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Making a Career in Adaptive Sport and Recreation

It's been a wild and educational ride.

Making a Career in Adaptive Sport and Recreation

By George Shelton on April 20, 2021

Kim and I have just come off a Video chat with 15 high school students where they delved deep in what it takes to be a leader in adaptive sport and recreation. The questions really made us think! I also found we stumbled upon three words/phrases that we repeated in a variety of different scenarios/conversation. I thought I’d share them.

The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand another person’s feelings, experience and situation”. The process of understanding how your learner moves and thinks is key to their success especially when acquiring challenging skills in a unfamiliar environment. This is in my opinion is the fundamentals of all education. I’ve noticed in my own teaching as well as my peers teaching when the time is taken to learn about your student the greater the success of the lesson. This is even more important in the adaptive sports world where the mobility or learning style of the learner varies so much. Coming in with set expectations and rushing into a pre-made plan is often not conducive to a positive learning environment and successful acquisition of a new skill.

George & guest look and laugh at each other

When I was new to teaching or when I find myself teaching something I am less skilled at I often fall into the trap of releasing all the information in my brain in one meaty monologue about one topic. Similarly, I’ve seen myself over-explain every step that goes into learning a new skill and often be so hands on that my student has the inability to learn how to do the skill themselves or alternatively they are so overwhelmed by the quantity of information they’ve been just giving they just shut down.

As I’ve grown as an educator my ability to take a step back and be very selective on the information I deliver has improved hugely. Most notably on the ski hill it’s in what I’ve nicknamed as “ski admin”. Ski admin is the putting on of the boots, skis and helmet. Or the transfer into a sit ski and doing up the straps and travelling to the chairlift. These are very easy, as an instructor, to rush in to lend a hand with. In the early lessons this aid is vital; however their needs to be a shift where you as an instructor have to let go a little. Set up the situation for the student to be more independent. A lot of this ski admin takes a huge amount of co-ordination and strength so creating a situation where that can be learned incrementally is a huge part of being successful in a new sport. You can spread this principle across all aspect of a skill acquisition across all sports and tasks. A well timed ‘step back’ as a facilitator will allow an opportunity for the student has to be challenged in a safe environment resulting in a greater learning potential. Often as a side benefit you develop attributes such a resilience, problem solving and self-belief.

George smiling while wearing gloves on his ski helmet

Work out what your passions are and spread it! My 6 years living in the Bow Valley it’s hard to stumble across people without passion. Neighbors, family, friends and colleagues are beaming with stoke and excitement ready to share what their passions are. Slushy bump runs, new mountain bike trails, sunrise photography spots, new paddling skills, personal best Strava times, multi-sport days, books read, paintings panted…. The list goes on. What I find magical is when
you find someone with buckets of passion for an activity and the equal amounts of passion about sharing it. This combination is powerful! It’s hard to not want to learn from someone who lives and breathes the thing they are so skilled at. If you have a passion and you have a passion for sharing it and adapting it please reach out, it
might be the beginning of a brand new RMA activity or a big
leap in one of a current programs.

As I slide into my 6th year teaching for Rocky Mountain Adaptive, I recognize it’s my colleagues, the participants that return year on year and the extended RMA community that keep me here. I spend everyday learning, it’s unpredictable, emotional, insightful and addictive. As long as I continue to have a platform to learn and to share my ideas this will be an industry I will stay in. I can’t see that changing any time soon.

George looks at the sky smiling

Inspired by this Story?

If this story has inspired you to get involved in adaptive sports, we have a large range of accessible adventures available to you.

Join In the Fun

Want to join the fun and give back? Volunteering with Rocky Mountain Adaptive is a great way to support your community while assisting others.

Struggling with Mental Health?

If you are struggling with mental health, there are many great resources in the Bow Valley. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

Make a Difference

You can make a difference to the growth of adaptive sports by donating to the Clairey Lou Memorial Fund & Matthew Hamer Legacy Fund. Thank you.

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