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I’m sitting on an 8 foot surfboard, dangling my legs in crystal clear warm blue water and watching the sun set over the horizon. The swell is 4-6 foot and in the space of a few short days I have moved from the beginners’ class to the intermediate class.

On one side of me is a father and daughter from the northern beaches of NSW who have been surfing together for 20 years and on the other side laconically sits our local Indonesian surf instructor Dano.

Suddenly I hear Dano scream “Go Dave! GO!!!” … and I know the next wave is ripe for me.

In early August I was lucky to take some time off and head to Bali with the sole purpose of being a student again. I put myself back in the shoes of a new student, to learn surfing for the first time in my life. And let me tell you honestly, learning this new skill called ‘surfing’ was exhausting, hard, scary, frustrating and damn exhilarating.

The learning process was what I would call … illuminating and reaffirming.

Back on solid ground in Port Melbourne, we expect our students at Kids in Motion to step out of their comfort zones every week. Additionally, I expect my team to do the same when it comes to their skills as a teacher. Therefore, in my mind it is only right that I lead from the front and do the same. Put myself in uncomfortable waters and remind myself what it feels like to be out of your depth. (pun intended)

Being a student again was wonderful experience. I love learning and I have an insatiable appetite to move my body and learn new skills.

I really wanted to master this new skill, to stand up confidently, carve up a wave, have people say ‘You’re a natural’ and that I should be competing internationally. But realistically … I just want to see steady progress.

If I can see myself improving each time, then I am happy and I’m proud of myself and I will stay engaged and motivated.

The same applies to our students, and as a teacher it is important to realise that your students feel the same as you do being back at the starting line. There are going to be periods where they are scared, exhausted, frustrated and exhilarated. But most of all, they just want to see continual progress and be proud of their efforts.

After teaching for over 35 years, it is near impossible for me not to analyse the coaching / teaching performance of an instructor standing in front of me. I do it without thinking. And every single time I step back into the shoes of a student and adopt the beginner’s mindset it helps to re-affirm my own beliefs about what a coach should be providing to their student and in what order. Whilst I was in Bali I had 3 different private surfing instructors and they all passed on the same technical knowledge but only one made me feel confident, made me relaxed, made the experience enjoyable and knew how to keep giving me little wins to keep me motivated and engaged.

Only one instructor made me feel seen, made me feel like they really wanted to be sitting out there with me for 3 hours each day.

Only one made me feel like they really wanted me to succeed.

Only one instructor was able to engage in witty banter and as a result made the learning process more engaging and interesting.

My second instructor felt that after 4 days, I needed to move to a much shorter board. Sadly, I spend the whole day falling off and did not enjoy the day at all. His view was that I needed to learn on a short board and he was right IF I was going to be there for maybe the next month or so and he was looking to fast track the process.

But I was only there for another day or two and I just wanted repeated success. Little wins … to keep me engage and motivated and having fun.

After all, that’s why I was there, that’s why I took on the challenge. I didn’t do it to be a champion surfer … only to have some degree of success and have some fun. Unfortunately, as a teacher, he was unable to see where I was in the learning process and what I needed at that particular point in time.

On my return home and in our first team training session I reminded the team of the lesson I had learnt while away. I also reinforced to them that instilling a level of confidence in their students trumps most everything else.

If a teacher or coach is giving the right technical feedback to a student, but not making me believe in themselves, not building them up with confidence, then the feedback isn’t taken on board. Sure, you hear it, but you don’t use it. I certainly didn’t embody the feedback in the same way. It was the same technical message but a sense of self belief was not passed onto by my first two instructors and as a result my performance was not the same.

At Kids in Motion we stopped calling ourselves a movement program a few years back.


We call ourselves a CONFIDENCE PROGRAM.

At Kids in Motion we ask our coaches to focus on control of our classes first (as this is the way to ensure safety) but after they have achieved that … we have them focus on their messaging, because this is what builds confidence.

These two things combined (control and messaging) make our students feel safe, supported and connected.

I plan on heading back to Bali again.

I want to go back to reinforce the fundamental surf lessons and learn some more insights from the perspective of a new student. It can only help me and my team and ultimately help YOUR kids.

Until then …

Hang Ten and Stay Frosty!

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