by Mark Brewster
Acquiring my Level 2 coaching licence early in 2004 was always, it seemed, going to be a natural progression. Having assisted at many of Gipping Valley Angling Club’s ‘Have a Go’ days, I was then heavily involved in setting up the club’s Junior Academy. In 2007, GVAC coaches took on the additional responsibility of managing the young Suffolk County squad. Proving more than an occasional distraction from domestic coaching commitments; this sees us continue to travel up and down the country with teams of young anglers of varying ages as they compete in national events on canals, commercial fisheries and occasionally, on rivers.
My own development as a club and occasional open match angler for some 35 years or so was always going to be tempered by my coaching commitments. My departure from work in the financial services industry, somewhat earlier than planned in 2009, coincided with an opportunity to develop an after-school angling group with Springfield Junior School in Ipswich. In 2014, I delivered my 200th school coaching session, with interest snowballing after the initial projects proved so popular with both pupils and staff. Fishing it seems, continues to have a positive effect on pupils’ behaviour, whilst also ‘contributing to a healthier lifestyle’ (the latter being a direct quote from an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted report in 2014 for one of the schools I work with. Having worked with around 18 schools in total, I’ve also delivered projects for pupil referral units (PRUs) and local authorities. After becoming a professional coach in 2009 therefore, I chose to prioritise coaching ahead of catching; I am after all, paid to do the former, not the latter!
I relish the challenge of coaching teams in national competition. I’ve always looked to incorporate relevant coaching philosophies when I can and I’m absolutely convinced that ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’ (Sir Dave Brailsford CBE) and ‘critical non-essentials’ (Sir Clive Woodward OBE) have a part to play in team fishing, just as they do in more mainstream sports.
My coaching led to a change in direction in my own angling ‘career’ in 2011 when short session chubbing on my local River Gipping became a means by which I could dovetail some fishing in of my own, as I became busier with coaching. An invitation to be become part of the team of consultants at LaGuna/Pristex was an unexpected, but nonetheless, pleasant surprise. I can only think that, as a coach, I may be able to bring something a little different to the table; I’m certain it wasn’t my prowess with an Avon rod or my match fishing CV that caught the MD’s attention!
Soon after accepting the invitation, I began looking to incorporate company products in my own fishing and when coaching. I’ve always been one to flavour baits, even if only to make them a little different to the guy on the next peg. I have to say though, that experiences have convinced me beyond doubt, of the effectiveness of particular flavours for certain species of fish.
Right: Ciaran and Aston with a carp caught on Aqua-SPAWN™
Chance catches of colourful river perch when after chub, saw me look to fish for them specifically when the opportunity arose, and also endeavour to introduce school groups to the species. A small, greedy perch was often the first fish encountered by many an angler of a certain age. Sadly, these days it’s often a much larger carp that a youngster banks on their first trip; all the more reason to target ‘stripeys’ on occasion with school groups, I feel. In defence of the carp, they do provide guaranteed sport more often than not and the history of the species certainly sparks the interest of pupils and teachers, I’ve found. Fishing for hard fighting, ever-hungry, ‘match-sized’ carp has also provided ample opportunity for many pupils to try out some of the Pristex SAC™ juice bait activators.
Looking to challenge myself as a coach has seen me take small school groups along the Gipping, with chub as a target species. With a stealthy, quiet approach often required to bank a ‘chevin’ or two, catching them to order from a stretch of river that’s popular with ramblers and dog walkers is certainly not always easy – a ball or two of Christian Barker’s ‘posh’ cheese paste in the bait bag however, shortens the odds considerably!
Left: A perch that fell to king prawn doused in L-amino REACT™
A colleague once said to me that becoming qualified is just the start of a coach’s development. I’ve observed coaches delivering sessions, among others, in boxing, gymnastics and hockey. When networking with Suffolk Sport and working with schools, I’ve been privileged to see some very good coaches deliver enjoyable and informative sessions. They say it can take 20 years to become a good coach. I’ve also heard that coaching angling is the second-hardest sport to coach, behind sailing. I’m happy therefore, to continue to learn and hopefully, progress and develop. I may appreciate many aspects of sports psychology, but I’m no scientist. I have however, grasped the basic fundamentals of how SAC™ juice bait activators and L-amino REACT™ for instance work. Using these liquids and coating powders give me confidence and that surely, is an absolutely vital ingredient!
Right: Callum with his first river chub, taken from the Gipping on ‘posh’ cheese paste
Left: This carp picked up a piece of corn soaked in L-amino REACT™ and was banked on a float rod and centre pin set-up
WANT TO BECOME AN ANGLING COACH?
Go to the ‘HOW DO I BECOME AN ANGLING COACH?’ page on the Angling Trust’s website. Bursaries are often available through county sports partnerships (CSPs) and the Trust (contact your Regional Officer). Relevant workshops (Safeguarding and Protecting Children, First Aid etc.) are available through the Trust’s courses and through CSPs.
(Mark’s book, County Trials was published on Kindle on 1st January 2015 and is available in paperback from the author)