Do bushwalk leaders need training from qualified instructors? Can you learn on-the-job? Will formal leadership training spoil the informality of Club walks?First of all, I have to admit that I need no convincing of the benefits of skill training for the outdoors. I have always believed that training from qualified and experienced practitioners is the best and quickest way to develop skills and confidence in the outdoors. Whenever I have wanted to broaden my outdoor skills, seeking qualified instructors has always been my first step, and I have then applied this training in my own environment and refined it to suit my personality and goals.
The argument about whether young adults should be taught to drive by their parents or by a qualified driving instructor is similar in my view to how you should learn a new outdoor skill? When I decided to get a small bus licence a few years ago, my employer paid for some lessons and this taught me that parents are not the best instructors for a learner-driver to have. I soon found that I had developed lots of bad habits over the many years since I first sat for my own driving test, some of which would have been sufficiently serious to fail me in my bus driving test, if not corrected. What if I had tried to teach my own children to drive? Would I have passed on my bad habits to them?
Learning-on-the-job is often the best way to learn, but only if the mentor has kept up-to-date with recent advances and has broad experience outside the Club. Many Clubs have a leadership structure where "leaders-in-training" are assessed and coached by experience Club members, almost all of whom have had no formal training and most of whom, have learnt from other "senior" Club members, who in turn have learnt from other "senior" Club members. There is a real risk that bad habits are passed from one generation of Club members to the next and that this "in-breeding" becomes a Club tradition.
Some Clubs are openly antagonistic to ideas from outside which threaten the status quo and challenge the Club's way of doing things. Sadly I can recall many years ago, when I was about to attend my first Club walk, being warned never to mention I had any formal bushwalking training.
In many Clubs things have not changed.
Formal leadership and skills training should not spoil the informality of Club walks, rather it should improve the enjoyment and safety of all.
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