From our original article, “10 Tips: Creating Opportunities for a Rewarding Career in Coaching,” we discussed how connecting with other coaches, skills clinics, guiding groups, even stores like REI, who have had many instructors go through our program as they teach their outdoor schools to the public, are great ways to practice what you’ve learned in your certification. Volunteering should not be discounted; it’s a way to see how other coaching and guiding programs are run and, potentially, become a part of their team as a paid instructor to supplement your ventures. Successful programs, like The Trek Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camps, are seeking skilled volunteers and coaches to help their successful program (Registrations started February, 1, 2019). Today, we’ll discuss how to volunteer with them and the benefits of doing so, from personal experience.
Approximately 10 years ago, I participated in my first mountain bike skills clinic with the Trek Dirt Series. I had no idea to the extent I could take my skills by taking this class, but I was immediately hooked. What started as a way to get fun, focused, instruction, became a way for me to give back as a volunteer and encourage others to be as excited about the outdoors and mountain biking as I was. I’d heard they needed people to sweep rides or help with other camp functions. After a few years of this, the question I asked was not just “how can I help this program and others?” but, “I want to become a coach; how can I gain relevant experience?”
Becoming a volunteer for Trek Dirt Series has been one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve held most every volunteer job with them (this also covers non-instructional jobs) which has given me a deeper appreciation for all that goes into a program that really values their participants. This is critical if you are building your own program. It’s not just good customer service with a smile; it’s all the other details they take into consideration that leave participants with such a good feeling that brings them back year after year. Below is a break down of the tasks I’ve worked within and expectations that come with them:
- On the riding and instruction side, you get to witness how skills areas and break down each skill. You get to hear them talk through the progressions and careful wording of corrections while at the same time exuding energy and encouragement that supports a positive learning environment. If you are assisting skills sessions, you are there to help while the main instructor is the primary voice. Our goal as assistants and coaches is to provide that safe and fun environment that is not conflicting or confusing. Take mental notes, share with your lead instructors any observations you have, discreetly. I urge you to meet with your assigned lead prior to the session and talk over any skills you’re working on. It’s good to connect on how they present skills and how you learned them. If you are sweeping rides, your role is similar, while also paying close attention to safety on the trail (watching for foot/bike/animal traffic, provide extra first aid knowledge if needed).
- If you’re helping with lunches or other administrative tasks (registration, coffee, prizes, retail, etc.), you are interacting with the participants- asking them questions about their experiences, ask them about where they are from or where they ride, what skills they worked on during the morning session, etc. Your role is no less encouraging and adds to the positive ambiance; plus, you get to meet other fun people who are excited to ride- and whom you may see on the trails outside of the camps! You will also be communicating with the camp’s lead hand (camp manager) and ask if there is anything else you can do if you have down time.
- Co-ed and women’s-specific camps: During the women’s camps, you will mainly see women coaching and assisting by design, and, as a result, there will be more need for women to volunteer; however, men are welcome and will be incorporated as ride sweeps as well into the various admin & programming functions like bike fit/demo bike set-ups, that helps make the camp a success.
Volunteering or assisting is not a paid position, however, the Trek Dirt Series is genuinely grateful to you and for your experience. You do not leave empty handed; you’re learning, too, in a fun environment, and receive many goodies for helping. For specifics on volunteering, please visit: http://www.dirtseries.com/volunteer and don’t forget to complete their volunteer questionnaire. They go out of their way to make sure you – as well as the participants – have a great experience. Your hard work pays off!
Should you want to coach, I’d encourage you volunteering at a few camps first, then, send any resumes/certifications/letter of intent to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to review their Frequently Asked Questions too.
When I started, I was not certified in any way, but after helping the Dirt Series for so many years, I knew that getting my BICP Certification helps them be a greater value to participants. While they get a certified, prepared, and knowledgeable, volunteer that adds to the supportive learning environment #inspirethestoke #moreskillsmorefun , the participants feel like they’re getting even more personalized attention! Not having a bike park or a steady flow of tourists to my area to practice skills from BICP with, the Dirt Series has helped me, tenfold, to become the coach I want to be.
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