MIA Teaching Day Refresher and Instructor Mentoring

I had a really nice days work yesterday where a client came to me for some extra guidance on the teaching climbing day of an MIA. He had been deferred and felt he needed some extra guidance to help prepare for his re-assessment later in the year. As such I think there are several thing that might help any aspirant MIA when it comes to there assessment.

The first thing we talked about was the format of the assessment where generally you either meet the students you will teach on the morning or get a short profile on them the night before. As such unlike virtually all the coaching I have done you have one day to assess and teach them.

During my Msc we touched on what were described as counselling skills, where you use both effective listening and questioning to get as rapidally as possible down to an underlying problem. To achieve this you need to listen to what a client says and then ask more probing question to find specifics and clarify what they mean. So for example I get many people who want to improve there trad climbing and will often get emails or phone calls asking if I can help them with their climbing. This is the start point for my assessment.

“I might ask back what specifically do you think you need help on?”

“Well I think all my skills need brushing up” might come the reply. This reply is a universal response where the client has attributed ALL of their climbing skills to being bad or in need of improvement. Similarly if they say everytime, always or other phrase that casts a massive web to be cast over many skills you can replay by throwing that back at the client.

“All you climbing skills?” This makes them revaluate the question as it can make them realise they are applying a blanket rule to a whole manner of situations. They might reply.

“Well not all my skills, I think just always seem to get pumped and struggle to get gear in.”

Here we are getting down to specifics, however is struggling to get gear in a cause of getting pumped or a sympton. So we need to follow that up with some more questions and observations later on in the day.

“So do you think it is a problem with your efficiency of movement and planning a route that leads to you getting pumped or a general fitness one?”

“Well I train indoors and find that I can climb (a grade that is harder than they climb outdoors), so maybe its an efficiency probem?”

“OK, it sounds like it might be an efficiency problem so how does getting you to work on your movement and planning on a climb, combined with some gear placement sound”. I could also question what specifically is it with gear placements you are having trouble with (finding place to place it, selecting the right piece or size or is it a issue of trust?)

Assuming they agree we then need to find out what level they are climbing at. I find it most useful to asked where they have climbed in the last year. Most people will have climbed somewhere I have been to across the UK. So if I asked where have you climbed and there reply was well, “The Lakes, Swanage and Stanage”. As I am more knowledgable about stanage and Swanage I might asked what rotues have you climbed there? The hope is I can find a route I have also climbed or know about to ask them how they found that specific route. Based on this I will then choose a venue and routes appropriatefor there needs. Hopefully that helps you see a process for identifying a clients needs and assessing ability even before you head onto the rock.

Again try to ask question that give specific answers, then clarify or explore that specific problem in more detail until you feel you are at the route of the problem.

When at the crag I’d advise anybody to take a client up a route near the grade they claim to climb (Generally I have found men state the hardest route they haev ever climbed, women often state the average route they are happy climbing, although its not always the case). I often just get climbing so I can just see how they approach a climb and were my initial assessments a fair judgement or do I need to reassess them? I nearly always use series climbing as it is better for teaching. I will also leave the belay free by making one above the stance out of the way. When the client gets to the stance, I will ask them if they can make a belay for me. If they can’t I will offer some teaching. If they can I will leave them to it, as I can see how they choose and place gear and how they tie into the belay. I then repeat this for the next client on the next pitch. In two pitches I will have seen both clients belay me the leader, as well as a bring up a second from above, place some gear, make a belay and seen how they are climbing. After those two pitches I will often adjust my day to suit both what I assessed verbally prior to the climb and what I assess on the rock bring the clients up in series.

Returnign back to my client for yesterday he had some more specific questions on teaching lead climbing and progressions. So I showed him some set ups and how to re-belay a rope as well as talked about some soft skills. I have done two posts on this subject  before one on set ups for teaching lead climbing and one on the soft skills of teaching lead climbing.

We also covered some thing the second can do to work on technique like climbing sideways and zig-zaging, climbing one handed, finding hands off rests and clapping, climbign slowly and other techniques to promote better efficiency. There are lots of ideas in my book ‘How to Climb Harder

The final thing we covered was how to get someone planning a route before and during a lead. Here I nearly always get my clients to asnwer two questions before they move. Where is the nest rest or respite and where is the next gear. On easy routes these are generally in similar places. However I always get them to practice on a few easy routes before moving them on so it becomes engrained as a subconscious thing that they just do. I also add in breathing so when they get to a rest or respite they have a deep cleansing and relaxing few breates to help steady themselves before they push on.

Hopefully a few people find this helpful. I do offer instructor mentoring and I am more than happy to do a days extra training with an aspirant MIA. I also offer a mental skills for climbing instructors course that will help you when teaching lead climbing.



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