Wednesday, 4 May 2011

John Kettle - Climbing Coach !

That's what it said on his fleece anyway. It's a big statement in the climate prevailing in climbing at the moment - although to be fair he didn't have an ! after it. Big names are charging quite big money and i have spent my hard earned in the past going on a coaching holiday and having sessions with a couple of celebrities - but i didn't sell my story to the NOTW.

These coaches trade off their ( hard earned ) reputation as elite climbers operating in the grades we aspire to. My personal experience is that you get a definite rise in motivation and ability during, and for a short while after, but normal service soon resumes. The coaching holiday seems to be more about coaching you up routes. In fact i flashed my first 7a and got my first 7a+ 4th go. However i was effectively borrowing an elite climbers brain as he shouted:

" Left hand up, no not there higher. Now move your left leg out left and flag with your right. "

etc. all the way up. It got me up and i was dead chuffed but back home i went back to using my climbing brain and it somehow wasn't the same.

I think the message i've got is that coaching needs to be a continual thing. Not everyday but you need to find a coach you can build a relationship with and keep going back to for tune ups and pointers. If only there was someone local, affordable, jolly nice and most importantly bloody good ? Well if you live in the Lakes John Kettle may just be the man.

By his own admission he is not an 'elite' climber, though he does operate at a high level, but this shouldn't matter. Who's the better footballer Sir Alex Ferguson or Hernandez ? Who plays better tennis Nadal or his coach ? Who's hits the ball better Lee Westwood or his coach ? The answer is obvious in each case but they all trust their coaches with the most important aspects of their game. A coach needs to be a good coach not an elite player.

I met John at Kendal wall yesterday for a 2 hr session to make an assessment and start to work on me. First up i was impressed by his obvious passion for coaching technique. It turns out this is because he's been there and done that, all wrong. He got stronger and stronger to overcome bad technique and ending up needing a bolt in his shoulder. So time for a re-think and learn how to climb again - but properly this time.

Secondly i liked the structure of the session and his delivery. Nothing too technical and nice and easy for me to get the message and take away what i need to go and work on. He didn't destroy my confidence, but i get the feeling he could have done if he wanted to list all the faults he could see, but has sent me away to work on a couple of key areas that will see the biggest improvements for me.

I knew momentum was an issue for me but i didn't know i climbed one legged. Yes, that's what i thought as well but he'd already done the maths and you can't argue with stats that showed i drive up off one leg 66.6% of the time. The evidence is there to see in the pics on my last post. I've just looked at them again tonight and i have one leg dangling uselessly like erectile dysfunction at an orgy in all 3 of them. I had used 'The Self Coached Climber' and '9 out of 10 Climbers' and not understood it fully. The difference between someone who knows why it's right showing you for real, and explaining why it's good, and reading a 2D book is huge. How much have i spent on climbing books ? More than a session with John for sure. Doh !

Thirdly it was obvious to me he has an in depth knowledge of the subject and a good coaching style to get the message across. I have a degree in sports coaching so i'd like to think i know a good 'un from a bad 'un and John is certainly the former.

The proof is in the performance though and i went to Reecastle for a couple of hours on my way home. I skipped up Rack Direct, Finger Flake Finish and Gibbet Direct using both of those things on the end of my legs and some momentum at least. They felt so much easier than previously which is always a nice feeling. I know if i work on what John has given me i will be a better climber and i will be back to use him again once i've worked on my momentum for a while.

Pay £500 for a coaching holiday and a short term improvement. Nice.

Pay for a few sessions with John and possibly a life time of better climbing. Priceless.

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