Over 60 coaches descended upon Plas y Brenin this weekend for the BMC’s first ever Coaching Symposium.
The range of delegates, both in terms of age and experience, reflected the diversity of Britain and Ireland’s coaching population. British Team coaches, climbing champions, Plas y Brenin, Mountain Leader Training, climbing wall and freelance coaches were all represented; with ages ranging from the early 20’s to the late 50’s. With many other people wishing to attend once the symposium was full, the BMC will hopefully run future events to meet demand.
A central aim of the symposium was to educate coaches working with talented young climbers who take part in climbing competitions. British Team Manager Ian Dunn, whose idea the symposium was, felt there was a need to run such an event if talented climbers were to be nurtured. However, supporting the talent pathway is not just about competitions. Many former competitors, such as Leo Holding, move on to very different climbing styles later in life. Good coaches play an essential role in developing skills that can last a lifetime.
BMC Vice President and former British Climbing Champion Audrey Seguy was one of the delegates. Audrey noted that, “The main message for me is that good coaching is about the climber, not the coach, and with the knowledge gained at this symposium, I hope that many climbers will be able to get closer to achieving their personal goals.
"Our sport is unique in that participants seek to improve over a long span of time and across a variety of disciplines and the role of the coach is to facilitate this. Whilst the workshop did look at competition climbing, it was clear that many of the principles would benefit all climbers.”
Appropriate coaching behaviours are key to successful coaching. Martin Chester kicked the symposium off with a presentation about skill acquisition, seeking to make delegates aware that adopting particular coaching styles will improve the likelihood of the climbers they coach developing long-term skilful performance.
Dr Tim woodman provided insight into how athletes respond to stress. This included consideration of how stress impacts on performance, and ways in which the coach can modify their behaviour to hopefully reduce the likelihood of stress having a negative impact, especially in a competition setting.
In considering how they can support both participants and coaches, many sports consider the pathways that participants take. In climbing, this pathway can include many activities, such as bouldering, competitions, traditional climbing, climbing walls, alpinism, sport climbing and deep water soloing. Steve McClure and Tom Sugden provided insights into the pathways they took as route climbers and boulderers, outlining key decisions they took along the way, and the impact these decisions had upon them achieving their goals.
The biggest step forward in climbing coaching currently being undertaken is Mountain Leader Training’s development of a coaching system, which is being spearheaded by their Technical Officer Steve Long. On Sunday morning Steve outlined the progress so far, and delegates were provided with a chance to put their thoughts into the mix. So keen were all to discuss the topic, that many stayed back at lunchtime to talk further!
Children are not ‘mini-adults’, and inappropriate training can have a long-term detrimental impact on the developing bodies of young climbers. Dave Binney provided guidance on this very important topic, highlighting the dangers. Dave also made clear that children need to develop fundamental motor skills when young, if they are to achieve their full potential later in life, in whatever sport they may pursue, at whatever level.
Dave also talked about the science behind training, which was followed by Tom Randall who explained the complicated world of periodised training plans. The way in which a one-week training block fits into a much longer training cycle had some people’s head spinning at first, and so this topic was revisited on Sunday.
Not so long ago beer featured highly in a climber’s diet! Audry Morrison, a qualified nutritionist, who has been supporting the British Team, provided insights into nutrition and hydration. Audry also made clear the serous impact that dieting can have upon young developing bodies.
Ian Dunn delivered a practical session on ways to run training sessions for climbing wall performance squads and climbing academies. Delivered in Plas y Brenin’s wall, it provided a welcome opportunity for delegates to get some climbing in! Tom Greenall then rounded the session off with some ideas on providing feedback.
With his wealth of competition knowledge, Ian also gave a humorous presentation on what to do, and what not to do, when preparing for and attending competitions.
Plas y Brenin was very generous in turning the National Centre over to the BMC for the Coaching Symposium, providing B&B for over forty of the delegates and delicious meals for everyone. The strength of weekend events such as these is often the chat in the bar at the end of the day, having Plas y Brenin as a base was of great benefit.
Finally, thanks to Sport England whose talent support funding the BMC sourced was used to subsidise the cost of the Coaching Symposium.