get to Prem. It was all consuming in terms of their paddling and they each put in a tremendous amount of energy and effort to achieve this goal. Having reached it they do not seem to have enjoyed the division.

I raced in Prem for years and when called up, internationally too. I enjoyed Prem, perhaps more than Internationals and I was happy to compete at that level. We used to surf (Steve A) we used to dick around, but always in slalom boats. Never bothered with river trips much, apart from the Mike Jones. I remember that there was a great sense of camaraderie in div 2, which was where competition really started to hot up. Div 1 was a lot more serious because you had to win a race to get promoted...But Prem, that was special. It meant something. It was very hard to get promoted and you could only go up at the end of the year. 10 went up and ten went down every year. So it was truly only the best of the best in Prem. There was no SS in Prem and EVERYONE had to race in Prem to stay up. That includes the GB Team. I remember an exception being made once when Foxy won the Worlds and they gave him bib number 0. Nobody complained. But Prem was taken seriously. Nobody had the right to be in Prem, you had to earn it, year after year.

These days Prem has lost it's shine. Paddle up? Pretending to be in Prem...dilutes it. No. Nice for little Jonny...but it comes too cheap. To easily. Top div 1's used to get an invite to the British Open...(again, a race that used to mean something) but that was it.

I know that team paddlers want to train overseas...but when they do, and ignore Prem, does it dilute the value of Prem? Team paddlers that drop off team, even at under 23 level, seem to retire rather than race in Prem. It is possible to get to most races in Prem and still train abroad. There are some clashes, but we've done it this year. To be fair, team paddlers will get their points to stay up from a couple of races. But by racing in the division they add value to it.

Perhaps we need to make Prem super special again. bottom 10% down, top 10% up or a fixed number 10 K1's and 5 C1's. Demote non racers and do away with paddle up in prem. Make them judge to get a race entry and build up the event into the best in the country on show. Get some TV down....I saw competitive kite flying on sky TV the other day...seriously? promote the sport and promote Prem as the place to be. Perhaps make events all double events where possible.

Then as Mike says, strength in depth will produce even better internationals. This will build up other divisions also as the flow through is slowed down a little. Give paddlers a chance to get to know one and other a little more on the way through.

I think retention IS a problem. Is it because Prem has lost it's value?

Arrowcraft
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Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2015 6:46 pm

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Arrowcraft » Wed Oct 02, 2019 10:25 am

Or...is it because when we bring kids in on TID they are part of the GB canoeing set up. Club paddlers are part of the club set up. TID's seem to be told that this is the only way to make team and team this and team that and the rest of the paddlers are not going to be able to compete with you because you're on this program. You have an advantage because of the program etc etc. So when they reach SRS we see a bunch of of them leave. Then ENTS...more leave and when the don't make it onto junior teams they leave...because the don't want to drop backwards into the "ordinary pool" having been in what was sold to them as the "elite pool."

The paddlers I coached on their way to and into Prem have been outside the TID style set up, although lots have been involves with RTA and SRS long the way. They seem to become way too serious way too young when they are a part of these things. So I guess the question is...are we setting them up to fail at an early stage?

I take JoS's point about travelling and doing it for themselves...Llandyssul seem to be able to function pretty well and people work together to get places...Perhaps that's the kind of club culture that I remember. I counted 6 paddlers associated with Llandyssul at teh World Cup 4 race in Maarkleeburg a few weeks ago. So they seem to be progressing paddlers through to the teams.

There are some experienced heads in this discussion. What could we do to improve paddler retention?

Arrowcraft
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Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2015 6:46 pm

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Arrowcraft » Wed Oct 02, 2019 10:30 am

From the outside, looking in...Canoe Slalom at national level looks like a childrens sport.

Steve Agar
Posts: 55
Joined: Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:30 am

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Steve Agar » Wed Oct 02, 2019 2:58 pm

Arrowcraft - so many excellent observations and points raised. If you're not careful you'll have me ranting on again about the complete contrast between elite and grassroots funding, and what it might be doing to our sport, that I believe contributes to much of what you raise. What does worry me for the future is if GB fails to win any Olympic medals next year, (and there are absolutely no guarantees, particularly when it comes down to one boat per nation) whether the huge amount of UK Sport funding will simply be withdrawn, and we'll have to re-examine how the sport, coaching, clubs and competitions should be set up. Do we wait to see before looking at Plan B, or should we be thinking ahead?

Nowt wrong with surfing and white water paddling in slalom boats - lots of us used to only have one boat and did it all - but I don't see many of our current aspiring paddlers anywhere else but on the slalom course. Another result of becoming a "kids' sport"?

paddlerparent
Posts: 76
Joined: Thu Mar 05, 2015 3:52 pm

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by paddlerparent » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:04 am

Seems like this post is mainly moaning about stuff, i dont see any credible proposals.....come on, ideas for change not just a moan!!!

Put some motions in if you want change, i'm sure people will support them, if not they will debate them & they can evolve

CeeBee
Posts: 297
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Location: Falkirk

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by CeeBee » Fri Oct 04, 2019 12:06 pm

An interesting point regarding raising motions at the AGM.

This is certainly a good way of getting some points discussed and voted on.

However, the funded program does not come under the Slalom committee remit and so we cannot put motions to the AGM re how squads operate.

Many of those commenting on this post have put motions forward through their clubs over the years which have been debated and implemented.

What this forum is useful for is to get a feel for whether others involved in the sport feel the same way. It may be perceived that these are 'moans' but many of them are actually just real observations about what is happening in the sport from people who have been involved for long enough to see things changing- nothing wrong with airing these observations if it makes all of us think.

I'm all for change and taking the sport forward so know that we cannot go back to the 'old' days which had a different set of issues

Steve Holmes
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Joined: Mon May 21, 2018 11:05 am

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Steve Holmes » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:55 pm

A radical suggestion: scrap all TID and RTA etc until 16, and let the kids enjoy the journey. It used to be a case of enjoying slaloms and getting promoted when you were ready, now that doesn’t really happen with a lot of kids as they feel so much pressure to stay on schemes. Instead use the funding and coaches for more events similar to Slalom Inspires, or the sessions run over the winter by the Yorkshire clubs, and open them to all who want to improve or meet up with friends in a non-competitive environment. Put the emphasis on social interaction, with bbqs and games etc in the evening, to involve paddlers, parents and club coaches together.
Start formal pathways at 16, to give all kids the chance to get through puberty and growth spurts, and be open to looking for promising paddlers in lower divisions who show potential and could also give back to the sport.

Steve Holmes
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Joined: Mon May 21, 2018 11:05 am

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Steve Holmes » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:56 pm

I’m saying the above as the parent of an 8 year old who will likely be on RTA this winter, I would quite happily swap that for more retention and the future of the sport!

CeeBee
Posts: 297
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2007 9:12 pm
Location: Falkirk

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by CeeBee » Fri Oct 04, 2019 4:24 pm

Excellent suggestion Steve.

We've got a training group from a few clubs working together. You don't have to hit targets to get into it and you can't be turfed out but the paddlers are grouped according to which division they are in so they can take part in the training days that suit them. It is really hard to be under continual pressure as a junior to hit targets and it does take away from the enjoyment. (One way to reduce the pressure of a squad for juniors is that once you are in a squad as a junior, you can stay in a squad until you are say 16-18 or for 2-3 years so that there is not this pressure).

I really like the idea of using Slalom Inspires and other type events to promote slalom and invite paddlers to take part. And we really need paddlers and their families to be encouraged and nurtured so that they contribute to the sport. Our young paddlers will develop into young adults in only a few years and need to learn the value of helping the sport that they have benefitted from.

You might like this

ROLE MODELS

Whether you like it or not, if you are a paddler, you are also a role model.
If you are a Prem/Div 1 paddler you are an important role model to the lower divisions.
If you are a Squad paddler you are a key role model to the rest of the paddlers in the sport.

Younger paddlers look up to you. They want to follow in your footsteps.
The specific footsteps they want to follow happen to be on the water but what you do off the water also matters.
You can influence them in a positive or negative way. So try to make it positive.
Part of your duty as a role model is just to be a good sport.

Don’t get angry when something does not go your way
Win with grace.
Lose with an equal amount of grace.
Be nice to and help other paddlers
Contribute and help your sport

If you do some of this for the young kids watching you, you are already giving back to the community. However, you can do more.

Volunteering at races in the UK will show the younger paddlers the importance of giving back. And if their role model is doing it, they will be more likely to want to do it.
Our club coaches actively encourage all our paddlers to be good role models so that there can be a sport for the next generation.
Some of our paddlers are excellent role models.

Are you a role model to the next generation?


This was pulled together from something I found on line which I then adapted for paddling. It was borne out of frustration at 2 members of the performance squad who had the 'rubber neck' to turn up at at a recent race, practice on the Saturday night course but did absolutely nothing to help the event during the day. Paddlers need to be very careful not to get a sense of entitlement because they in are a squad.

Arrowcraft
Posts: 60
Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2015 6:46 pm

Re: Paddler Retention

Post by Arrowcraft » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:58 pm

There's some great observations here. I agree with lots.

Although divisive to some, I though the TID was an enormous success in terms of getting kids into the sport. But an enormous fail in terms of retention. On balance, I liked it and they identified what is possible if minds are concentrated. I think that model can be adopted by clubs where the emphasis is more likely to be on paddling for club rather than country. The top paddlers will end up paddling for country in the end anyway.

If we focus on clubs there are more opportunities for representation and performing at a regional representative level. In Rugby and other sports there is a regional set up. You represent your club, then County, then Region then Country. My lad plays Rugby for Derby and also NLD (Notts, Links and Derbyshire.) and is proud of that achievement. He has matches in 3 weeks from which a Midlands team will be chosen and then a regional tournament will select players for England, Scotland Ireland & Wales. If he does not make it into the national team he might still be a regional or 3 Counties player
and this is a big deal. He will try harder next year and get further... Perhaps we could do something similar in Canoeing?

The divisional system is based around individuals rather than clubs and there are no inter regional events. Perhaps an inter regional competition would help retain paddlers because they are representing something bigger than themselves which instils a sense of pride and achievement. A system for selecting regional teams from series of inter club competitions would add layers. It would also add a solid basis for reinventing the home international series of Pan Celtic Cups. Maybe it just needs a little infrastructure to develop a competition format for this type of racing.

If only 1 boat goes to the Olympics and Olympics is the only goal then every other paddler is disappointed. Add in some representation and acclaim at the other levels and we create champions... Club champions, county champions, regional champions and national champions. Champions are role models for everyone in their club, county, region, country, GB, Europe & World. In Div 2, our Olympians and GB teams are pretty much invisible, because of the training and racing that they do, and are basically watched on You Tube. But you would see your local champions every week and they are within reach. Train hard and you can catch them up. Which produces aspiration.

If each club has a paid coach to deliver basic coaching and a training structure...kids will come and join in. (like rugby mini's) Get them racing against their mates and they will improve. If each club recruits 20 kids a year (5 kids from 4 schools for example) into their program from schools and other sports clubs (out of season) by making it formal and credible by getting the infrastructure right, then clubs will grow, memberships will grow, BCU memberships will grow, competition entries will grow and overall standards will improve. But they can't all make the GB team or the RTA and unless they do, there's little else for them. Which is where the club and regional competitions will fit in.

From the intake into clubs, those that drop out of slalom might well get involved in polo, marathon or sprint...or just enjoy going for a paddle...but will keep on canoeing. Slalom is a great gateway into all types of canoeing. So if we spend money on developing this infrastructure, we are developing the future of our sport. Developing more clubs will mean that slalom is available in more places so people relocating at Uni will always have a club nearby to help with race attendance etc. Maybe they will be welcomed by that club as they are regional team paddlers or suchlike and will enhance that team. So they transfer from club to club.

So an idea might be to add some focus on regional achievement (as they do in France & Germany) and develop a series of regional competitions, separate from the divisional races that are selection races for the next layer of competition. Everyone loves the Interclubs...but we only do it once per year. We could run local & regional under 14',16, 18 & 23 competitions. Then get kids representing their school, club, county and region.

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