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What I Learned: Cole Castonguay

Cycling BC HopOn after-school and summer coach Cole Castonguay joined our instructor team in 2022 with a referral from a fellow instructor, Elizabeth Khrisanova. Cole excelled in the role and even joined the local youth club, the Pizza Cats Cycling Academy as a mountain bike instructor.

In 2023, Cole is sharing his time between University studies, Escape Velocity’s DEVO program, and some visits with HopOn and Pizza Cats.

Continue reading to learn about the successes and challenges of Cole’s first season as a cycling coach.

June 2022

Hello Readers,

My first few months of coaching have been quite a ride. From certifications to after-school assisting to guiding my group at the club level. My confidence has come a long way, but there’s still ground to cover.

As we switch gears from after-school and club spring programs and tackle the summer season, what I want to work on the most is projecting confidence. I occasionally feel unsure of myself when directing the group, and I suspect that it shows. I also find myself wanting to be seen as a friend more than a coach, which can undermine my authority. Sometimes it’s more important to focus on the whole group than try to answer every single arbitrary question. I know from refereeing that I’m capable, I just need to achieve the right balance. However, that’s not to diminish what I’ve already accomplished. I’ve made leaps and bounds since my first spring break camp, and I’ve developed a sense of the HopOn teaching style. I’ve also gotten much better at organizing kids and myself.

The Pizza Cats mountain biking program has been my favourite by far. The kids, the environment, and the growth all add up to an amazing experience. Coaching at the club level feels more intuitive right now and gives me a boost of enthusiasm that rubs off on the kids. It’s also been interesting to watch the club grow exponentially. I think the progression from one kid to ten actually helped build up my coaching confidence. The only downside is the irrational guilt when the program doesn’t suit certain kids. For example, a kid who usually rides bike park and hates climbing might not find as much enjoyment, and sometimes I feel like it’s my responsibility.

Overall, I’ve had a wonderful introduction to Pizza Cats and HopOn, and look forwards to instructing upcoming programs in the summer and fall.

November 2022

Hello Readers,

Another good season has come to an end, and I find myself getting much more comfortable with my coaching roles. Unfortunately, at times I found myself getting a little too comfortable.

This season I had the chance to take on more of a leadership role and spent much more time coaching a smaller group on my own. Leading my own HopOn group solo was actually more difficult than my Pizza Cats group since the kids had short attention spans and a very large range of abilities. I learned how to communicate important information with as few words as possible, as well as how to make sure kids listened when the time came. The balance between coach and friend I discussed last time is still a thin line, but it’s becoming ever easier to follow. My biggest improvement over the season was definitely leading the group with more confidence and rarely losing the thread. When I first started coaching, I would sometimes get overwhelmed and try to get support from my coworkers, but now I have the confidence to manage my own group for a full session.

However, I’m still by no means a perfect coach. Two areas I’d like to improve are my organization and incorporating more advanced activities for the group.

I recall on the final day of our after-school program, my colleague who normally did rider check-in was away ill, so it took a little longer for me to get the practice going than normal. From now on, a 5-minute check the day before practice to organize the paperwork in my bag and double-check who will be present would be a good start, and deliberately shadow and share roles with my colleagues throughout the season to ensure we are all self-sufficient. It doesn’t take much effort and can be critical if something doesn’t go to plan.

The second area is less pressing, but I want to incorporate more interesting ideas that can help gear advanced concepts toward younger kids. Drills such as “Line of leaves” are fun for kids while teaching them important lessons, and I hope I can find more similar activities outside of the normal HopOn activity collection. It might also help keep coaching interesting to involve new activities, especially for the kids who are doing a similar program for the third or fourth time.

Some good times, some awkward lessons, a Thomas the tank engine sticker for my bike, and plenty of stoked kids later, my coaching progression winds on. Thanks for a great season and see you in the spring!

Cole Castonguay
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
-George Bernard Shaw


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