In early November I flew out to Botswana to visit the CC coaching team in Maun, grabbing the opportunity to finally see them in action after a long and sometimes painful year of lockdowns, travel interruptions and school closures. A year ago I had watched these guys work their way through the week-long online training program we had designed in collaboration with the Southern African Wildlife College and been impressed by their energy and enthusiasm – despite the long hours they were asked to spend listening to Zoom presentations in front of socially distanced computers.
Now I was excited to see how the coaches were getting along on the ground.
Our online course is designed to equip coaches with the knowledge needed to effectively deliver a Coaching Conservation program, including the necessary theoretical background in ecology, ethology, and pedagogy, all tailored to our ‘Learning from Wildlife’ teaching model. However, the secret ingredient is and always has been the ability of CC coaches to really inspire kids, ensuring every kid has the most fun and memorable experience possible, in order to motivate as much empathy for threatened wildlife as is possible.
Accordingly, we had always intended that alongside the online theory course, fully qualified CC coaches would also need to complete a practical examination that assessed their ability to actually deliver sessions to kids on the field. This was the assessment I was here to oversee, and so, a few days after I arrived in Maun, we visited Thitoyamokodi School for the coaches to deliver a Vulture RAP to the Standard 6 class and to try out delivery of our new We Are All Connected (WAAC) game.
The coaches were all eager to complete their qualification and show off their skills, but Head Coach, Tjipo Keaikitse, volunteered to be assessed first. Taking charge of the Vulture RAP, she quickly demonstrated all the energy and charisma we expect from CC coaches, together with a masterful grasp of the lesson’s content, and it was clear that there was not a huge amount for me to critique here. However, the best professionals are always looking to improve, and so we sat down later to discuss some areas where we agreed her delivery could be strengthened even further.
The WAAC game was more of a challenge, but this was undoubtedly down to the game’s design more than the coaches’ delivery and provided me with a different valuable lesson. Tjipo and I agreed to put our heads at the first opportunity to work on ways to improve how this game works and is understood, finding the best way to really convey our ‘We Are All Connected’ message.
A week later and we were at Disaneng School. This time, Coach Omolelo volunteered to lead the session – another Vulture RAP to a standard 6 class – and the coaching team also added some of the tweaks to the lesson we had discussed after last week. We changed the running order slightly to break up the longer ‘classroom’ elements and added music to build more energy into the session. The delivery felt noticeably stronger and the kids were buzzing. The coaches also seemed happy, rightly taking pride in a job well done.
Tjipo and Omolelo thus became our first two fully certified coaches in Maun. They have set the bar high. Now it’s up to the boys – Oscar, Rambo and Otlaathusa – to show what they can do!