Last Saturday dawned with a sense of nervous excitement. The reason was the Optimising Climbing Potential workshop being held at the Foundry climbing wall in Sheffield which I was coaching on. I was a little bit nervous because it was the first time I had turned my hand to climbing coaching and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We’d also all put a lot of work into planning and preparing for the event and wanted it to go well. But more than that, I was excited. I was excited to be teaching on a subject I am so passionate about: the mental side of climbing.

[caption id="attachment_5799" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Welcoming participants Welcoming participants[/caption]

Come 9 o’clock, when the first participants arrived, I couldn’t wait to begin. We had 18 people attending the event, and they were a great mix of interests and abilities. The group spanned from old hands to those who were relatively new to climbing and from boulderers to comp climbers. This diversity made teaching a very interesting challenge.

[caption id="attachment_5803" align="aligncenter" width="399"]Warming up on a cold day Warming up on a cold day[/caption] [caption id="attachment_5798" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Tom Greenall's analysis session Tom Greenall's analysis session[/caption]

After welcoming everybody and handing out some fantastic goodie bags which were kindly donated by Rab, participants were divided into four groups, roughly based on climbing ability. Throughout the day, each group moved round the four coaching sessions: a technique and footwork class led by Rob Napier, a strengths and weaknesses analysis session led by Tom Greenall, a nutrition lecture by James Davies and a mental preparation session with me.

[caption id="attachment_5796" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Participants using technology to highlight their weaknesses Participants using technology to highlight their weaknesses[/caption]

Mental preparation for climbing is a massive subject area, and it is very difficult to do it justice in just one hour. My aim was to give workshop participants a taster of what it involves and to instil in them the belief that everyone can change and can improve their head if they put the work in. As well as discussing this important principle, we also went through some ideas for improving your leading head and a couple of techniques for learning to stay focused when climbing. This latter part was done as a practical session on the bouldering wall. What I enjoyed most about the day was that every group turned into an interesting discussion with people bringing different problems they had encountered in their own climbing to the table. I found this really interesting, and I enjoyed using my knowledge of the mental preparation techniques available to try and help them find solutions that would work for them.

[caption id="attachment_5801" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Jules explaining some mental preparation techniques Jules explaining some mental preparation techniques[/caption]

By the end of the day we were all pretty exhausted, but definitely in a good way! All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I hope the participants enjoyed it as much as the coaches did. On behalf of everyone at Optimising Climbing Potential, I’d like to thank Rab very much for their support and help in making this happen.

Jules Littlefair