Interview with Paulo Barbosa da Silva | Paracanoe Coach
1. How do you do the first approach with the sport and the athlete?
Canoeing it's a sport where the initiation should be carefully planned, so the future paddler doesn't have a frustrating first experience (in case the boat capsizes).
The challenge of introducing canoeing, being Olympic or Paralympic, begins with a chat where the future paddler talks about his or her's dreams and goals in the sport, in other words, what he looks for. Next the coach might present the challengers, goals and knowledge neede to achieve that dream.
The first contact with paddling could be accomplished as the adaptations offer safety, even if the athlete only manages to get in the boat, sensing and understanding what are his major challenges.
2. How do you encourage canoeing in favor of other sports?
We have to remember that the athlete chooses the sport and not the opposite, he chooses the sport the offers something that he's looking for, many athletes start paddling for different reasons. Each sport activity has its advantages and all aim for the same goals, doing a sportive physical activity for better health, offering the possibility of different learnings, having as goal to provide moments of joy, fun and that offer personal or group challenges.
Canoeing is a sport performed in a liquid medium in wich the paddler is always in touch with nature, being individually or collectively, without physical contact. When learning to paddle, the athlete has the possibility to paddle anywhere the water conditions allows it, having the chance to discover new places. The sport's challenges are directly connected to the athletes' goals, by doing an expedition or winning a competition.
3. What are the main difficulties (challenges)?
When developing the "initiation" do Paralympic Canoeing the biggest challenge is to develop an adaptation that offers comfort, safety and movement autonomy. Each athlete presents a different need, so the adaptations are always very personal.
So the work is done safely, the medical knowledge of the future athlete is central. Knowing the limitations, medication, day to day care is fundamental to better know the athlete. As working with Paralympic athletes the trust between coach and athlete becomes the key to success.
As for the training routine the care taken when entering and exiting the boat needs a special attention, trying to reduce the possibility of an injury (cuts, scratches, bruises, wounds) this way, for those in wheel chairs always try to use EVA (foam that prevents ground contact).
When developing "Performance Training" in Paralympic Canoeing the major challenges are similar to the ones of the Olympic athletes, trying to evolve at each training day to achieve better performance. All the training theories apply to the Paralympic sport, "we are all different from one another, so, we need to adapt to our realities, being an Olympic or Parlympic athlete". It's the purpose of the coach to plan trainings that present to the athlete the oportunity to know his limitations and that explore his potential.
4. What is the major benefit of canoeing?
Canoeing is a distinct sport when compared with other Paralympic sports, because of the small adaptaions to the equipement, aiming to provide more comfort and safety to the athletes, but if we look at an athlete paddling an Olympic K1 and other paddling a Paralympic K1, we see diferences when looking carefully at the boat, as the mechanical movement (stroke) does not change.
When starting training the athlete will show gains in his motivation and self-worth with lots of benefits:
- Greater muscle control, generated by the strengthening of the torso's stabilizing muscles (muscles responsible for stabilizing the body).
- Greater body equilibrium, with the better physical shape, the athlete will learn to control his body achieving more movement autonomy, being able to develop a stroke with more power and projecting his hands forward leaving them lined with the shoulders.
- Better flexibility, the athlete's body position inside the boat determines the improvement in equilibirum, this way from the diferences in injury, the athlete will need to create scenarios where his body may be always in the boat's center. Thus, the body conditions itself to always being in the same position. The work on flexibility is paramount for all athletes and specially to those on wheel chairs, due to muscle atrophy.
- More strenght, with the evolution in training the athlete will have adaptations concerning strength, having more muscle hypertrophy, and greater overall strength from training.
- Improvement in the daily life, with better muscle control, better body balance, better flexibility and more strength, there will be a significant improvement in activities beyond canoeing, such as moving and performing everyday tasks.
- Better self-esteem, as the athlete notices his evolution, gets better in training and at doing everyday activities, he will be more motivated in searching his life project. Depending on the injury, the athlete should adapt to his reality, aiming to surpass himself every day so he can paddle with more ease searching happiness.