I am holding the climbing rope while one of the kids attempts to sloppily belay their peer. Frantically, I am looking around for my other student to make sure that I don’t have to personally monitor his safety as well. I am about to start telling her off for her horrible lack of precision in belaying, when I make eye contact with her. Her desperate stare is begging for some sort of positive reinforcement. I decide to swallow my frustration and continue helping her to belay her brother.
In October, I began coaching a rock climbing class on Saturday mornings. For the first class, I just had one boy named Alex who I already knew because I was his counselor at a climbing camp. It went by very smoothly and I had no trouble instructing him or making small talk with his parents. The next Saturday, however, I received two new additions: a brother and sister who had too much energy and not enough discipline.
Though their blatant disregard of some of the rules gave me fair warning of what was to come, I just shrugged it off and blamed it on their novelty to the gym. Their sloppy climbing technique and lack of desire to use equipment the way it was meant to be used, however, confirmed my underlying qualms. These two were already going against what I had been telling them and would surely be a problematic pair.
I decided to teach them how to belay properly, so I sent Alex off to another side of the room and proceeded with my explanation of the proper use of the equipment. After explaining, I verified her set-up, checked her brother’s knot and sent them off. About two seconds in, it became clear that my decision to stick around was a good one. She was haphazardly forcing the rope through the belay device in an extremely dangerous manner. Immediately, I reacted by grabbing the rope and attempting to guide her through the process, reminding myself to ignore my desire to voice my frustration.
I have seen many coaches berate their students for their inability to complete certain tasks. As a student, I could never understand why it yielded no desirable results for the coach. While holding that rope and supervising the rest of the class, I realized that certain situations require a different and less obvious approach. If I told that girl off, there would have been a very good chance that rather than pay attention to what I was scolding her about, she would have instead paid attention solely to the fact that she was being scolded, thus making my move counterproductive.
As a climbing coach, I have already had numerous realizations of this nature. While teaching, I have ended up making many discoveries that would be impossible for me to benefit from in the position of a student. While I enjoy climbing and learning about it on my own, coaching adds a new dimension to my knowledge and creates situations that not many people can end up in.