3 November 2011

Coaching observations

I’m just back from various coaching sessions around the UK. After a little break from coaching over the summer, I’ve come to it with fresh eyes after digesting a lot of variety in watching and doing climbs of many different types. It’s amazing how your perspective widens.
There are always some patterns to observe. Older climbers who have been going 10-20 years don’t go for the holds with nearly the same determination as the young angry lads. The young angry lads are too busy going for the (hand) holds and being angry to move their feet onto better footholds and actually use them.
Some more detail - 
Older chilled climbers: Experiment by role playing the 16 year old young angry men! Climb like you really really want to hold onto the next hold and nothing in the world is going to stop you. Grimace like you’re going to bite your bottom lip off. Don’t let go, even if you think you have no chance. The reality is that you only have no chance if you jump off the boulder wall instead of lay one on! The other point is that the learning, and training happens in the zone between success and failure.
Young angry men: Time that anger. Climbing has two stages; preparing to move and execution of the move. If your mind is fuzzing with anger while preparing to move, you don’t see the foot sequence, you don’t feel the shift of body weight that makes the difference. Learn to detach from that anger for a moment and take in the available move choices. If climbing was just about how hard you could pull or how angry you can get, the top climbers would be very different.
Both groups: Learn to be curious about finding the ‘right’ way to do moves. Whether you succeed on the problem/route, try it again using that other possibility you spotted for the move. And that one, and that one too. See which was actually the easiest. Systematic experimentation with moves makes you learn what works. Just because you got to the top doesn’t mean you did it the best way or actually learned anything about how to climb. Just because the climb is too hard for you doesn’t mean you can’t use it to learn something about movement. Even if you just watch someone else manage it. Be curious, watch others on the move, then try again yourself. Compare options, learn. This experimentation is what makes up the bulk of your bouldering sessions.

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