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Staff Training Key to Successful Log Rolling Programs

World Champion Log Roller and Key Log Rolling® Founder, Judy Scheer Hoeschler, shares her insights on the advancement of the sport of log rolling, including the new Instructor Training Certification Program.

Log rolling is a thrilling aquatics sport enjoyed by athletes and spectators alike. It has a rich,118-year history that has included television coverage on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and ESPN. And it has excellent fitness benefits in a low-impact environment.

So why have there been so few people actually doing it?

In 2005, I seriously asked myself this question. As a world champion log roller, teacher and coach, I wanted to know why the athletic sport that I had learned as a child, could never get traction in the sports world.  My husband, Jay Hoeschler, helped identify the problem: the very equipment used in the sport, heavy wood logs, was actually holding it back.  Without a lightweight, manufactured "log", no one would ever have access to the sport. 

1940, Catherine Gauthier and Bette Berkeley [Betty Berkley]. Bette's amazing dexterity, poise, and acrobatic ability brought her fame and championships before she was eighteen years old.

So we solicited the help of our daughter, Abby Hoeschler, to create the portable, synthetic Key Log®.  In just five years the sport has been revolutionized, with tens of thousands of people experiencing the fun and fitness of log rolling, in 48 states and 7 countries.

But something else important to success was missing — a ready supply of teachers and coaches. Over the years, log rolling 'know-how' has been shared like a folk art — from family to family, friend to friend. Until the 1960's, there was little formalized instruction, with individuals training for tournaments in backyard ponds, rivers and lakes. 

In the 1960’s, two schools were established. One in Lewiston, Idaho, by a mill pond worker named Roy Bartlett who trained four local females to world titles. But the program was short-lived, lasting only a few decades.

The second school, located in Hayward, Wisconsin, was started by an entrepreneurial teenager named Marlys Hodd. The school had a major impact on both reviving the sport and advancing it. Her classes were held in Lumberjack Bowl, the site of the annually televised World Log Rolling Championship and supported by Tony Wise, the promoter of the event.

Marly Hodd, Log Rolling Teacher

As an athletic girl (before Title IX), I was fortunate to be in Marlys' inaugural class in 1969. Her enthusiasm and love of teaching became a lifelong inspiration for me, which I passed to a handful of students including my daughter, Abby Hoeschler, president of Key Log Rolling®.  Regional teaching programs began to sprout up at Y's in Wisconsin including the La Crosse YMCA where I created the model for "learn to log roll" classes and established club log rolling tournaments. 

When we launched the Key Log in 2011, we knew we had two large tasks.  Creating the synthetic log was a singularly-focused challenge, but creating teachers was quite another.  Very few people even knew how to log roll and only a handful of people in the world had the skills to teach, so we were starting from zero.  

We created instructional manuals and videos, which enabled hundreds of summer camp directors to launch the new waterfront activity. We knew there would be gaps in technical instruction along the way but kids and staff were up and rolling in no time.  

The next step was creating staff workshops. The signature “Learn and Lead Log Rolling” workshop, a four-hour primer with lessons on both "how to log roll and how to teach others" is inspirational and fun, providing enough knowledge to give aquatics staff the confidence to implement programs.  Our motto — "a little learning goes a long way" — has proven itself over and over again.  

When Hall of Fame Aquatics Coach, Emily Ward, joined Key Log Rolling in September 2016, she quickly identified a key challenge for our Olympic vision: to develop athletes, we needed to develop more well-trained teachers.  And to develop teachers, we needed to develop instructors— the“teachers of the teachers”.  

As the former Aquatics Director at Indiana University’s Campus Recreation Department, Emily had extensive experience in curriculum development. Together, she and Abby created the first “Instructor Training” certification program for log rolling.  

A competitive application process identified eight candidates for the first course in Minneapolis; all were beginner-intermediate rollers who had learned the sport at their respective college or community programs. 

The three-day session was rigorous and packed with information. As Emily said, it drinking water through a fire hose.   The eight graduates and staff members marked the occasion with a ceremony and photographs at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center. It was the first time in the sport's 100-year history that an Instructor Trainer Certification class graduated, using established standards and protocols for safety, basic instruction, and programming options.  Emotions were high as we imagined the possibility of a major collegiate log rolling event filling the bleachers at the Aquatics Center someday soon.

Suddenly, the Olympic vision didn't seem so crazy after all. 

To learn more about "Learn and Lead Log Rolling" workshops for your aquatics facility or waterfront, contact Emily Ward today!

2017 Class of Key Log Rolling Instructor Trainers include Corie Baldwin, Matthew Delaney, Alex Beck, Stephanie Duong, Lisa Gebhard, Nathan Blascyk, Sarah Berson, Darcy Baxter

2017 KLR Instructor Training

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