Remote Coaching vs. In Person

When I started this business, I was unsure because at the time I was POSITIVE that coaching in person was better. Now, after having worked with lots of coaches in person, I see one very common mistake being made - too much cueing, that often takes the form of beta or giving away the subtle adjustments that need made. In my opinion, this stunts the growth of the climber in most cases.

So now I’m leaning toward remote coaching actually being potentially better in many cases. Thoughts?

I have to agree. As a long-time youth coach and a parent of a 5-year-old. I have seen my son learn to move and climb in a pretty mature way. We have never told him how to climb, he has been given the opportunity to climb, and many chances to observe climbing, both adults and my team kids. Watching his climbing evolve has made me re-think how we structure our practice for our youngest climbers and it’s even made me re-think my own practice and approach to training as well. I believe we learn best by observing and doing, not by being told how to move. So yes I think remote coaching has the potential to be just as effective as in-person because it forces the climber to practice and learn on their own. Here is an example of some of the skill he has developed through observation and practice.

But being on-hand enables the coach to better observe how their athletes prepare/ mental approach/ spot any physical imbalances/ technique flaws etc.

Reviewing them via video clips only gives a blinkered view.

Cueing definitely hinders the athlete long term though; but this is a flaw with the coaching, and should probably be addressed there.


I’m not a coach so I just have my own experience to base this off of.

I did an in person 6 week cycle with a coach a year or two ago and it was by far the best investment in my climbing I’ve made, short of building a home wall before my son was born.

I think that the responsibility really falls on the athlete to take the cues the coach gives and think critically about it. I guess if a climber just expects to be spoon fed info and that’s all they want it can be a problem but that is still on the climber.

My coach would give me space to try things and we would talk beta out but ultimately she would watch me and then brutally and honestly pick apart my climbing.

It got to the point where I would hear her voice in my head when I was climbing on my own outdoors and I’ve taken a lot of what she said and really made into my style so much so that I can’t even remember that I used to thrutch, cut feet and back step every move.

Not to say that remote coaching wouldn’t also be helpful and I would probably greatly benefit from either at this point


I cringe when I see an (in person) coach spraying beta at their athlete.

Of course as I bystander I dont know exactly what their relationship is like. But as a former teacher and soccer coach, I certainly know that this tactic is not the most beneficial for the athlete.

+1 vote for teaching to a person to fish, virtually or in person (hope you get my reference there)


Sounds like you had a good coach! More rare than you might think to see a coach not just spray beta.


True, though there’s some science saying that the immediate outside feedback isn’t as helpful as simply asking the athlete to review it themselves once they are a bit removed from the action. There’s a lot to be said for letting mistakes happen repeatedly. Most coaches want a “fix” today. Lessons don’t have to be learned within a session - the best ones often take years of mistakes.

I’d also argue that we don’t know what physical imbalances or technique flaws really look like in most cases, if there is a such thing. Climbing is a game of compensation for all of us. We can only guess what “good technique” looks like, and I’d wager to say that most coaches have it wrong.
I’m sure you’ve seen “bad” technique work a lot of the time. If it works, was it bad? Or does it just not line up with our personal value system?

I’m more interested in expanding my value system than getting what I considered to be “good” technique 15 years ago. By those standards, Adam Ondra is one of the sloppiest climbers to ever climb harder than 5.12. Sounds a little absurd, huh? Because it is. He is pretty imprecise when being imprecise is more efficient. I used to value precision over efficiency - not realizing that was what I was doing. I’m learning not to.

Certainly if a climber has habits that regularly result in failure, a person who gets to see their entire process will spot it before someone else. But a person who asks them the right questions following those failures might be the first to see it.

When I was doing martial arts, it was often easier to learn techniques from YouTube. I figured it was better to have one of the best coaches available remotely than to learn form an average coach in person. But perhaps not everybody can learn from a screen…?

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As physical education teacher with a master degree in PE, I find my self spending as much energy teaching my coaches as I do coaching the athletes. I think it’s worth noting that a lot of the poor coaching I’ve seen has come from new coaches, who aren’t sure what a climbing coach is supposed to do. It’s feels like you’re doing it right if you give them the answers and then they send. I tell my new coaches to focus their attention on process and tactics at first and stay away from beta and movement cueing. This seems to help them get on the right track. Process and tactics are two things that can be coached very effectively remotely.


Great point re: technique. Just because it looks sloppy doesn’t mean it’s not the optimal way for sending. 100% on board.

But at training, wouldn’t a good coach encourage different approaches? “Ok, great job sending… Now let’s experiment with different techniques to see if we can make some gains”… Keeping it vague enough for self discovery but establishing some development guidelines.

In my opinion, teaching and coaching have different philosophies. A teacher’s aim is to better prepare the student for their long term development.

But a coach, in a sports driven venture might be working within a “results driven” business, where the fastest fix is often preferred by the team/athlete.

Climbing is amazing in that you can adopt different philosophies for your approach. An outdoor lifer and a comp climber aiming for an Olympic cycle might have differing timeframes for learning.

Maybe the best coach is the one aware of this, and sits down with the athlete to discuss what approach they feel best delivers for them & their goals, and the coach adjusts accordingly.

Having the athlete make that choice probably has other benefits too, in a placebo neurological/ psychological effect kinda way.

The “hands on, helicopter parenting” approach definitely can stunt the development long term, not disputing that.

But for me, a in-person coach can spot things- especially off the wall. For example the athletes form during S&C, shoulder impairment when on the hangboard. They can also actively push the athlete when required (if the athlete is just phoning it in that day), or pull back on the reigns when their form deteriorates.

But allowing the athlete to discover what works best for them is definitely a key component to coaching well.


I hope so, because that means I’m due for some epic gains soon :rofl:

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Exactly. I choose not to coach folks who are purely in it for the immediate results. I’d rather mold a long term sustainable approach to improvement - whatever “improvement” means for that person.

I agree that pushing or reigning in can be a great aspect of being in person - though even in those circumstances, even if I’m there with them, I’d rather allow the athlete to tank their session - and then we discuss it a day or two later. In my case, there is never a livelihood on the line if the athlete shows up unprepared, so I’m ok letting them learn the slow way.

Same as before, I’d argue that we can’t REALLY know what good Hangboard (or weight lifting) form actually is. One persons shoulder impingement is another persons “perfect” form. We can guess, and some people may need that. I’m personally less and less interested in policing form.

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@Jim @Kris
The joys of technology! If my form sucks, you can probably spot it on video just as easily as in person. Def a huge bonus for remote coaching—sending video.

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I guess my opinion is purely based on my history. I used to play rugby and full contact roller hockey.
and one shoulder is basically sawdust now. A former coach spotted my “drooping” shoulder and prescribed me with some S&C and its worked wonders

100%… I’ve got a mount setup behind my home board and it’s great for self diagnosis. Its amazing how I perceive my movement on the board versus how I actually move :grinning:

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