Many years ago I did a BMC FUNdamentals of Climbing Course at Alien Rock in Edinburgh. At the time I was working as an instructor at Glasgow Climbing Centre and the day was a little epiphany for me. People were there to talk about WHAT we could to help people climb better... not just safer as was the focus of all the Mountain Training Awards at the time.
The next epiphany was at a Coaching Processes Course for Climbers at Plas Y Brenin where my mind was blown by the discovery that there was a whole body of knowledge on HOW to help people progress. There was so much to take in that I went and did the similar course at Glenmore Lodge later on as a reminder and another look at this enormous topic.
Fast forwards a few years and I'm a CWA provider, the first MT Award to really refer directly to the importance of an understanding of climbing movement at a basic level, a CWLA provider and we can't teach leading without understanding the movement involved and the positioning of the body to make clips and find rest effectively, a Staff Member on MIA trainings running entire days on coaching as a Mountain Instructor and an MCofS FUNdamentals 1 and 2 provider helping other think about that 'what' to coach in beginner and intermediate climbing movement. Coaching in walls is now a mainstream activity and the Symposiums, Academies, Results of Squads at all levels and climbs outdoors by 'wall bred' climbers are showing how beneficial it can be.
Now MT have finally created an Award for those who want to explore more about the 'how' to Coach. After years of development involving a cast of many (including over the years but not certainly not limited to Scott Muir, Neil Gresham, Dave Macleod, Mark Reeves, Kev Howett, Graeme Morrison, Ian 'Squawk' Dunn, Jon Garside, other members of the Coaching Management and Technical Groups, Steve Long, Tom Greenall and finally Martin Chester to bring it all together) we have the first 2 of a 3 part Award scheme almost ready to go.
For the last 2 days a group of the first providers (including talented Coaches, Trainers and Climbers all with their own strengths to bring to the table) have been learning about the Awards at Manchester Climbing Centre and working through the Foundation and Development Stages of the Award looking at how we will deliver and Assess it.
Its pretty exciting to be part of and looking around the room I was asking what am I doing at the tables with UK Squad Coaches like Ian Dunn and Tom Greenall, James McHaffie, Chris Forrest (Mountain Guide and Level 5 Paddlesports Coach who ran my MIA Training many years ago and is head coach of the N Wales Climbing Academy), Guy Jarvis (the man who created NICAS), Paul Smith (he of 'Climbing Games' authorship), Katherine Schirrmacher, Andy Swann (30 years of climbing experience and one of the first British Lead Squad members) and Professional Coaches like John Kettle and Robbie Phillips. The amazing thing is many of this team was looking around wondering the same thing, all perceiving the strengths of others in the room.
There is a good deal of cynicism about the 'C word' in the climbing world. But bear in mind that you have some of the most experienced coaches in the UK asking other providers if they can undergo the Assessment of these Awards themselves to learn from the experience. There are many experienced 'instructors' who don't see what they will gain from such knowledge. Open your mind. None of us ever knows it all. If I ever stopped learning I'd give up instructing/coaching/teaching and that's something that wont happen because there will always be something new to explore. That's one of the reasons I love it. As someone said to me of learning more about coaching 'which part of learning to do your job better don't you like?.
Its not all about competitions and the top end. Every person introduced to climbing deserves a chance to fulfil their potential as a climber, to go as far as they want to and are capable of going with it. I believe that if the person introducing them (and these days, like it or not, the first experience of most is at the wall- often under instruction) has a good grounding in what and how to coach beginners there is a much greater chance of the novice having a happy, healthy, successful (whatever that means to them) lifelong climbing career. That solid coaching foundation is going to feed up the way beyond those who stay in the wall, to those pushing sport and trad climbing outdoors and those competing at the highest levels.
Lots of work to do. The format of the Awards is quite different from the existing Awards and running the Coaching Foundation and Development Courses is going to present a raft of challenges and learning experiences for the provider team.
Bring it on!