What is the future of British climbing and coaching?

Climbing Coaching really seems to be on it’s way up and I am finding more and more people are looking for support and guidance with overcoming that plateau within their own performance. I can remember discussing coaching with John Garside from the BMC nearly 10 years ago where we both agreed that for coaching to become mainstream, that the sport would need to dramatically evolve.

At the time, the term instructor was the only phrase that covered the occupation of a person who taught climbing and it is amazing to see just how far things have come within the last decade. I can remember being able to count all of the climbing coaches in the UK on one hand but now it seems that there are hundreds out there, helping people to improve and grow in the direction they wish within climbing.

It seems as though there has been a huge cultural shift and as climbing is still evolving, there is no telling where we might be in another 10 years time. This is particularly topical as I am currently taking a couple of my clients through a general conditioning phase of training. When I was a University, we worked closely with other Sporting Bodies, the likes of British Cycling, British Swimming and British Gymnastics, looking at how they prepare their athletes for an upcoming year of training. The term conditioning was so fluently understood and with hundreds of research papers and studies backing up its important in building a firm training base.

Could this really be that climbing is now becoming more similar to these more mainstream sports?


Yours truly coaching at the Climbing Works, Sheffield. Photo: Michelle Forrest

With the potential for climbing to become Olympic I can see it no other way. The sport is now becoming more focussed on performance. All you need to do is look at the new generation coming through to see that this is where its headed. The likes of Molly Thompson-Smith, Tara Hayes, Shauna Coxsey, Nathan Phillips and Fran Brown are all pushing competition standards within the UK higher than ever before as Juniors. We might not yet be regarded as real threat to the likes of Austria, Germany or France but things are changing.

As well as a change in performance climbing I also think that there is a change in performance coaching. Standards are rising and in response I think that coaches are also raising their own levels of knowledge and experience to support athletes in reaching their potential. Terms such as conditioning, periodisation, video analysis, coaching pedagogy, the Kreb’s cycle, are all now becoming much more common place with the fraternity of coaches.

At the Climbing Works, we have 3 coaches and between us the list of qualifications, knowledge and experience is staggering. 3 Bsc Hons degrees, teaching qualifications, numerous coaching qualifications from other sports, nutrition, teaching, psychology…….the list goes on.

There are still however, some coaches out there who feel that your own personal grade is your biggest qualification. The old notion that “if you can climb and compete hard then that makes you a good coach” is still lingering, like a perceptual relic. However this view seems very outdated these days, with education, hard work and skill in coaching, it seems that things are changing.

This change in attitude, coupled with the new Mountain Training UK coaching awards is a real step forward in better coach education and training with which we can hopefully go even further as a climbing nation. You never know, it might be sooner rather than later that we give the Austrian team something to really think about.

For more information on the Mountain Training Coaching Awards:



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