Think back to when you first started learning a hobby or skill with a teacher or instructor. Do you have positive memories? Did you have fun? Are you still actively involved in that hobby now?
If your answer to the above is yes, then you will almost certainly remember having a great instructor. Instructors play an integral part in the life of students. They are the ones who introduce the hobby to students and can inspire them to learn. They establish the foundation so that students can continue to build upon it. When there is a difficult or boring task at hand, it is the instructor who must find a way to spark joy in the learning process. This will determine whether you continue pursuing the activity or not, or whether it will reignite an interest in starting back where you left off previously. Your first memories always stay with you, whether they were some of the best moments in your life, or the worst.
In snowsports, it is no different. We frequently hear stories where children have come from a lesson crying and never want to go back out on the snow. Adults, even without the tears, have similar traumatic experiences of being pushed beyond their limits, not enjoying their time on the snow and become reluctant to step foot on a board of a pair of skis ever again. How the instructor approaches and delivers a lesson will dictate the student’s experience and whether or not they will continue to learn.
There is a misconception that the best instructors must be the top performing skiers and snowboarders, or the highest qualified or certified. This is not always the case. Many top performing and highly qualified skiers and snowboarders are used to their own personal training routines which are high-intensity and extremely self-focused. This however does not translate to students who are not at a similar level or who are not training professionally. High-performing athletes often forget who the lesson is for and transfer their attitude and intensity into their lessons, overcomplicating ideas and use teaching methods that their students aren’t ready for. They may also approach the lesson with unrealistic expectations that the student will progress quickly, which leads to frustration as a result.
On the other hand, top instructors are top performing teachers who bring the sport to life and excitement for the student. They have vast experience in teaching at all levels, can quickly identify suitable techniques for the student to improve without frustration, and have a selfless attitude.
The Truth: The best instructors deliver lessons that are about the student, not the teacher.
What makes a great instructor
An instructor’s attitude, patience and ability to empathise are qualities that will very quickly separate the good instructors from the great instructors.
Patience is often undervalued. Learning something new for some students may be extremely easy and require little assistance from the instructor. But for most people, it is highly challenging and great instructors possess a calmness and can provide assistance at a suitable pace for the student. They will be continuously supportive and encouraging. The best instructors have the student’s well-being and interests at heart, and will do their best in passing their knowledge and educating them.
Effective Communication Skills
Great instructors have a natural ability to communicate effectively with the student. They listen acutely to the student’s feedback and concerns, while also observing their performance. A great instructor knows that every student is different so all feedback should be tailored to the individual student.
Top instructors have the ability to communicate in a way that the student will easily understand the concepts being taught and be inspired.
Top instructors will have years of teaching experience under their belt. This means they can adapt lessons based on the student’s progress and motivation, can quickly change tactics depending on what the student does or doesn’t respond to, and can energise and motivate and even the most uninterested student.