Teaching Technique: Close Your Eyes

      Teaching Technique: Close Your Eyes

Lene Baxter teaching a trainer kite lesson

Have you ever played basketball or soccer (or for that matter just about any sport besides kiteboarding)?  Growing up, I played a lot of sports.  It is what I lived for.  Since taking on the challenge as a kiteboarding instructor, I have found that I could take teaching (or coaching) techniques from those sports and apply them when teaching students.  Basketball practice provided numerous teaching techniques.  My grandfather bought goggles for me.  They weren’t normal goggles, but they only blocked your view down.  You could look up, straight, side to side…just not down.  The goal of this was, of course, to keep me from looking down at the ball and to trust the “feeling” of it.  I hated wearing them, but playing with those goggles in practice ultimately made me a better athlete.

Several weeks ago, I taught a beginner clinic to students involved in a kiteboarding club at their university.  Although these students had some time on a kite, they had serious gaps in their knowledge as well as a fear of the kite.  A healthy fear of the kite is important, it is what helps us to make sound decisions, but their fear was bordering on that irrational fear that keeps you from thinking (The fight or flight, much closer to flight).  The two students I was working with relied solely on sight.  They saw what the kite was doing and they would react by pulling the bar-often overcorrecting or undercorrecting to the point of getting dragged around or dropping the kite out of the sky.  With a lot of students, repetition and verbal coaching will correct any problems with this, but I wasn’t making adequate progress with these students.

I had the first student, the one the most afraid, set the kite at 3 and close her eyes.  When the kite moved from its position, I would ask what it was doing and then have the student open their eyes to look at the kite.  At first, there wasn’t a good sense of what was happening with the kite.  As the drill progressed and the student was gaining a better feeling, I had the student fix the kite and set it back at 3 whenever it dropped or rose while her eyes were still closed (Note that the student was talking me through her actions throughout the drill).  Once this skill was mastered, I had the student move the kite from 3 to 12 (zenith) and then back with her eyes closed.  She had much better control of the kite with her eyes closed than previously when

Lene teaching the relaunch

she had been watching the kite! Finally, I had the student drop the kite into the water and practice relaunching with her eyes closed.  Again, it was amazing.  She did it perfectly!

After I was done with the first student, I conducted the drill with the next student and achieved the same results.  It worked amazingly for both of them!  I am always telling students to make subtle adjustments, relax, and feel what the kite is doing.  It is always a challenge to make the student relax, especially the first time on the kite.  Without their sense of sight, they had to rely on what the kite was telling them.

I had previously done a drill similar to this with the trainer kite during lessons.  If a student was doing well and I had time, I would have the students look away from the kite at me as I stood about 45 degrees behind them while they went through the drills.  This worked well, but still allowed for the students to rely on being able to see the kite.

This drill would definitely benefit students, but it is a fine line on whether the students needs to conduct the drill during the lesson or if they are capable of doing it on their own.  In any case, with a student who is simply not getting a good “feel” of the kite, this is a perfect teaching technique.  As always, make sure you keep a hand on the student and have the right conditions that day for this technique!

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