For the past couple of years I have had to privilege to work with a few extraordinary people within the realm of coaching. Each one of them has brought a unique skill set to the climbing team in which not only the kids, but my self has benefited from. I have learned many attributes that are not “teachable” from my fellow coaches. Their presence is a joy to be around and it is inspiring to observe their approach to coaching since it is vastly different from my own. When we asked Sam to work with the climbing team he was a bit skeptical and unsure since he did not have prior climbing coaching experience. However myself and my fellow coaches knew he would be a perfect fit for the kids based on his ability to see the positive in all situations. If you don’t know who Sam is, well then next time you are at boulders just look for the high energy, fun loving hairy guy that has more patience for kids than the mall Santa Claus.
Below you will read the account of coach Sam Carlson who works with all three levels of the climbing team.
Some days I look at the kids I coach and think to myself, “What in the world are you doing here?” I admit, it’s not a pretty thought, but it occasionally crosses my mind. I guess it’s because some days I get the feeling they don’t want to be here. They mess around, they don’t do what I ask, their efforts on the wall are… how do I put this… pretty pathetic.
For the last three years, I’ve dedicated a huge portion of my time outside the gym to planning team practices, reading up on the coaching and training techniques and brainstorming fun/engaging ways to motivate the kids to work hard during the four hours I get with them each week in the gym. Some days my efforts pay off, other days I feel like I’d have better spent my time picking the athlete’s infected skin blistering off between their toes.
This occasional frustration has led me to ask the question, “How can I help these kids get what they want out of climbing?” All the kids I coach are there for a reason. They all love climbing. However I have to remind myself that they all love it in different ways and for different reasons. I can’t assume that they’ll approach it with the same mindset or with the same goals.
Each of the 42 kids I work with is unique; I remind myself of that on a regular basis. They each have their own reasons for being here, whether it’s an outlet for them to work off some excess energy, a way to improve their self-esteem, or an intellectual pursuit they haven’t been able to satisfy in the classroom.
Whether or not they realize it (and sometimes they don’t), each of these kids have their own goals and the fact is, if they aren’t getting what they want out of climbing they’re not going to enjoy it. I can’t force them to want to be anything; I can’t force them to want to do anything. But thankfully, I don’t have to. They’re already here and that’s half the battle. I believe my one job as a coach is to help the kids identify their own personal goals and then give them the tools they need to see them materialize.
That doesn’t mean having lower expectations for some of them. On the contrary, I believe any goal worth achieving must be obtained through hard work and perseverance. However, it does mean I don’t need to doubt that they want to be here. My only job is to be observant enough to recognize and interpret that reason and then be willing to put in the work to help them get there.
The kids aren’t always going to be on the same page as me, and that’s okay. I have to remind myself that no matter how off-task they get some days, my efforts are never in vain. As long as I’m perceptive enough to recognize the goals they’re setting and then doing what I need to in order to help them achieve them. If I do that then the kids are going to get exactly what they want to out of climbing. And that’s good enough for me.