I am lucky enough to have my dream job as a climbing coach. There are many reasons I love this job, first off I am out doing the thing I love as often as possible, secondly, I love to teach and develop people at any level of climbing and thirdly I get to meet real people and in doing so learn and develop as much about myself as a climbing coach as I help them.
How do you go about getting your dream job as a climbing coach?
First Off I really believe that good climbing coaches are good climbers. I don’t necessarily mean great climbers but climbers who live a certain lifestyle and grasp every opportunity to develop themselves and learn about how to improve their own climbing.
This might seem like common sense, but all too often I see people who want to be a mountaineering instructor or climbing coach who considers the VS/F6a entry-level ability as too arduous. Don’t kid yourself it is not easy to climb VS, but I truly believe that if you are going to make a living out of coaching climbing them you need to be climbing above those grades, which are to me the grades I aim to get people climbing at the end of an introduction to climbing week, if they are generally fit and well.
How do you get to climbing HVS+ or 6b and above? Practice and lots of it, climbing should be the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing before you go to bed. Climbing should be a joy and not a chore. If you are struggling meeting the grades then get some coaching. You’ll see what it is a good coach does and improve your climbing at the same time.
Above all, though the practice should be deliberate and reflective. Deliberate practice is when you:
- Set specific goals.
- Obtain immediate feedback on performance.
- Concentrate on technique as much as the outcome.
Whilst reflective practice is learning to be self-regulating in that feedback and working on a way to improve both your climbing and you coaching at every available opportunity.
Secondly, you really need to start getting qualifications, nothing should be below you. That Climbing Wall Award might seem super easy to get, but with it, you can start coaching real people in real situations. There is no better way to develop as a coach and instructor than finding how you best interact with different groups.
I found that working teaching taster sessions and kids clubs at climbing walls is a fine way to work with hundreds of different groups. In doing so I think I developed my own style, which was taking parts of coaching from the teaching I got on the qualification, the added development from the climbing walls in-house training and from watching other coaches in action and evaluating their performance based on how I would like to perform in that situation.
In doing so I feel I managed to find the good and bad parts of my coaching and focus more on the positive aspects that work. If you like in those first years at coaching climbing indoors I developed so much of what I now deliver on a daily basis.
After that then consider all the awards and CPD that people offer and decide what best fits the path you want to take. Whether that is indoor performance coaching or outdoor trad climbing.
Thirdly then I also believe that there is a role to be had by experienced climbing coaches helping the next generation develop their skills. It is often referred to as mentoring nowadays. This is where a coaching takes a trainee under there wing and offers them the chance of observation, supervised experience and a critical yet objective eye on their performance. They may also provide you with a roadmap to follow to reach your goal.
How this happens will vary on where you are and what you are doing. It may be an experienced instructor or coach offers their advice informally, it might be a formal part of you working for a company and finally, it is a growing business within the outdoor to offer mentorship for a price.
If you go down this road it is important that both parties lay out what they expect of the others. My own mentorship scheme through Snowdonia Mountain Guides and How to Climb Harder has a well laid out process of a paid for assessment day where that expectation is laid out so both parties are happy. Some of the opportunities like observation are free but others like supervised coaching with real clients come at a cost, as your mentor will be taking a day off work to observe your coaching and feedback to you. It is, however, a sliding scale and certainly, some of the people I have worked with have gone onto work for me.
However, your mentor works it is important that you develop trust in one another. As you need to trust they have the knowledge and experience to aid your development and they need to trust that you can take onboard the lessons and apply them in a way that works for you. Not necessary as a clone of your mentor.
With these three points, you stand a good chance of getting your dream job. So remember:
- Go Out Climbing and reflect on what you do (Personal Climbing Experience)
- Get Qualified and start coaching at a low level (Professional Coaching Experience)
- Find mentor (Professional Development towards your dream)
Snowdonia Mountain Guides head coach Mark Reeves offers mentorship programs to trainee MIA and climbing coaches. He has been coaching climbing since 1997 and been a MIA for over tens year and has a Master’s degree in Applied Sports Science with Effective Coaching, Sports Psychology and Performance Physiology. With all his skills, knowledge and above all experience, Mark will be able to help you reach your dream of becoming a climbing coach.