You’re at the put-in. You have your leadership team, and the rest of the group is assembling. All of the participants have been screened, but some you have not paddled with. How do you assess their abilities? How do you know how they will react if the environment presents a challenge? How do you assess the abilities of your group overall? What are the potential environmental challenges, and how will you manage your outing so that you don’t go beyond a reasonable level of risk for your group?
As leaders, these are some of the questions running through our minds as the day is taking shape. What is your comfort level as you consider them? Do you feel prepared? Are you able to avoid having that uncomfortable feeling that things are not as they should be? How do you know you are ready?
Being ready comes down to how well you and your team have developed the personal and leadership skills necessary to successfully operate in your chosen environment. Have you and your team members developed a technical skill level that comfortably exceeds that required for the difficulty of your outing? Have you practiced together as a team to know how the execution of those skills might go when you need them? It really comes down to preparation – both yours and your team’s.
So what are skill areas that require development? For sea kayaking, here is a list of the basics:
Trip planning and execution
Developing skills in these areas will help you with techniques on how to determine the skill level or your participants, how to develop a trip plan and adjust if needed, how to manage your trip underway, and how to handle difficulties should they arise.
What are some ways to develop these skills, and how is it done as a team? Engaging competent trainers is one of the best ways to develop skills. But what skills do your team members have expertise in? Can they be engaged in helping to train?
Any experienced team is going to have a lot of expertise. Using that expertise in the development of you and your team both strengthens the engagement of team members in training and advances the skill level of your group.