July 2015

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Race Instructing versus Race Coaching

The job of a race instructor can be defined in one sentence, he or she tells the participant what to do, and he/she obeys. The job of a race coach is far more complex than that of a race instructor, so defining the role of a motorsport coach cannot be described in one sentence.

Testing Maserati race cars with F1 driver Ivan Capelli

Testing Maserati race cars with Ivan Capelli – Ferrari F1 driver & Italian TV Commentator

Becoming an ARDS race instructor (Association of Racing Driver Schools) requires the applicant to have a high level of race experience and a First Aid certificate. The applicant then goes to an MSA recognised race school to be assessed by its chief instructor. If accepted, training is ‘on the job’ and if you do not meet the needs of the race school, you are cast adrift. This system provides a good grounding, and the instructor can gradually climb the ladder (there are 6 grades of ARDS Instructor). This ARDS controlled system has worked well for many years but is not a nationally recognised qualification, like say from an examination board or a university degree.

To bring motorsport coaching into line with qualified sports coaches of major sports, a new qualification has just been launched. It is recognised nationally by OFQUAL, (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation). OFQUAL regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments. It took 3 years to design the new course. A pilot course with guinea pig students was approved and then came the first regular course launched in June 2015. And I was on it.

The starting point to be accepted on the course is already high. You have to be at the top end of the ARDS grading structure and conversant with all aspects of race instruction including coaching from video and comparative data traces. Two courses are available: Participation Motorsport (for coaching groups) and the one I chose: Performance Motorsport (for coaching individuals).

I thought, rather naively, that I could sit and listen to four days of classroom chat and then receive my posh new qualification. Not the case. Firstly, there were two days of intense study, then three to four weeks of homework and days of exam papers to complete. Then another day in the classroom, more homework and exam papers, and finally the last day of classroom, all of which included constant assessment. It was also necessary to get everything right in order to attain a pass. No 60% pass rate here, everything has to be 100% right. Any vague answers, are rescued by an interrogation to confirm your understanding. The subjects studied were many and included psychology, fitness and nutrition, codes of practice, drug taking, physiology and more…. End result: I passed and am now an MSA Certified Level 2 Performance Motorsport Coach.

So why should a race instructor go on this course? If he or she has any long term plans in driver training, then it is a must do. The differences between a race instructor and a race coach are many. A race instructor barks orders, while race coaching is holistic. A coach mentors the participant on every aspect of the sport and explains why things are done. Race instruction gets you around a particular track but delivers short term skill retention, whereas race coaching techniques are useful globally and give long-term skill retention.

Not only has the course improved my driver training days but also my racing, as self-coaching comes automatically; something I had not considered when I signed up. I wish the course had existed 50 years ago when I started mucking about on race tracks.