3 December 2011

Technique learning - noticing things

When coaching climbers I’m constantly trying to encourage them to set up a routine both in themselves and as a group of peers climbing together of recording the details of their climbing movement and tactics and discussing the feedback and experimenting with different ways of doing everything.
Examples of this might be: how does the move change if you lunge a bit harder, or pull more with the right toe, or use that other foothold instead? The criteria for for success on a move isn’t just if you can climb it or not. It’s whether you found the most efficient way. So even if you flashed the problem at the boulder wall, do it again and find out if the move was easier if you used that other foothold or sequence.
If you climb with others and you have a good routine of passing movement feedback and ideas back and forth between you on the climbs you try - that’s great. But it’s only the first level. The next level is to be able to do this by yourself.
You don’t have an observant friend to say “You threw your left hip inwards more that time and that looked closer to the move”. So you have to notice it yourself while you are actually climbing, and that’s not easy until you train yourself to do it.
The easiest way to learn is when bouldering, trying a problem that is taking you a few tries to complete. When you are working the moves, don’t give all of your mental focus to delivery of power. Instead, keep a little part of your concentration reserved for noticing how your body and limbs feel as you move through the sequence. Look for things that feel ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, where wrong means it’s more likely to make you fall off. If your right foot is very stretched or is about to slip, what options do you have to solve that problem? 
Once you are close to success and you feel it might happen next try, you can switch to full on redpoint mode and focus completely on just getting the next hold and completing the problem.
Note: The above is moderately advanced. Many less experienced climbers wouldn't even be able to tell you which hands when on which holds immediately after trying the climb, never mind recording the amount and direction of force at each limb and the path of the body during a move. If that’s you, practice noticing just the hand sequence you used, even if it’s just for the first few moves. It’s an essential skill for more advanced climbing and it takes time to learn. There are lots of ways to help you memorise it. But deliberately looking at the wall and each hold and then taking a mental snapshot of how the hold feels in your left or right hand works well.


Dave Velasco said...

This is one thing that every coaches, whatever field they are, should be doing to have a more effective coaching results and that their students can really learn. It's just a matter of proper discipline in teaching.

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J said...

It's also hard for moderate grade boulderers like myself (v6-v9) to learn to articulate certain important technique beyond the obvious (hip turning, flagging, which part of body to initiate movement) in terms of micro beta.
If it's hard to explain to someone else, chances are that you don't fully understand yourself. Apart from flagging and the like, I know I don't fully utilize my passive foot, which is another commonly overlooked aspect of climbing. After a certain level of bouldering, many boulderers are focused on getting STRONGER since what seems like physical pitfalls (not being able to hold a sloping crimp after an offset throw) can actually be fixed with better, hard to articulate technique (placing passive foot so that when hitting said hold, foot is at full extension while counterbalancing the movement).

Climbing as a sport may not be developed ENOUGH so that local coaches have the expertise or understanding to make these things obvious.