Sharing our Skills Abroad, George's Summer 2018

During the Summer break of 2018 Taw Velo Rider and Youth Coach George Armstrong spent 10 weeks in Canada coaching Mountain Biking at a summer camp for Canadian children

Below Greorge tells us about his summer.

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I spent Summer 2018 in Canada teaching mountain biking. I decided in April that I wanted to travel and my friend and I decided that Camp Canada would be an ideal experience. We wanted to go to camp and be counsellors, which basically meant being in charge of a group of children and doing lots of activities with them. We discovered a company called NYQUEST who help link UK students to Canadian camps and help the logistics of the systems needed. I completed the documents for NYQUEST. After this I was approached to be a speciality staff for mountain biking. This is due to the fact that I am a level 1 BC coach and I had experience teaching children bike skills at Taw Velo. It seemed these skills were in high demand as I was approached by a few camps and after an extensive research I selected New Moon Camp in Ontario which is situated approx 2 hours away from Toronto. I was interviewed by one of the camp directors who questioned me about my speciality and my experience teaching children.  I was able to ask questions about the bikes and the camp with the routes. I was sent a handbook as I was a specialty coach and this gave details of the trails and games that I could play, many of which we play at Taw Velo.

To be able to work in camps in Canada I had to apply for an international DBS, medical forms and a work visa. On the 24th June I flew to Toronto to begin my adventure. Camp New Moon starts on 25th June and is open for 8 weeks. I discovered that my luggage hadn’t made it past a changeover at Amsterdam airport and still took 4 days to be reunited. When I arrived in Toronto I had to make a Canadian bank account into which my camp wages would be paid. I left for the camp less than 24 hours after I arrived. Usually most NYQUEST students receive a reconnaissance of Toronto but as my camp started so early I went straight to camp.

When I arrived at the camp I discovered that I had 36 mountain bikes of varying degrees of repair. They reminded me of school bikes and I had to spend the first week sorting gears, brakes and tyres. Camp New Moon has 5 sessions per day which cabin groups are scheduled into depending on the ages of the children. I found out early on that the previous mountain bike coach had put people off biking and it took many sessions for me to build up the relationships with the children so that they would come to enjoy the sessions. The activities we did in biking were humps and clumps, bike dodgeball, relay races as well as a ride to the ice cream shop in Baysville. The other activities the children were able to do were swimming, climbing, skiing, wake boarding, canoeing, sailing, gymnastics, arts and crafts and drama. Students would be signed into the camp for 8 weeks or 4 weeks. Families were able to visit on family days and were able to join in the activities. During the camp we had two all day programmes which involved the whole camp competing against each other with different challenges like up and over, cycle to the stop sign, sail to the buoy and war dogs.  When I left, Zach, the director who interviewed me wrote me a card, he wrote ‘I know it is frustrating when there are people who don’t love your speciality, but you made the program popular. People loved coming down to spend time with you. You are extremely hard working and everyone knows it’.

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I enjoyed the camp and the work. The children were great and I loved teaching them. I spent the final week mending the bikes and setting them up for the next season. I met a lot of people who I formed good relationships with and I hope to go back next year.