Day 2, Too many cooks…


Greg + Mort Walker

As a climbing coach, I’m humored when people try to step in and assert their expertise, especially when they think their nugget of wisdom will help a client I am actively coaching. Today at the cliff, I was graced with Kentucky Pete’s wisdom. I’m sometimes too nice to tell people to stop or be quiet. Part of me thinks that they might share something new, interesting, or better than what I have been instructing. The other part of me simply doesn’t want to shut them down when they are obviously eager to share their knowledge. After all, I recognize when I need to feel important and knowledgeable, even if it’s just to show off that I know something, too.

Today I allowed Kentucky Pete to teach me some steep climbing skills. He was all about sharing his knowledge and working with people at the cliff and I thought I’d humor him. After my lesson, which was fun and entertaining as well as informative, I had a chat about my experience with my client about why I remained open to this random situation. We discussed the pros and cons of unwanted or random instruction and how this kind of peppering of instruction can be helpful and harmful to someone’s progress with climbing. I thought I would share some of our discussion here.

I’ve observed imposed instruction and it’s not just Ky Pete. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time and I’m guilty of stepping in at times, too.  My first bit of advice is to remain open to the ideas that are presented, but, know when you are ready to take on new information and when you are not. There’s this thing that happens when a shiny, new nugget is presented. People glom onto shiny, new things/ideas without considering the implications. Don’t let this happen to you. Here’s why and how to manage a situation like this.

Take for instance that I am working with someone on footwork. I have been working with this person, and indeed many people over time, and know the typical progression people take to adopting new techniques. I have a plan for this person. I start them on one line of thinking peeling away the layers of technique a little at a time. Sometimes the order in which the techniques are presented and instructed change depending on how the person is adapting and where their skills are at the moment. When someone assumes they have the perfect drill to get my point across, naturally I’m open to hearing what they have to say but forgive me if I tell my client to ignore the information for the time being. The reality is that there are many ways to skin a cat and some ways are more optimal than others. However, there is this thing called information overload that can actually negate the entire concept being taught or learned.

The reason I make such a good coach is not because I can throw drill after drill at you or share all of the latest techniques or instruct you in a way that no one will ever contradict me, but because I’m good at listening to what my clients need (even when the client themselves don’t know what they need). I know how the brain processes information and I can balance this information overload phenomenon.

If you encounter this scenario, the first thing you can do is thank the person for sharing their knowledge (be polite) and then make a conscious decision to adopt, engage, or table the information. The thing about shiny, new things is that they are distracting. If you are training (climbing or simply working on a technique), or trying to train something (let’s stay with footwork for simplicity), then chances are you have a plan. Taking on new information may be counter or supplemental to what you are trying to achieve. How do you know which it is?

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Jay successfully leads a mid 5.10 with a thin crux, in style! Footwork training paying off

The way to tell if the shiny, new nugget presented meshes with your plan is to know how well you have mastered the training you are undertaking. When I talk about training, the very first question I ask is “why are you training?” If you know the answer to this, then you will know whether you should consider the new information. Often times people want to help but their good intentions may not align with your goals. They wouldn’t know this and you could sit down and lay it out for them, but really, who has the time?

Stick with your plan until you have mastered it to the degree you have wanted. If the nugget sounded interesting, ask questions, learn about it and make a note to research and potentially incorporate the feedback later.

Why not just simply adopt all the golden nuggets thrown at you? Well, that’s easy. Why are you training?

If your answer is, this new nugget will improve my footwork (he/she said it would and they are good climbers so I trust them), you are not entirely correct. With my  experience, I might consider the information straight away. For a new climber, I would recommend against this until you understand what the training you are currently doing actually does for you. New climbers can benefit from just about anything you throw at them, but as a new climber, beware! Randomly adopting information will not help you understand what is working as you improve making it less likely you can reproduce results if you randomly pick up the idea later.

Switching things up without understanding how it helps you or how it plays into your current training plan may hinder your results. To see gains in something, you must be consistent in that one thing for a period of time. Changing things up at a whim is detrimental to success and changing things mid-training could set you back all of the hard work you have already done. Be open to new ideas, but don’t don those hats without first completing, mastering, or otherwise fully understanding where you currently are in your climbing.

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Moon rise over Las Vegas

And, if you are one of those people who simply must pass on the tools you have learned that have helped you, please first ask the person if you can share this information with them and only do so if they agree to it. Otherwise, try to only intervene when safety is involved. Remember, learning to climb and learning to climb well or break into grades is a process. There are layers to the learning. Be respectful that someone may actually be working through one layer before encouraging them to the next.

Finally, if I or anyone is coaching someone and you feel you have something you must share with the climber, ASK the coach first. It’s better to share with me in private than distract my client. Trust me, I have a plan for them and prefer they not get distracted by random ideas thrown at them, no matter how good they may be.

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About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
This entry was posted in Musings, Training, Writings and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Day 2, Too many cooks…

  1. Natalia says:

    Yes! Thanks! I didn’t ask you why you were so open to listen to Kentucky Pete, but I kinda assumed the reasons you described above. And I hope I didn’t say too much to Jay since I totally understand this whole concept! And cool that you make people more aware of it! But I must say, the bit about tying the knot was actually informative even for me%)

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