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Foundation Coach Training Course Review

So following on from the BMC FUNdamentals course I did last month (Read blog here) I took a further step towards being a climbing coach by attending the Foundation Coach Training Course run by Katherine Schirrmacher. Full details about the course can be found by clicking the link here.

The course was held at the Loughborough Climbing Station. Loughborough was my old University town but back then we had to train on the chipped brick wall on the back of the Chem Eng Building rather than this fine venue.

A Foundation Coach would normally work under the direction of a Development Coach . So though you would not be expected to plan a full training schedule for a climber you would be expected to plan and run individual sessions. The objective of the day was to get us to a level where we would be able to plan and run individual skills sessions.

With 9 of us on the course and a lot of ground to cover, Katherine led us quickly through the introductions and objectives of the day. There is a lot more theory on this course than the FUNdamentals so don't expect to be climbing from the off. In-fact the first thing we were doing was throwing a Tennis Ball at a wall.

What Katherine was doing was teaching us to observe the actions of another.

  • Where do we position yourself to view as a coach?

  • Do you need to look at the thrower, the ball, the target or all three.

  • Can you assess the actions of the thrower?

  • When do you give feedback on the throw?

This lead onto a long discussion on the skills needed to observe a climber and what you need to look at to assess the skills of a climber.

We then looked at how to deliver a session. Split into three groups, each group had to demonstrate how they would teach a particular movement skill - but there was a twist. One group could only demonstrate with words, no actions. One group could only demonstrate with actions and not words and the last group could demonstrate with actions and words. Though obviously the last group had it the easiest it was actually the group who could only demonstrate that created by far the best session. They chose the foot swap and forced to break it down into very small sections that made it very easy to follow and understand (I actually learnt a better technique for efficient foot swap!). Katherine was direct in pointing out the sections that worked as well as picking holes in sections that didn't and asking for our comments and ideas for improvement.

This led us onto Feedback. This is an area that you have to learn quickly as an Instructor because it's the main 'soft skill' in our armory. Feedback is all about timing, You can only give it when you have the climbers attention. This may be as they are stood on the mat having just flashed the problem they were working or in might be a few days after they have failed in a competition. The skill of a coach is to pick the right time and ask the right questions.

The final session of the day was given over to planning and giving a climbing session. The planning of this took much more thought than I had anticipated. With only a 1.5hr session with a dedicated Learning Objective, Warm Up session, Activities session, Cool Down and a Final Summary to plan, time is not on your side. We had much scribbling out as we tried to plan the session with Katherine asking searching questions along the way.

We carried out the Activities part of our session and it's fair to say that half of it worked well and the other half deferred success. However, Katherine was there with some peer-to-peer learning to show us how we could improve it next time. The other group (I liked to think learnt from our errors) gave a good session - phooey.


The course is very good and has definitely developed my soft skills. This can only be a benefit to the Instructor skills used to teach the Hard Skills of Ropework, Belaying, Leading etc.

There is a lot of information and skills to cover, this could easily have been hampered by there being 9 of us however Katherine is very good at what she does so kept it flowing all through the day. The numbers on the course is out of Katherine's control and personally I think Mountain Training should restrict it to 6 people.

To get the most out of the course I'd recommend having done both FUNdamentals 1 & 2 prior to attending. The minimum is FUNdamentals 1 but 2 covers more of the techniques that this course refers to and thus will increase your learning. There is no minimum amount of Coaching you need to log before Assessment but Katherine's recommendation is at least 20 sessions.

Some consolidation for me then I'll look at the Development Coach Training course towards the end of the year.

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