Just before I went away i was approach by a TV company to see if I thought there was such a thing as natural talent, they were wanting to make a show of ‘natural vs nuture’; or basically whether there is a spontaneous talent in sport or whether you have to earn it? I was reminded of this when I was rereading Super Freakonomics, which has a small section on the topic.
I argued with the TV researcher that any sport, requires ability to be earnt. Quoting the great scientific phrase that it takes 10000 hours or 10 years to become highly talented in a sport. Others go further and suggest that it takes not only those 10000 hours but that the practice needs to be deliberate.
What is deliberate practice, because if you want to get good at climbing this is after all what maketh the rock god. It has 3 major components.
1 Setting Specific Goals
2 Obtaining Immediate feedback
3 Concentrating as much on Technique as Outcome
Setting Specific Goals
You need to set goals every time you climb, sometimes even resetting those goals during the training. Short-term and immediate goals will help you to address the long-term. Of course you need to set goals that are specific to you type of climbing and overall goal. Those goals need to address the processes needed to reach your dream goals.
Obtaining Immediate Feedback
You can get feedback from many places, yourself, friends, coaches, video, etc… That feedback needs to be close enough to the actual activity that you can actually process it. More importantly you need to re-work the feedback into subsequent performance.
Concentrating on Technique as much as Outcome
What techniques are you weak at, how can i set up practice to work on those weaknesses.
Try to not look in black and white, I can or can’t do this problem or route, but more why can’t I do the problem, or how can i do that problem more efficently.
See the whole picture, rather than looking at the fact you can’t do something like climb F6b, instead look at what you can or can’t do like clipping efficiently, finding rests, work on confidence, overcoming fears, developing stamina. Whilst you might not be able to climb a grade, its the processes that lead you there that are important.
My only suggestion for where natural talent might come into play in climbing, is mountaineering. There is a limited amount of research that is pointing towards a possible genetic link between the ability to acclimatize to altitude. So unless your lucky and only want to climb well at altitude, then I am afraid that you need to concentrate on getting those 10000 hours of deliberate practice. There are aspects in my book How to Climb Harder that will help with pushing along the road of deliberate practice.