Cheerleading, at its core, is unconditional support. Whereas, coaching is pragmatic advice aimed at improvement. In a performance-driven environment, cheerleading typically drowns out coaching. The problem comes when an athlete spends a majority of his or her time in a performance-driven environment. There needs to be time and space for subtlety of coaching to take place, when improvement in movement is more important than getting to the top of a climb. Everyone in climbing would benefit from a little less cheerleading and little more coaching.
I had high expectations for Redpoint: The Self-Coached Climber's Guide to Redpoint and On-Site Climbing. My copy of their first offering, Self-Coached Climber, is falling apart from constant use. "Redpoint" did not disappoint. It covers all aspects of redpoint and onsight climbing. It is primarily focused on sport climbing with the occasional references to traditional climbing and bouldering. In additional to their extensive personal experience, their history of instruction enriches the book. The book is more than a collection of tactics. It a complete, systematic approach to performance oriented climbing. There are a range of insights, large and small, that can be gleamed from a close reading. Even experienced climbers will learn something.
The book really shines when it covers the mental game, an under-appreciated aspect of climbing. One important element they address is the fear of failure. That is the primary fear I see at the crag, especially for performance-orientated climbers. They give pragmatic advice to mitigate that fear.
They are proponents of video accelerated learning. They discuss the value of video taping climbs and subsequent movement analysis. The included dvd provides another perspective on the issues in the book.
There is a bonus section in the book on "The physics of falling." A fascinating read for the geeky climber.
There are couple of specific places where the offering falls short. The books drags when they describe in words what a short video clip could cover far better and quicker. On page 126, a picture caption states, "A climber properly outfitted for a redpoint attempt." The pictured climber has several quickdraws attached to the harness. The text on page 124 states, "The route is already equipped with draws, so a harness, shoes, and chalk bag with small hold brush are all you really need; leave everything else on the ground." The picture and text body don't agree. Additionally, the dvd didn't work on my computer (a macbook pro). I downloaded the assessment pdfs from here.
On a personal note, the book and dvd are full of references to New River Gorge, WV. I recently made my first pilgrimage there. It was fun to use many of the references (including play-by-play video sequences).
I would recommend picking up a copy after picking up The Self-Coached Climber first.
Currently, the internet is a massive catalyst for this process. A climber no longer has to be present to watch someone else climb. He or she can watch a video of a climb and learn. He or she still has to work out the particulars, but the learning process for that climb is accelerated. The open sharing of climbing videos (of any quality) will help push climbing forward.
Continuous Intensity Repetitions (CIR) bouldering, from The Self-Coached Climber, is one of the most best methods I have found for improving my climbing. CIR is climbing a set of problems at particular, sub-maximal grade with near complete rest between problems. Lately, my CIR sessions are ~12 problems at V6/7 and last ~45 minutes.
Why bouldering? Distilled, focused movement. I can visualize and perfectly execute short sections of climbing. Why 12 problems? It gives me a breath of movement opportunities while maintaining precise execution. If I climb more problems, I get sloppy. I don't want to practice, thereby ingraining, sloppy climbing. Why that grade? It is the grade I can consistently send 1st try. Why near complete rest? When I get pumped I flop around like mackerel in the hull of fishing boat. I want the movement to be brilliant, but balanced with the entire session not taking too long.
When I convince other boulders try CIR there is an immediate improvement in their climbing (and their enjoyment of climbing). That could be the Novice Effect, aka something new eliciting an improvement. I think it goes deeper. CIR provides a platform to increase your movement repertoire. It tricks you into climbing more than a typical bouldering session of projecting limit-level problems for far too long.
I use the following variations of CIR to accomplish different goals:
Onsight Only: Usually done at visiting gyms or crags. A great way to sample an area while getting a training dose.
All Different, But Repeats: Exposes subtle movement limiters.
Circuits: I pick a set of 4-6 problems. Climb each one, and repeat the entire set of problems 2-3 times.
Efficiency Grinders: I pick a problem and climb it 3-4 times in a row. I repeat that process for 4-6 different problems. I refine each repetition either by experimenting with different sequences or becoming more efficient with the same sequence.
There is a limited amount of attention and money in our sport. How do we want to spend it? Lately, it has been spent on a push for Olympic inclusion. The hope is to increase both by being picked for the Olympics. I disagree, the return on investment isn't worth it.
The Olympic label doesn't help fringe sports. Since climbing is a fringe sport, let's compare it to the other fringe sports of Olympic Weightlifting and CrossFit. Olympic Weightlifting is an Olympic sport (arguably the most icon one) and CrossFit is not. Olympic Weightlifting is orders of magnitude less popular than CrossFit in the USA. You would hard pressed to find somewhere to Olympic lift, and on the other hand, you can't swing a kettlebell with hitting a CrossFit affiliate. Olympic Weightlifting has been picked by the Olympic committee, but dutifully following the committee's rules doesn't help its popularity. CrossFit makes no overtures to being picked. It is widely successful by building a community and creating its own infrastructure.
One of the first drills inflected on novice climbers is "silent feet." The objective of the drill is to place the foot quietly on each and every foot hold. It focuses attention on those strange objects on the end of the legs which are neglected in the novice climber's effort to ascend via a series of pull-ups. This drill can lead to rapid improvement because it provides immediate feedback (a super secret trick that can used to get better at anything). I have found it is slightly more effective when done in a climbing gym, rather than outside, because climbing on "plastic" is inherently louder than rock.
However, it can be have unintended consequences. In an effort to be silent, novices can put too little weight on their feet. This ingrains a different set of poor climbing habits. How can this be avoided? The best yin to the silent feet yang is "over-pressing" with the feet. After you place a foot, press it down with too much force. It often surprises how little force climbers were using in the first place. Later, you find the right temperature for the pressure porridge.
There should be a progression of two drills: First, drills done separately on different days. Then, both drills done on the same day. Finally, both drills at the same time.