Mountain Training launched a Coaching Award Scheme last week aimed at recognising the value of coaching in climbing in recent years. Interested parties were present at an induction event at Manchester Climbing Wall where details of the scheme were outlined to the press and coaching providers.
Speaking on the need for the scheme, Mountain Training's Coaching Development Officer Martin Chester said, "I think we have had a culture of coaching snobbery in climbing for far too long. I have never denied that we have some fantastic coaches out there – but for some reason we have always had this belief that people only need coaching once they reach a high level of skill and experience. This has been at odds with almost any other sport, and many other (more successful) countries, and we are the only ones to suffer the consequences."
The scheme will have three levels; Foundation, Development and Performance with each level focusing on what to coach, how to do it most effectively and safe supervision.
Commenting on how it will affect existing coaches Martin said, "For the coaches, there will at last be a mechanism by which their skills can be understood and recognised. I look forward to seeing our existing coaches engage with the scheme, now that we have finally created a worthy pedestal for them to stand upon, for National recognition of their talents. If we get the first part of the job right (at grass-roots level) then by swelling the base of the pyramid, I hope we will have many more talented climbers for them to work with in the future."
The BMC often finds itself in the centre of a debate about promotion of climbing. Some hold the belief that climbing shouldn't be promoted, and it is best left to be 'discovered' by those who are interested. This is completely alien to most national sports governing bodies who generally see their only role is to 'promote' their sports. The national coaching scheme will certainly be seen by some as a step in the direction of promotion of climbing.
Commenting on this Martin Chester said, "People have raised concerns that coaching will somehow damage our sport by bringing it into line with others. It is as if there is a Pandora’s box where we keep the haloed sport of climbing, and opening the lid will dirty our precious pursuit forever. I think the evidence points to quite the opposite. When you see the impact of training and coaching on the greats of the world – they are simply achieving ever greater things: the likes of Dave MacLeod; James McHaffie; Neil Gresham; Steve McClure; Dani Arnold; Ueli Steck – their working knowledge of training and respect for coaching does not seem to threaten the noble pursuit of our adventurous sport! All I have ever wanted is to help more people (not just the precious few) fulfill their potential. This is not some crazy belief that everybody can be a great climber – but we all have the right to be as good as we can be (and enjoy our sport as much, and as long, as any)."
The implications of the caching scheme are yet to be seen but early signs are good. Jamie Holding (a British Mountain Guide and coach with the North Wales Youth Climbing Academy) commented after just the pilot course of the Foundation Coach Award: “the fact that our coaches took part in Mountain Training UK’s Level 1 pilot scheme and our team then leapt to 3rd at the Youth Climbing Series National Final, is no coincidence”.
The final comment from Martin Chester, "Let’s just sit back and see the national impact, as good coaching becomes common place across the walls of the UK. It’s going to be huge!"