We are looking for great coaches. Experience is not as important as outlook. We can help you learn about performance, but you need to bring some tools with you.
What does it take to be part of the Climb Strong team?
There is no question you love the sport if you’ve gotten far enough into climbing that you are considering coaching it. This document is designed to help you understand your motivations and ultimately the direction you’ll go with this interest. Let’s start with why you should not consider coaching:
- Being a coach is not a license to be a full time climber. A coach is a highly paid member of a climber’s support network and should be available to that athlete, aware of that athlete’s program, and working on that athlete’s future.
- Being a coach isn’t a good side hustle. If you’re looking to do a little coaching to supplement your main income, it’s going to take forever to get any good. The best coaches are face-to-face (in person or virtually) with athletes dozens of hours each week.
- Being a coach means committing to lifelong learning. If you don’t like to read, if you think you know everything there is to know about training, or if you just don’t have time for seminars, classes, or the like, it’s not a good career choice.
Over the years, we’ve come to be recognized as a trusted source of training information and a team of compassionate and driven professionals. What follows are the behaviors we work to embody, and that we encourage our team members to develop. This is a lifelong pursuit.
Be an Athlete
What does it mean to be an athlete? It means that we make decisions based on what’s best long-term. It means that we are actively engaged in training, not just coasting along, semi-retired, or nursing some injury. We are leading by example and are pressing forward all the time.
Commit to the Craft
Being a coach is much more than being an expert in getting your fingers stronger. Many of us were surprised to learn that training expertise was just a tiny part of our eventual education, and that effective coaching doesn’t even require that! The craft includes learning communication, writing, change psychology, habit strategies, and more. It requires learning broadly, sharing with other coaches, and understanding human motivation. The craft includes having hard conversations, creating and potentially ending relationships, and acting ethically all the time.
Embrace Programming Skills and Creativity
The foundation for our coaching relationships are the training plans. It is essential that we develop the skill to co-create a vision with our athletes, map out the best path you can for that athlete, and then guide them along the way. We need to learn to program with flexibility without losing the path. We need to learn to adapt to circumstances with our athletes. We need to be able to accept that motivations change, that not all athletes have the same vision all the time, and that in a long term coach-athlete relationship, we’ll go through many changes.
We need to learn that athletes’ minds and bodies will get bored with the same program if it’s used for too long, and must walk the line between effective training and novelty.
Dedication to the Team
None of us has all the answers. We have carefully built our team around helping each other. Even the most experienced coach comes across difficult situations with athletes. Our main goal as a team is to assure that each athlete gets the best programming and support possible. This frequently means helping each other with programming, with troubleshooting, and might even mean switching athletes to other coaches. We help each other learn, openly work on creating better systems, and ultimately lift each other up.
Willingness to Learn
Like committing to the craft, willingness to learn is incumbent upon accepting that you still have a long way to go. As the famed Ryokan wrote, “Last year a foolish monk, this year no change.” It is the constant dedication to improvement that matters. We routinely read, watch, and listen to experts. We reach outside the field for insight. We examine our assumptions. We look at our results. In short, there’s a lot of hard work before you even get to work. Most of our team do at least 30 minutes of education per day, some more.
Be Punctual, Be Present
Our craft requires serving athletes and working with other coaches. We need to be in meetings by the time they start, ready for sessions before they start, and available for scheduled calls when they are scheduled. Our full team meets once per month for an hour and once per year for a long weekend of education and climbing. These are not optional meetings.
Our meetings with athletes are the same. We hold ourselves to the highest standard, so that our athletes can do the same. On time, prepared, and ready to act.
Check Your Ego
The original title of this point was “don’t be a dipshit.” Coaching is about serving your athlete or team. Your behavior in meetings or at the crag or online should reflect humility, support for others, and kindness. Our athletes don’t need to hear about our own training or climbing. They don’t need to know who sponsors us, or who we know. If it isn’t relevant to their life and their progress, keep yourself out of the conversation.
Quality of communication is essential. We communicate with our athletes on many levels, from in-app messaging, to phone calls, to emails, to video meetings, to live sessions. If at all possible, make your communication as “live” as possible. In messages and emails, emotion is hard to convey and clarity is difficult. Be sure of what you want to get through to your athletes, and use the best methods for delivering the message.
Challenge your Athletes and Mentors
Part of a relationship with a co-worker or an athlete involves getting comfortable. This makes communication easier and the relationship flow better. As a coach, though, your job is to be willing to break the cycle of comfortable communication to help your athlete get the most out of their training. Our hope is to create long term relationships with our athletes. In some cases, this can mean decades of working together. In order to best serve them, you must continually hold them to a standard of being better and moving forward. The same goes for our team. Unless we all work to improve our coaching at all times, we’ll get worse as the years go by.
Understand the Research…And Best Practices
There is an obsession, sometimes, with following lab-based research when designing programs. A study can be useful, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. We need to look beyond the research into what works in the real world and to what works in our athletes’ lives. If we hold only to climbing training that has been verified by research, we severely limit what we can prescribe for our athletes. Research is driven by practice, and we must also learn from practitioners. We must extrapolate from other fields. We use conservative practices pulled from a variety of sources, all with our athletes’ long term health first in mind.
We coach athletes one-on-one, but we also teach to bigger groups. We’ve found there is nothing better than teaching a subject for making sure we learn that subject! Over the course of the year, we hold training camps, clinics, and classes. Our team participate in the Performance Climbing Coach seminars and some present at other events across the world. As a Climb Strong coach, it’s part of your job to reach beyond coaching, and write, present, or coach to groups.
Frequently, athletes will come to us and ask to be assessed. They are usually looking for where they fit versus other climbers at their ability, or want to know specific things to work on. This is not unreasonable, but it is really difficult to provide an athlete with a simple solution to a very complicated problem. The issue is that relatively weak fingers or a lower VO2 max, although not ideal, rarely improve performance on their own once they are improved. When assessing an athlete, we need to take into account their emotional state, tactics and experience, long-term goals, genetic factors, and their gifts. Assessments should always have a conversational aspect, and for everything we quantify, we should also be looking at qualities as well.
Advocate for the Team
Too often these days, teams are looked at as groups of individual heroes rather than a cohesive group working toward a common goal. The strength of our team lies in our ability to rely on each other to learn and to improve. It lies in our ability to share the work of difficult programming or helping athletes in crisis. As a team, we support each other both behind the scenes and in public. We save our disagreements for team meetings and present a united front when talking with athletes or the public.
If you feel like all of this appeals to you and applies to you, click the button below.