ADAPT: Earning the Right to Teach
Occasionally we get asked why the ADAPT Qualifications are so physically demanding, when in principle they are only coaching qualifications? It’s a fair question, I suppose, and one the creators of ADAPT thought about long and hard when the system was developed around 5 years ago now. And while a small part of me does think that if you’re asking that question you’re probably in the wrong game, a larger part of me feels compelled to elucidate.
I think I’d still try to save myself some words, however, by pointing the inquisitor to the following article entitled ‘Be What You Teach’, of which the basic premise is that anyone looking to teach or coach any discipline should first ensure they are sufficiently competent in that discipline. Why should it be any other way? A teacher of mathematics has to be pretty good at mathematics. A dance teacher needs to be able to move and move well. A driving instructor has to know how to drive a car. A military instructor needs to be experienced in combat. Otherwise, how the hell do they know if what they are teaching works? A physical discipline like parkour is no different – in fact, I’d argue that due to its difficulty and potential risk if learned badly it is even more important for a teacher of parkour to be highly experienced in the discipline.
Leading, coaching, teaching.. whatever you call it, it’s a huge responsibility. You’re putting yourself into a position of authority, voluntarily. You had better be able to back that up, and you should have the integrity to want to earn that right, not just assume it due to the ‘inclusiveness’ of the current culture we live in. There are good points to that inclusivity, of course, but there are also terrible weaknesses. Apprenticeships in a discipline or craft used to be served for years, with quiet focus and hard work the guiding impulses. The result was the production of true masters – the Da Vincis, the Michelangelos, the Einsteins of the world. Now, becoming a certified ‘teacher’ of something can take as little as a couple of days with no prior experience of that discipline… Does that seem a little insane to anyone else, or is it just me? In fact, the ADAPT Level 2 is the only sports coach qualification in the UK that actually requires the candidates to demonstrate that they can practice the relevant activity. The only one.
In parkour, I think this means paying your dues: training hard and shedding blood, sweat and tears in the discipline to attain that deeper understanding and insight into not only the movement and the methodology but also into the meaning of the practice and the many non-physical benefits it can bring. Then you’ve earned the right to share your hard-won knowledge with others.
And if that’s the case, why shouldn’t you be asked to demonstrate your experience before you are given the title of ‘coach’? I wouldn’t dream of teaching any art unless I was highly proficient in it and capable of demonstrating that proficiency. It would be utterly meaningless to me were it any other way.
Of course, there are and will be exceptions. Older practitioners, who have been through the years of training and gained the knowledge and experience but are no longer capable of performing at the highest level – of course those individuals can be fantastic coaches, arguably some of the best, and shouldn’t be prevented from attaining the necessary certifications. Or practitioners with disabilities who are physically unable to complete certain exercises or movements. In ADAPT the assessment system does have the ability to take age and other factors into account, it’s mainly a matter of common sense and the good judgement of the assessors, who are all highly experienced practitioners, coaches and tutors in their own rights. But those are exceptions that prove the rule. To make a rule based on accommodating exceptions is to render the rule meaningless from the start. That’s not the right way to do it.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m firmly of the opinion that standards have to be set high and striven for in order for any certification or qualification to mean something. Lowering those standards to the lowest common denominator simply ensures a lowering of quality across the board.
ADAPT was created to promote and maintain the standards and principles of parkour, to ensure that each new generation would be passing the discipline on accurately and effectively. A big part of that discipline is found in the values and the spirit of the art – and that’s something that cannot easily be communicated, but is in fact best displayed by those who teach. And so, asking that an aspiring coach be capable of demonstrating the qualities needed in a role model for this discipline seems to me to be not only advisable but in fact absolutely vital.
The Level 2 ADAPT Qualification comprises of a 5-day training course, containing over 40 hours of guided learning and training, followed by at least 3 months of self-reflective coaching practice of upto 40 sessions and rounded off with a rigorous 2-day assessment phase containing a physical and technical test, a written test and a full day of practical coaching assessments. It’s a blend of coaching methodology and technical expertise. It’s a lengthy process and one that requires commitment, determination, knowledge, experience and passion. You’ve got to want it, you’ve got to be prepared to earn it and demonstrate that you are capable of guiding others along this very demanding but incredibly inspiring path.
We don’t apologise for that; we’re proud of it. ADAPT sets very high standards and expects people to reach them. It also helps people to reach them, which is the most important point. All those who have passed the Level 2 or 3 Qualifications look back on the experience with great pride, knowing that their years of training have been put to the test and that they were not found wanting. They know they have joined an elite network of coaches who have all shared the same experience. And they know that if they were to meet any other fellow graduate they would instantly know that individual to have a certain level of strength, knowledge, coaching ability and passion for parkour. They share a silent understanding and a bond that transcends language and culture.
We take coaching seriously. Very seriously. It’s as important a profession as law, medicine, school teaching, policing, etc… because it has the power to shape people’s lives for the better, or worse, depending on the quality of the coach. A good coach can have an enormous positive effect on a young person’s self-esteem, confidence, self-belief, even their direction in life. A bad coach can have an equally powerful, but negative, effect. Which are you going to be? And do you think that having that power, that influence, should be given out to just anyone?
Or should it be earned?