Youth Team Coaching

Hello, There has got to be a number of youth team coaches in this community. This is a great place to share our tactics and learn from each other.

Recently I used a very effective activity with my older group that loves make-ups.
We split into teams of three and had 20minutes to make up 3 boulders. After the 20 minutes was up each group would show their problem to the other teams and the other teams get a couple of tries each. Then onto the next group’s boulder. They were psyched and had so much fun. Talk about motivation, learning, and variation!


Love this idea! I was thinking of specifically recruiting some other coaches I know to come in here as well. I’ll see what I can dig up!

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Really surprised this post has been a flop so far. Where are the youth coaches at?!

I’m not a youth coach, so I can’t comment, but I will say that I started a coaches group on FB many years ago, with most of the coaches you can name, and nobody would respond to anything. Some secretive shit.
I don’t think that’s the reason here - it’s just new - but it wouldn’t shock me.

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@Kris I could see that. I don’t believe there is any secret formula, I think it’s all about community, opportunity, and the size of the talent pool.

Youth coach here!!! Glad you started this board @Kris and thread @Adamtilos ! I’m just getting around to checking it out. That’s a great activity, I’ve used it too. I’ve also had fun doing it with younger climbers and giving them a start+ finish hold and having them figure out the middle.

youth coaches I’ve worked with who claim to have the secret sauce also seem to burn out suspiciously quickly. something the amount of energy their ego takes to maintain…


Made my day. I think we might be in the same region or division, we are 91. I like that modification for the younger ones!

This year (because of the change to our schedules) we have been trying to stay current with our rope climbing during boulder season, by having everyone have one rope day per week.

One drill we did recently to work on active resting and relaxing while lead climbing, was taking 3-4 deep breathes at each clipping position before clipping (while shaking out). We have quite a few who aren’t super comfortable leading and this seems to be helping them. I think this also helps them start realizing they can recover and that sometimes they should shake before they get pumped instead of waiting till they are redlined.

Having been at it since 2014, I feel that. It’s hard not to measure yourself based on their success, but is that really what’s important? I don’t think so. I think it’s building long-term relationships, and helping them fall in love with climbing while helping them become crushers and achieve their goals of course.

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How do you handle the 15-18-year-olds that you have had in your program since they were 8-10 and inevitably seem to think they don’t “need” team anymore? This seems to be a phase for some and for others it lasts longer. Does anyone else have issues with this?

Been thinking about this question for a couple of days and I don’t have an easy answer honestly. I think the best thing would be if we could begin helping them to explore outdoor climbing where they will certainly be humbled, and hopefully feel more inclined to accept direction as a result. Any other intervention that results in a similar mental shift should work similarly. Obviously making sure the program is relevant for their improvement is part of it (sometimes kids do outgrow a team…).


Thanks, Dean. Good advice. Overall they do seem to be getting outside more than ever before and all it took was a couple of parents heading out with them a few times now we have 6+ kids who have been going out to boulder this year. I definitely have noticed a change in their mindsets, even those who have only been out a few times.

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Hey everyone, I just started youth coaching this year, and it has been wild ride so I am excited to learn from what all of you have to offer. Before I started climbing coaching I used to coach Cross country and track and field, also individual team sports. The real key to keeping kids seeing the team is giving them the opportunity to not just climb but get to know each other outside of climbing and as people. Recently, every time I partner up my kids, I have been asking them to find out different info about each other, like what are their favorite holiday traditions, or what was their favorite Halloween costume they have ever done. It has really helped them get to know everyone on the team at a deeper level, so it’s not just a competition with the person next to me.

I also agree that creating that camaraderie and giving them opportunities to experience things together as a team really helps. Outdoor trips could be great. When I coached Cross Country, I had them do a reach the beach day where they ran 6-10 miles for a long run, and we had a barbecue at the beach afterward. Any time you can have a shared experience/ challenge, kids see each other as being a part of their struggle and want to see each other succeed. Plus everyone loves sharing food together!

I really love the idea of making up boulders and sharing them with each other, I am definitely going to try that out with my kids next time I get a chance!!


Beta spray as a youth coach. I’d love to hear other coaches ’ thoughts on this. Personally, I believe that giving beta to young (6-12 year old) climbers is critical to their development. During practice I find myself being more patient and subtle with beta, but during a modified redpoint comp, I am just telling them exactly what I think they need to do (or try to do) in order to send the boulder as fast as possible. I know that generally, learning theory frowns upon this style, but I think that a great way to learn a new way to move is to do it. E.G if you have never used a toe hook before, a coach telling you to try it, might unlock that movement and then you can move forward and apply it on future boulders. Another example of when beta might be helpful vs not helpful is let’s say you give someone who is approaching V8 beta to be able to access and do moves on a v8, they will be able to apply that beta, try hard, and learn VS giving that same beta to a v10 climber trying the same v8, the v10 climber might not be gaining what they would have if they figured it out themselves.

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You’ve hit upon some key points here, at least as I understand the research and theory, though there is very little in the literature on complex movement, so there could be differences here.

I think it comes down to what the goal of giving the beta is. Is it learning or is it performance? If performance, then based on the research and all of our own experience, you should be providing feedback in the moment as much as possible. Give all the beta you can in those moments. However, I’d be careful not to be dogmatic about it. We all know that not everyone uses the same beta, and if we are doing our jobs as coaches, then it’s likely the kids can figure out their own creative ways we didn’t consider, based on their own action capabilities.

If the goal is learning, we have to remember that not every lesson needs to be learned immediately. Letting the kids work through different movement solutions on their own is likely to be more beneficial than giving beta. Giving beta will look more beneficial (performance) but long term (learning) has a lower chance of sticking.

Of course, there are times to give beta in learning. We often (myself included) say something like “they can’t know what they don’t know” so we think we have to show them how to toe hook or drop knee or whatever. And maybe we do, and maybe that works, particularly with kids who will explore it on their own afterward (or be guided by a coach in that exploration), but also maybe not. If the climber isn’t one who will get frustrated and give up, then let them struggle longer than you are comfortable with. Lots of people have discovered toe hooks on their own. Most gym climbers have seen one in use. Letting them find it can be pretty empowering and teach a lot more lessons than just how to toe hook.

Another danger in coach to athlete beta is that the athlete becomes reliant on the beta being given. I like the peer to peer beta when both athletes are struggling to put a puzzle together, but when it becomes expert (coach) pointing out the “correct” solution, it can undermine self sufficiency. Adults included.

I think the answer is, it’s tricky and it depends. :joy:


All the best answers contain “it depends”!


Absolutely true.

@Adamtilos this paper has some interesting implications to giving beta to kids, or maybe even better, figuring out constraints that can be added to practice in order to better lead kids into good solutions.

The basics are that kids have a natural tendency to explore, but may not necessarily be good at determining what solutions are best without some level of coaching into it.

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Interesting, would love to read the whole article. Do you have access?

This reminds me of teaching skills to my elementary students, like throwing for example. The difference between setting up an activity (constraints) that promote accuracy vs throwing hard and the throwing mechanics that brings out in children. When the activity motivates them to throw hard, their form is much better.

Hi, youth climbing coach here as well! It can definitely be a tough balance between when to give beta and when not to.
I agree that sometimes you just need to feed them the beta (nothing wrong with that in the right circumstances!) but for the most part, I try to either ask them questions that lead them to figuring out what to try (about where their weight is, their hip position, which part of a hold is best, etc) and let them work through the process, or if it’s something they might not be aware of happening (ex: hips falling away from the wall being the reason they’re not sticking the move) I’ll take video and watch it together scrolling through frame by frame so they can identify what’s happening.
Every so often I include a ‘wrong beta only’ (not that there’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, just a play on ‘wrong answers only’) exercise where I encourage them to try a boulder they’ve done but with 3 sets of completely different beta, not being afraid to get super weird and maybe make the routesetter cry a little, in hopes of them getting creative exploring movements that they might not normally think to try.


Competition Practice: I believe there is no substitute for actual comp experience, thought I’d share something I think came close. My team has about 30 kids and we split into three groups, each group practices onsighting boulders one day a week. Wednesday is my youngest groups onsight day, we had the other two groups be “the crowd”. I was amazed how well this simulated a high pressure comp experience for my littles. It was a great way to set them up in a stressful situation and actually be able to coach them through it the moment. I only had them “be the crowd” for about 20mins then they moved on with their practice. It was a great team building exercise as well.

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