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How do I become a Leader in the Paddling committee?

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Jeff Barrell
Posts: 6
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In the past few committee meetings, we have discussed leadership qualifications and an approval process for new leaders. 

We started defining skills for different levels but realized that good paddling skills do not equal good leadership skills, rather leadership is about group dynamics, risk management, planning, communications, and cohesion (among other things). We also acknowledged that our problem is not that our leader requirement list is too short, but that we are not attracting new people into leadership roles.


The working group started defining skills for different levels but realized that good paddling skills do not equal good leadership skills, rather leadership is about group dynamics, risk management, planning, communications, and cohesion.

We want to encourage and promote paddlers with good judgment who are capable of organizing a trip, effectively leading a diverse group of paddlers, and managing the safety of the group before and during the trip. 

To that end, the Committee established the following criteria for defining a new leadership process: 

  • Create a standard, committee-wide process that will apply to all paddling disciplines
  • Simplify the process and remove burdensome requirements
  • Focus on leadership skills as the primary requirement for qualification
  • Make it easier to approve new leaders
  • Make the process easy to communicate to leader candidates


We recognize that paddling skills are important but the skills we require of our leaders are discipline-specific. Our focus is on establishing a generic process for all leaders and we leave discipline-specific skill training to each of the sub-groups in the Committee and for further study.

Three Paths to Leadership

We propose three paths to achieve leadership for this committee.

  1. There are no changes for existing leaders who have led a trip within the past three (3) years.   Leaders that have not led an AMC trip (or equivalent) in the preceding three (3) years may have their trip difficulty status level temporarily reduced subject to demonstration of proficiency.  Existing leaders are expected to maintain or update their skills.
  2. Paddlers new to leadership or developing their technical skill set will follow the traditional path of Leader development, to include the following steps: 
    1. Attend the BC (Boston Chapter) Leadership workshop and/or the BCPC Leader development workshop.
    2. Co-lead three trips with at least two different leaders.  Co-leader must play an active role in the planning and execution of the trip(s) under the mentorship of the Trip Leader.
    3. Attend the spring SK Tune-Up event to refresh their skillset. WW currently has no equivalent event, but BCPC is planning to establish one. 
  3. Paddlers with leadership experience outside this Committee demonstrate leadership skills through co-leading may be selected and promoted by the BCPC Exec Comm.

We want to encourage and promote paddlers with good judgment who are willing to accept responsibility for group safety (while participants are responsible for their own personal safety). 

The co-lead process gives the leader(s) an opportunity to teach and observe the co-leader’s ability, organization, and communication skills. A good mentor involves the co-leader with trip planning, risk assessment, screening, trip writeup, and managing the group on the water. This process allows the co-leader to take the lead for a portion of a trip, communicate the current objective, and make group decisions. One learns a lot in this role - this learning doesn't stop after one achieves a Leader designation.

The saying that good judgment comes from a lot of bad decisions is generally true - people and organizations (hopefully) learn from their mistakes. We do however want these mistakes to be minor and inconsequential. We want to establish a culture of learning and safety by:

  • Feedback:  The leader should gather participants at the takeout before everyone scatters for their car. Have a 5-minute discussion of the day, the highlights, fun moments, and what could have been better. This is not personal criticism, but feedback on how to improve the experience for everyone. Suggest that people email the leader on thoughts or comments the next day or two (many people won’t mention problems or criticism in a group setting). Leaders need to listen to this feedback and adapt.
  • Sharing:  Leaders share their experience of recent incidents or close-calls with other leaders during committee meetings and/or on trip reports We can learn from others and avoid repeating their mistakes. 
  • Training:  Add a leadership component to the SK Tune-up event (and create an analog WW Tune-up event) with planned scenarios of problems and situations. Discussions and group analysis would follow. 

The role of this committee is to provide support, training, and insurance for our leaders. We must trust that our leaders are competent and responsible for others and be tolerant of their mistakes as long as they acknowledge and learn from them. Our sport involves risks - it is part of the fun and excitement, but when responsible for others, leaders need to balance risk with safety. Encouragement, tolerance, and training can make this group an attractive place for newcomers. Let us keep these ideals in mind when we assess and approve new leaders.

Finally, one of the biggest hurdles for new co-leaders is finding leaders and trips to co-lead. Leaders prefer partnering with co-leaders they know and trust. In order to grow our leader base, leaders need to adopt new co-leaders for some of their trips. Tune ups, committee meetings, and reaching out to the committee are good ways to put people together. 


Posted : 13/10/2020 10:56 am
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