On Saturday I had the pleasure of teaching a Rider Skills Practice class here in Albany. This class is similar to the MSF Experienced Rider Course. We help riders tune up their cornering, braking, and other accident avoidance skills. The afternoon was graced with perfect sunny weather and an awesome group of 10 riders.
This is the first course I've taught this year that wasn't a Basic Class. Being able to work with these more advanced riders was a great boost to my enthusiasm. These folks came in already possessing good skills. It was obvious that they were hungry for information and skill sharpening. By the end of the afternoon is was clear that this group got plenty of both.
At the beginning of the class our students complete a circuit ride. It's a series of exercises designed to allow them to see where they are coming in. The circuit ride consists of a 90 degree sharp turn followed by a barrel ride. The barrel ride is similar to what you see at horse events. It requires tight turns around a series of three cones. After the barrel ride comes a faster corner followed by a swerve. The swerve cones are set at 13 feet so it's fairly tight. A maximum braking stop ends the ride. This is not a pass / fail course. However, we score the run so the riders have a baseline.
Instructors have been known to get down on the pavement and wrestle over who gets to do the demonstration runs!
During the class we work on the individual elements with some extra skill work thrown in. At the end of class we do the circuit ride again, scoring the second run. Our group was a bit rusty at the beginning. By the second ride, they were looking pretty darn sharp. Huge improvement!
The benefit to the riders from the class is immediately evident.
As you can imagine, my teaching partner Aria and I were pretty busy. I did manage to get a few quick photos during the afternoon.
At the end of the day I was chatting with the group about whether we had helped them to accomplish their objectives. I found myself making this statement to them.
"Training teaches us what we need to practice."
If I say so myself, I find that a bit profound. There's two ways to look at that statement as I reflect on it.
Firstly, coming to training helps us to identify where we are in our skills. We find that some skills are pretty solid. We also find out which ones need some extra work. Those are the ones we should give priority to when we practice on our own outside of a formal training environment.
Secondly, the training shows us the correct technique to practice later. Practicing the wrong technique just reinforces a bad habit. Training teaches us the proper way to execute a skill. It's not solely practice that makes perfect. It's perfect practice that makes perfect.
I actually had a day off yesterday. After church Katie and I went and wandered the mall. We saw The Director in a store. Saturday's class must have been great for me. I found myself enthusiastically running off at the mouth about what a wonderful experience it was when we chatted.
Here's a sincere expression of appreciation to our students. You all provided refreshment to my soul when I really needed it. Thank you so much for your wonderful attitudes toward riding and training!
Miles and smiles,