12 February, 2015

Review: Spin City Beginner Pole Fitness Instructor Course.

I have been meaning to this write this review for two years now but wanted to wait until I had passed the qualification. However, at this time I have decided to not submit another video assessment as I am a month away from completing my Level 2 Gym Instructors qualification. There is more information about this below.

It's really important to say that all of the below information applies to the course as I took it, in person, at Spin City Newbury. Elements of the course will now likely have been updated, and they now offer the course online as well as in person. This review is my personal experience of the specific 2 day course I took around April 2013. There is updated information on all of their courses and their content over at the website, which can be found here.

Price: I believe I paid £200/220 originally in 2013. Prices now differ.
Duration: 16 hours, two day course, or now online.
Assessment: booklet and video assessments.
Endorsed by Skills Active.
Upon completion entitles you to 16 REPs CPD points.

As we arrived we were introduced to Cath Ballantyne, who was leading the course, and given two booklets. The first was a manual, the second a workbook. Cath was really welcoming and explained how the course would be structured. We started at 9am each day and continued to around 6pm with plenty of breaks scattered throughout the day.

Day 1:

  • Introduction: information on the course format, aims and objectives, teaching and learning agreements and the assessment criteria. 
  • Beginner moves: learning how to break down the moves and teach them to others.
  • Warm Ups, Teaching and Coaching.
  • Recap Moves and Teaching Practice.
Day 2:
  • Recap of day 1.
  • Choreography Session.
  • Class Planning.
  • Health and Safety.
  • Choreography Activity.
  • Summary and Evaluation.

Although it is not a pre-requisite; Spin City do recommend that you have some experience of pole fitness prior to the course. There were many hours spent specifically on the pole over the two days; either learning to break down moves or creating and teaching choreography. There was one course attendee who had never done pole before - due to a lack of classes in her area which she hoped to fill, but she had a good level of fitness and had prior teaching experience.

The course was taught entirely on static pole. I had never actually used much static prior to the class and almost had to re-learn spins and transitions myself. It was very interesting to learn the difference between static and spinning and get more experience of this myself. Many studios use spinning now and I feel like it would be beneficial to teach both. It's my belief that students learn to engage their shoulders correctly and safely on spinning pole, whereas on static it's quite easy to chuck yourself and forget to engage anything. Therefore, I don't teach static pole to beginners. This is totally open for debate of course, feel free to comment with your opinions on this. 

I personally felt that I struggled over other course attendees in that most of them had prior teaching experience and I did not. They were all confident, but also really inspiring. I feel like I learnt a lot, not only from Cath, but also the others in attendance. Cath herself was knowledgeable, experienced and friendly. We had a really great group dynamic over the two days and I felt very welcomed.

Over the two days we spent time learning how to break down moves, and taught them to each other (cringe, i'm not a good actor). We learnt about the importance of warm ups and cool-downs and spent time coming up with our own. We discussed in what order we might teach moves and how to structure lesson plans. It was most helpful to learn all of the teaching and safety points, regressions and progressions and common problems for each move. It really did help my teaching when I could instantly recognise what was going wrong or what my students could do instead if they weren't quite ready for a move. A serious amount of time is dedicated to this over the two days. We were also taught two bits of choreography that we could use, very useful!!, and spent time coming up with our own choreography in small groups and then teaching it to the others. I noticed that a lot of the others struggled to create their own choreography but it was an area I felt quite happy with.

Time was also spent talking about different elements of teaching, in particular the roles of an instructor - how you should and shouldn't behave. We also discussed health and safety and PAR-Q forms, insurance, PPL licenses - all of the important elements that people forget go in to running classes. I did think at the time that it would be really useful to have a section on anatomy and physiology and how it relates to pole. Spin City do now offer a separate anatomy and physiology course and I highly recommend doing it. One of the most interesting parts of my Gym Instructors qualification was the anatomy. It really drilled in to me how serious it can be to injure yourself and really changed how I teach.

The only element of the course which I disliked at all was the video assessment. You have a year to complete and submit your workbook and the video assessment. The workbook itself is simple and all the answers you need can be found in the instructor manual but the video assessment is a whole different level. You are required to get 6 students together and film yourself teaching an hour long class that comprises of many elements - including teaching choreography. I filmed many attempts over the year in which I had to submit it, and very much struggled to get enough students each time, and every time I got so nervous I messed something up. In the end I submitted a video I thought might pass but unfortunately did not. 

The criteria to pass is very high, as it should be, you need an overall 70% pass mark, but you are also not allowed more than 2 referrals in each section - plus there are highlighted elements in some sections you MUST achieve. I have never done well under pressure - particularly in exam circumstances and so unfortunately did not do well. If you fail you can pay £20 to re-submit and have another year in which to do so. I'm unsure of their pass rate but I know that during the course we were told that people do fail, it's not rare. 

I feel like it's a really great course to get started with teaching. It provided me with the framework I needed to start with. Combining this course with shadowing other instructors and teaching under supervision helped me to go it alone. But ultimately, only teaching itself helped with my biggest issue - confidence. In the end I was encouraged to do a Level 2 qualification, around the time that I failed the first assessment. I am now only a month from completion (I have passed my anatomy and practical exams!!) and so have decided not to submit another video assessment on this course.

This is a course I would highly recommend for the right individual.