In 1994 I finished hand writing ten thousand words which pondered the influence of jazz music on the poetry of the US Beat movement. Few if any of those ponders were mine, but I was captivated by the simple but complex notion that the written word could be bent to the will of sound; environment, artist and art in beautifully unpredictable flux; influencing and influenced. It pulled together my two worlds in a way I hadn’t imagined possible. It took nearly twenty years to get back to 1994.
It takes a special kind of someone to spend their working life in an airless recording studio, an existence spent permanently in the shade. When it came to an end for me after some 7 years, I feared I would never enjoy anything quite as much as being noisy. In the following years, I found myself teaching others to be noisy instead and at some point that crept quietly upon me, I became a teacher.
Once you love teaching – once you become good at teaching- you have to be a little bit cautious that people don’t notice. Otherwise, you may be asked to stop teaching and take charge instead. I never saw that one coming.
I was a mad-keen bike rider, racing mountain bikes and had begun to coach, even dropping a day of
pushing paper around teaching to coach for far less remuneration and far more reward. However, still believing at this point that it was my destiny to be a carefree beat poet and sonic architect it seemed sensible to give up my job and move to Wales. In hindsight, I think it was probably most fortunate that before my wife (who ran a record label) and I took the plunge, a somewhat unexpected call from a then stranger at British Cycling took me to Manchester and a new home in the Peak National Park (a solid distance for a commute by bike). It was 2007 and the next 6 years were full of learning experiences as the sport took on new national significance and around 300% more staff. Of course, I stopped riding my bike. Well, there simply wasn’t time…
Professional anxiety led me back to university part-time to learn a number of useless things about physiology. After all, how can you possibly be a real coach without an ology? Those were great years for consuming research, learning about leadership and followship and understanding learning and teaching within the coaching context.
In 2013, I came to the conclusion that I had wrung every bit of challenge from my role as Coaching and Education Manager and if I was ever going to write a novel and retire to the seaside I ought to crack on. I packed up a whole load of emergent ideas on talent and learning – as informed by my work in music and teaching as they were by sport- and went on to work with talent coaches and talent systems and some splendid but false notions about prediction, purpose and progression.
It was around this time that I became aware of a more satisfying narrative for the complex stories I became involved in every day. It was Uppy who introduced me to the application of ecological dynamics to learning. It helped me square my experiences and beliefs about learning and that uncomfortable feeling I got whenever someone talked about The System™.
Long as it may be, this story is the briefest of synopses. I’m on a pretty exciting page at the moment. Since 2014 I have been working with Sport England and UK Sport to help coaches understand how to make [their] learning happen and create the conditions for expertise. I’m coaching, writing, have a little space to think and I’m delighted to be helping people be their best with Al, Uppy and myfastestmile. It feels a little bit like 1994 all over again.