Climbing coaching is a fun job, and it can be a very flexible one. This makes it attractive to people who want to spend a lot of time climbing themselves. Climbing and coaching, however, are different pursuits. Being a professional coach supersedes the quest for free time.
Alas, coaching is a job, and it’s a hard one.
At Climb Strong, our goal is to create both a great training environment for the athletes we coach and a great work environment for our team. We try to take care of a lot of the detail work, programming, and marketing, so that our coaches can focus on being coaches. We don’t waste time on 6-week challenges or on cookie cutter programs. We spend our time working on finding individual athlete’s limiters, and helping them overcome these.
What does it mean to be a coach?
A coach is not a buddy. A coach is a second set of eyes. A coach is looking far down the road ahead and is aware of the road already traveled. The coach listens more than she talks. The coach is more often a voice of moderation than motivation, guides instead of instructs, and aims always for the best experience for the athlete.
Coaching is individualized, and can’t ever take place on fixed programs or sessions. If we are helping ten athletes follow the exact same program, we’re not coaches, we’re group fitness instructors.
What does it mean to be professional?
The professional coach is prepared for meetings, plans far ahead of where the athlete is today, is present for his athletes, is available, and treats his job with respect. The professional doesn’t show up to meetings (in person or virtual) late, unkempt, impaired, or distracted. Early is on time and on time is late.
The professional doesn’t give bro discounts, special treatment for certain athletes, or dismiss the problems and concerns that any athlete brings to a meeting.
Professionals spend time learning, spend time questioning their beliefs, and plan to get better next time. Professionals are humble, grateful, and kind.
What does it mean to be a lifelong learner?
What any of us know now is not enough.
When they first start with us, our coaching team are given a list of recommended resources that include books, videos, and recordings that we have found useful in the craft. Our team meets monthly for additional education, and we tend to read a couple of books a year as a group. The coaches attend courses, take lessons, and seek out knowledge in the name of being better at coaching, always. Our competitive advantage comes in learning together, and in continuing the pursuit at all times.
If you have a bunch of letters after your name and feel like you know everything there is to know about coaching climbers, this is not the team for you. We don’t care if you’re a doctor, a 20-year veteran, or a personal trainer. We care if you’re a good person, work well with others, and are willing to adapt.
What does it mean to be positive?
Blind optimism is foolish, but living in a state of negativity and blame helps no one. Instead of telling athletes what they’re doing wrong, we start with what’s right. Instead of talking about outside factors, we help our athletes to focus on the things they can control. We encourage gratitude for each session, whether good or bad, because each one leads us to being the climber we will ultimately be.
What does it mean to be an athlete?
Our coaches are athletes. We don’t sit in coffee shops all day long, we stand in gyms. We stretch, and lift, and ride bikes, and boulder. We try out new exercises and programs, and we actively struggle to get better at our sport. We feel it is essential that every coach on our team understands the struggle of being a climber. We train. We try diet strategies. We test programs. In short, we feel that if the coaches on our team aren’t training, themselves, they won’t be as effective as they can be.
Ownership is taking responsibility. Extreme ownership, a term coined by Jocko Willink, is taking responsibility for all outcomes. If our athlete fails to complete their program, what was our role in their failure? If they fail because of fear, what could we have done differently for them? If they get burned out from their training, what did we do wrong?
It’s easy to build out hard training and blame the athlete when they can’t do it. Building out great training is hard, and taking responsibility when it doesn’t work is what a great coach does.
Before you reach out:
Consider what is driving you to want to coach.
If you’re looking for a cool job you can do while living on the road, please contact someone else or start your social media influencer career today.
If you can’t get climbing out of your head and your thirst for knowledge and skill overwhelms you, keep reading.
Here are twelve books to read to get started:
- The Rock Climber’s Training Manual
- The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition (PN1 Manual)
- 9 Out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes
- Atomic Habits
- Crucial Conversations
- Motivational Interviewing
- Secrets of Successful Program Design
- Easy Strength
- Turning Pro
- The Language of Coaching
- Change Maker
You should plan to dedicate an hour each day to your education and an hour to practice and training. This should result in you having read forty or more books each year, and getting more than 350 hours of movement time, exercise learning, or climbing drills.
We expect our team to keep this habit up. This means that if someone hires a coach that’s been with us for five years, they can expect that coach to have read extensively and has practiced and exercised thousands of hours. We don’t care how many followers you have on social media. We care about you being an excellent coach to maybe twenty people.
Importantly, you should have some familiarity with our team and our writing. We have hundreds of articles at Climb Strong, and we publish newsletters, videos, and training programs regularly. Spend some time doing our programs. Attend one of the Performance Climbing Coach events. Read our books and articles. If you see great results, and like where we’re coming from, then, and only then, should you contact us about joining our team. Cut and paste email inquiries, Instagram messages, and uninformed messages will not be answered.
If you’re a professional that is not a coach, but you have skills you think could help us, get in touch. We’re growing and we’d love to have more good people on our team.