Last week (31/3-5/4) I was in Slovenia for the Gene17 next Generation training course. We were based in the beautiful Soča Valley in the Julian alps not far from the Italian border in north west Slovenia. This area has become very well known in the kayaking community as the place to go in Europe for nice class 2-4 white water, predictable levels, good weather and excellent ice cream!.
The Soča lends itself perfectly to this type of course. It offers lots of natural classrooms for improving personal skills and developing your coaching. The Next Generation course has been running for a number of years now, it was know as future staff training until this year when it was made open to paddlers to apply for a place on the course. There were 12 places available over 2 weeks. It suited me best to go on the second week.
The week consisted of 6 days of intensive training. The course aims to give participants an insight into the coaching and guiding philosophies of Gene17 and its instructors. There was a good variety of skills and back rounds in the group which allowed each of us to work on specific techniques and training goals. For me I wanted to keep developing my coaches eye and feedback techniques , as well as improving my own paddling technique. We looked at everything from forward paddling to leadership and safety and rescue. Lots of healthy discussions and debates took place over the week on various topics.
We paddled the Classic section and slalom course a lot for the first couple of days as well as the upper Soča, Koritnica and Otona on the remaining days. The water level was good for the week at about 30 cumics. (on the high side for Siphon Canyon!). Training on grade 2/3 doesn't sound the most adrenalin fuelled experience in the world, but it is here that the real skills are honed both as a student and as a coach. Getting it right on this grade allows the student to become a better paddler and progress further on into more difficult white water. I found it very rewarding to spend quiet a lot of time on flat and slow moving water refining fundamental skills and stripping them back to the basic elements.
I would definitely recommend this course to any up and coming kayakers who want to make a living in the industry. You will learn a lot about how the industry works and how you should go about becoming a professional guide/coach.
The Next Generation course is definitely not a holiday and you will work hard, but the rewards and opportunities are there if you want to take them.
David Horkan from Paddle & Pedal. Posting info on various outdoor adventures in Mayo and around Ireland.