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Climbing Coaching Catching Up

I sparked a conversation with some local climbers about the strong youth climbers coming out of the Midwest.  As many online forum conversations often go, this one took a slight turn in a different direction, to coaching (or sometimes lack thereof).  In that exchange I received this very solid quote from one of the strongest climbers out of Minnesota, Nic Oklobzija.  Yes, that Nic O.  The First Ascentionist of The Raven (V12) and co-author of the upcoming Midwest Bouldering Guide.

Nic Oklobzija“The only things holding [climbers] back in the Midwest are that our facilities are ill equipped to train at the same level as our counterparts out west and our coaching. I think the coaching is more a national level problem not just the Midwest. [Certain teams] are making it better but it does not compare to the same level athlete training that other sports enjoy.”  – Nic Oklobzija

So why has it taken so long for climbing to catch up?  Lets dig into this just a bit.

Rock Climbing as a “sport” is actually relatively new.  Early on, climbing was almost purely an adventurous activity.  As the focus moved slowly away from Aid Climbing to Free Climbing, the challenge to increase both the difficulty and volume of climbs began to gain notoriety.  But information moved slowly.  And often inaccurately.  Like the telephone game we would play as children.  Hearsay and anecdotal.  All the while, in many sports around us, methodical and documented study was being done.  Which leads us to today.  Climbing is right there.  Missing by a hair on the short list into the Olympics.

FootballI grew up playing team sports.  Let’s use the example of Football (as opposed to Futbol).  I had a head coach putting together the overall strategy.  I had an offensive coordinator working on a specific part of that strategy.  I had a position coach working with me specifically on my role within that strategy.  I had a player-leader calling audibles when needed.  I had a strength & conditioning coach as well.

Now I understand that Rock Climbing is not a team sport, but I wrote the above paragraph to show the vast contrast.  Climbing probably compares more closely to swimming.  I can almost guarantee that an elite swimmer has a stroke coach, maybe several that specialize in each discipline.  They likely have someone that consults them on the strategic pieces within a meet.  They have a strength & conditioning coach, maybe one for each.

ExperienceSo this begs the question, why do the majority of climbers still get their information from hearsay, or worse their own personal trial and error.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am a strong proponent of the Try-Fail-Adjust growth philosophy.  By all means, try things.  And learn from everything you do.  But as the saying goes, learning from other people’s experiences is truly the best teacher.  So check this math out!

(Technique Specialist + Physiology Specialist) x Hard-Working Climber = Raising the Bar

It might look something like this…

While the discussion of having coaches makes 100% sense when it comes to competition climbing.  I’d like to expand one step further.  In other sports/activities, athletes have the option for a personal trainer  to help them improve.  Example: my wife runs marathons and now triathons.  Not professionally or for sponsorships, but for personal gratification.  She contracted a run coach.  She’s worked with a triathlon coach.  She has a swimming mentor.

So even the everyday, regular climber types (those wanting to progress from 5.11 to 5.12, from 5 pitches a day to 10 pitches, or V5 to V8) can benefit from increasing the emphasis and value being placed on coaching.

What are your thoughts?  Comment below!!

~ Climb 4 Real ~

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