Quals Story – Part II

By Ross McGachey

NatGat Melbourne 2014

NatGat Melbourne 2014



We were growing as an organisation and the need for a national quals system was growing. Australia is a huge country and maintaining a standard across our spread-out instructing community was impossible. There was no effective way to know that the people representing us, wearing our logo, and using our insurance policy really should be.


Our instructors were not necessarily first aid trained or aware of their legal responsibilities or professional in any way we could manage. That put our entire organisation and community at real risk.


We also had nothing to legitimate our instructors to clients other than `yeah I reckon they can teach parkour safely, trust me.´


In South Australia, we weren´t allowing our assistant instructors to progress to full instructor with the always imminent but never arriving requirements looming overhead. It started to stifle their growth as instructors and I think we lost several great instructors in this time who were frustrated at being held back.


It wasn´t good enough.

SAPA instructors before teaching a class in early 2015



So the committee bit the bullet and decided to commit to a deadline of December 2015, after which if you weren´t qualified, you couldn´t teach. This time some people listened.


—–2015, 6 months to deadline—–


I was in a position of seniority in Adelaide, being one of the two remaining full instructors from the four who started our classes. I ran instructor trainings and was invested in the Adelaide community and the South Australian Parkour Association, both of which depended in a way on having our instructors and classes.


So to me it was very important that I keep them alive past the deadline.


It wasn´t just about getting myself over the line, I had to try make sure we all got across.


I started training for the physical test again, doing regular full mock run throughs and sessions on specific weak points. I tried to organise others to do the full run throughs with me so everyone had a better idea of what to work on. We usually had five or six people at these sessions.


I remember going back to the wallsit component again one night at the spot Wolf Blass. 2 minutes ON, 1m off, 2m ON, 45sec off, 2m ON, 30sec off, 2m ON, 15sec off, 4m ON. That´s 14mins 30 secs of willpower. To begin with I quit on the second round and felt really disheartened. It seemed ridiculous. everyone thought so. It was the most daunting component.


The next week I went back and the second round was doable. I quit on the third round. A couple weeks later and I had made it into the final four minute hold. Once I hit that mark I knew I would finish. That´s when I realised that the wallsit is mostly a mental game. Why else should the last hold – twice as long as all the others – be the easiest? Why else should the second round of two minutes remain always the hardest? A lot of the wallsit challenge was simply having the courage and commitment to face the obstacle that looks insurmountable and keep chipping away at it until it´s insignificant.

wallsit selfie – more than half insane



The wallsits stayed hard for a long time, but the tricks I used to beat it were in my mind. I always sang a song loudly to take my mind away. I talked to people. And always when I finished the second to last hold I knew I had won.


The 200m sprints were also daunting. I´ve never been talented at sprinting. Long distance running is natural to me and I never trained for the 2km running component or gave it a sideways thought. I could naturally run it in 7 minutes, and the test called for under 10. But sprinting… I didn´t know where I stood or if I could run 200m in 30 seconds. I´d also heard of people in other states failing this part of the test. For a long while I timed myself inaccurately, holding my phone along a distance measured roughly on Google Maps. Eventually when I was confident I asked my Dad to come with me to the athletics stadium by his house so he could time me on a track. I passed most times, and hit a record of 24 seconds. Hard work was paying off.


After training and hosting run throughs for a while, constantly referring to the testing notes at http://qualify.parkour.asn.au/ I had every part of the test memorised and was discussing it regularly, answering peoples questions about it and guiding them through. I wrote up a compact one sheet version of the test so people could carry it with them when doing run throughs. Honestly it also looks much less daunting when its all on one page https://docs.google.com/document/d/19uvSH9IuR1xxc9IKjP6X4-8f-f6dh_wgOK89Tf19pxk/edit?usp=sharing


Eventually I managed my first successful pass of a mock run through from start to finish, but as many elements have little to zero tolerance for failure, I had to train them to a point where I knew every time that I couldn´t fail. I was still a long way off.


SAPA instructor training


In the meantime I ran weekly instructor training sessions, mainly focused on passing the test. These were more theoretical and instructing focused. As part of each session we took turns teaching a basic technique to the instructing group and critiquing the delivery in the format of the Level 1 practical test.  This helped me make sure I had those parts ready, and also helped our community explore and practice the basic principles of delivering a class. I encourage senior instructors to guide applicants in this way by providing a critical environment to work on practical skills with their peers. This is a resource that I would like to be available to aspiring APA instructors who shouldn´t have to tackle the qualifications alone.


We held theory specific lectures and because I was encouraging others to memorise the information in the test, I had to have it down myself. I went back to the theoretical and practical components which I had overlooked as being ´easy´. But there were some new parts now and I had to go and do some proper learning about muscles and basic physiology stuff.


WIth six years of teaching experience it was natural for me to write up five class plans and teach one of them. I didn´t have to do anything special for that, but it did motivate me to help others study for it and I was very proud of the class plans that our community put together in this process.


One of our instructors, Ash, wrote up her advice on writing a class plan and helped me put together a list of themes or ideas to base them off. I compiled all of our plans into a folder in the hope that the APA will someday publish these and others as a teaching resource. These resources can be found here https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxSNiBe7EL5rS3VnOGMxbDdzbFU


Originally I was aiming to be qualified as a Level 2 ´full instructor´, but as it became clear that there might not be anyone who would pass the Level 3 ´senior instructor´ test in Adelaide and therefore that we wouldn´t be able to qualify our own level 2s within the state, I decided to change my application to a level 3. At the time it was permitted to apply at whatever level you wanted because nobody had prerequisite qualifications. Level 3 was more reflective of my role in the community and it would give me much more ability to support other instructors.


Trying to lead others by example really forced me to be the authority on the qualifications. To know them back to front and to put in a lot of effort. The essential exchange between me and the community was that I spent a lot of effort supporting them to pass the quals, but that in itself really helped me to master the system. The community aspect of my approach was key.


—–3 months to deadline—–



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