My Coaching Philosophy

For those of you that don't know me personally, my primary job is as a rock climbing coach at Hoosier Heights just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. Coaching competitive climbers is my dream job, and something I'd been considering getting into for about a year and a half before I finally took the plunge. I came out of the nonprofit world this year to coach climbing, and I could not be happier with my decision. I've never had a job before where I'm actually excited to get to work every day, where Mondays are my favorite day of the week, and where I 100% love what I do. So much of my heart is in what I do, and having an actual passion for my job has been a breath of fresh air.

That said, every single coach in this community approaches their job differently. Each coach has a different philosophy about how to handle a competitive climber's athletic career, how to help them improve, and how to motivate them to become better athletes. For some teams, that is one of the primary challenges toward building a successful coaching staff - each individual coach's approach is so different, in so many minute ways, that building a cohesive team where each coach complements and appreciates each other's styles can be very difficult.

When I was at Earth Treks out on the east coast (not actually coaching, mind you, but everyone there knew I was headed for coaching, and fast), I had one of their coaches tell me that he believed my coaching style was very "relational", and I use that word to describe my approach to this day.

My entire approach to coaching stems from my concern for the athlete as a whole person, inside and outside the gym. I believe in building a solid foundation of trust, and bonding, with each individual athlete. I believe that if an athlete does not inherently trust you as a friend and mentor, that they will not feel your instruction puts their best interests first. I aim to always speak truthfully and openly with my athletes, to be clear about why we are approaching their training the way that we are, what we see and expect from them, and if we have concerns, what they are and how we want to address them. I don't believe in speaking down to, patronizing, or belittling my athletes to get a specific result out of them. I'm fine with negative reinforcement (burpees are my favorite) and with yelling during conditioning and circuits, but never in a way that is personally degrading to an athlete.

On the flip side of that coin, I do want them to see me as a coach and a member of the staff at Hoosier Heights, and don't want to cross that line into being strictly their happy-fun-time friend or for them to not take me seriously as their coach. Sometimes as an athlete you have to do things you find unpleasant, and I want them to expect me to push them.

I also believe that most youth athletes, if given the opportunity and the tools, will choose to make good decisions. I will temper that by saying that not all kids will choose to do the right thing when presented with multiple options, but most will. I feel that honoring the autonomy and independence of each athlete empowers them to make choices that will improve themselves as athletes. By ingraining a logical, cost-benefit decision making process in their minds when it comes to training, I believe a coach gives an athlete the tools to continue their improvement when he/she is not around to push them or to make training decisions for them.

All of these things make me sound like a hippie, and that's fine. One of my Earth Treks kids told me once that when they are climbing in a competition, and I'm not there, they hear me screaming in their mind. This is what I want. When an athlete is faced with pressure, or a serious decision, I want them to hear me. Whether that be my voice and my characteristic siren-scream when they're climbing in a high-stakes competition, me telling them to make good decisions, or me helping them weigh the pro's and con's of any decision in their life, at the end of the day that personal impact that I have had on them is what is of paramount importance to me. When they are climbing and they know I'm in the audience, I want them to feel a sense of support and peace, and know that no matter the outcome, they haven't let me down, they're each perfect in my mind and that I am proud of what they have accomplished.

2 comments:

  1. Wow. I love your coaching philosophy. It sounds like you're making a real connection with your climbers, and that is awesome.I'm so happy your job is working out so well. Awesome job!

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  2. I like your coaching philosophy a lot! I'm not a physician yet, but I'm working on the type of relationship I want to build with my future patients, and in a way, I think my approach is going to be very much the same--gotta find that balance!

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