By Craig “Renski” Reynolds

Many new and old instructors are confused about the difference between snowboard instructing and snowboard coaching and are not sure whether we are instructors or coaches, or when we should be instructing and when we should be coaching.  The truth is we are both and it’s more the style of teaching we use to get our point across.  Firstly we must understand what an instructor is and what a coach is.  Then look at the differences between the two.

An Instructor is a qualified person who will show you how to use the equipment, someone whose job is to teach you a skill or sport.

A Coach’s role is to train or to instruct.  Train an athlete for team.

A good analogy I like to use is the old Chinese proverb:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Give a man a fish is the instructor teaching the student and giving them new skills, but they will be limited.  Teach a man to fish is like showing the student how to use these skills to improve, and the possibilities are endless (Coaching).

Predominantly at the lower levels it’s more task, command and practice.  The student has little or no knowledge so there would be less coaching and more instruction.  As the student’s skills and awareness develops then we can start using guided discovery and coach them towards a goal or outcome.  As the student develops even further towards the higher levels then we can use problem solving as the student has skills and experiences to solve the problems and there can be a few different solutions or outcomes.  This involves very little instructing but more self learning for the student.  The last teaching style is reciprocal where the students have more knowledge, experience and more skills on a snowboard and where the students are paired up and learning and feedback is off each other.  At higher-end levels there will be coaching involved as the students may have a fair bit of experience and knowledge about snowboarding and good riders, and therefore need less instruction, but this depends on the style of teaching the instructor/coach is using as some instructors could be teaching high end levels but using very little coaching.

When we are instructing we can coach them through a task and when we are coaching we may need to instruct them on a task first.  A lot of instructors believe we are instructors when we teach the lower levels and coaching at the higher levels e.g. a karate instructor teaches a class and a karate coach teachers instructors or higher end karate students.  If this was the case have you ever head of a soccer instructor?  No it’s always a soccer coach even at the beginning.  That’s why I believe it’s more a status people calling themselves coaches when it reality we are both instructors and coaches.  We can coach from the beginning and this will make us better instructors.  We will get better results from our students as we can help create awareness and pass on our experiences which can help them learn quicker.  It will also help students learn what to do in certain situations even if we are not there to teach them.  We can also coach them on preparing the body physically, gaining a mental edge, preventing injury, rehabilitation, and fueling the body.  This will really benefit high-end students or athletes in competition.

As instructors we are better riders and more knowledgeable than our students.  When a coach is teaching a student/athlete he is most of the time not better than his students or athletes but more knowledgeable in conditioning, mental edge, body mechanics, and knows his student/athlete well and how to get the best our of them by using the right teaching techniques and multiple intelligences that work best for that individual or team.  So therefore coaching is more of an athlete/student centered approach to learning and creating confidence, self belief, awareness based around their own skills.

So the difference between a Snowboard Instructor and Snowboard Coach is the style of teaching.  An instructor will be teaching mostly lower level students and using more task/command to get the message across as the students will have little or no knowledge of the task at hand.  A Snowboard Coach will be dealing with higher end students or athletes and the main focus may not be just the task at hand but also the mental and physical conditioning of the student or athlete.  A coach will be using less task and commence exercises and focusing more on creating awareness to help the rider improve.  So the rider will feel the improvements and know when to use these skills and tactics.  So Snowboard Instructors teaching higher end students will be using more a mixture of instructing and coaching skills e.g. if it’s a brand new task they may use a task or command style at first and then as the student develops they will need coaching through the task to help create awareness.

Every student we teach is difference to the last and responds differently, so knowing what style of teaching to use comes with experience.  If something doesn’t work then we try something else and a good Instructor and Coach will have many tricks in their bag to cater for this.  This is why it is very important to spend time learning from our students/athletes and to build a relationship so we will have a good idea of what teaching style or approach will work best before we even strap in.