Teaching NICAS: 10 Ideas for Coaches

We want all coaches to feel confident, prepared and psyched when it comes to teaching NICAS! Here are 10 simple ideas to help you on the NICAS coaching journey, which are also supported by the session plans and notes within the Coach Resources on NICAS Pro. These ideas start when climbers very first join NICAS and carry on through and are applicable for all NICAS Climbing and Bouldering delivery.

1. Confidence

Like anything in life, practise makes better. One of the key elements to successfully coach and instruct is confidence. Confidence in your knowledge and required ability to impart that knowledge into hungry minds. The level 1 session plans and notes are written to make that process easy for all levels from beginner instructors to experienced coaches. Each weeks session features notes, insights and suggestions in addition to addressing the coursework itself. These features assist in promoting a positive, inclusive and engaging session for your students and importantly a healthy learning environment. Ensure you find time to read your weeks session notes. Familiarity with the session ahead will ensure you deliver the session with confidence.

2. Engagement

Our job is to ensure that ALL of our students understand the reasons for everything that we introduce them to. The session notes provided, will prompt you to ask questions at appropriate times, allowing you to gauge the effectiveness of your teaching. It is important that we don’t simply accept answers from the more confident students in your group. Take time to understand the less confident members in your group. Learning how to give shy students the confidence to give an answer will increase their engagement level individually and that of the group. Students will zone out if we don’t include them regularly.

3. Patience

Patience is essential when teaching, regardless of age. Our students are required to pass on all course components if they are to pass Level 1. Our job is to ensure that happens. If you need to speak to parents to gain greater insight into a student then do so. Parents will view this as a positive step and offer every assistance necessary to help their children. Spending 5 minutes after the session to offer 1-on-1 instruction might provide the solution. Some students will develop more quickly in a group environment, whilst others benefit from a more quiet and personal approach. Try to provide this if necessary and possible to do so.

4. Relationships

Parents and siblings are an important part of any award focused course. The families pay for their students to be there, and want their child to be benefitting from the activity. It’s important we develop relationships with them. An easy way to do this is to catch them with the student and comment on a task they performed well in a session. Ask the parents what they think of the course, they often have questions. Answer them well and you will encourage them to enroll your students siblings in the future. If parents have a basic understanding of their children’s experience, it allows for a greater dialogue and importantly allows for the parents to be more supportive. Simple acts, for example, providing photo or video opportunities for parents throughout the course helps to include them in their children’s experience.

5. Individuality

Individuality is important if we wish to develop our own style. With experience we learn that all groups have different dynamics. A flexible approach will assist in keeping the groups attention. The better you as the coach understand the course material, the easier it will be to personalise it and make it your own. The more you believe in what you are saying, the more people will pay attention. Learn your material and decide how you want to deliver it.

6. Repetition

This is king in the process of learning to climb. The first six weeks (of level 1 session plans) will focus on covering the course material which builds on the previous weeks learning. Whilst our students learning is reinforced through repetition, we aim to keep this varied in approach. This ensures the students attention and gives the slower learners in our group ample opportunity to understand the course components. Try to observe the time allocations for each step in the session. Whilst this isn’t critical and will fluctuate depending on your group, try to be as close as you can to ensure sufficient time is spent on the important learning elements in each session.

7. Listen to your students

Every conversation you have is further opportunity to understand them and how to engage with them. Learn what is important to your students and take time to discuss that with them. Knowing that you value what your students have to say will help develop the relationship and trust in your company. Ideally, we want to be a friendly and approachable figure and not the big, scary adult.

8. Relax

Some groups will take longer to learn certain parts of the course than others. Don’t worry if you find yourself in the position where not all students understand the instruction within the timeframe. This variance is to be expected. If you are worried about your delivery of the session notes, ask a trusted colleague to watch you run part of a session to see if they have any suggestions to help improve your delivery.

9. Variety is the spice…

Different personalities react to different stimulus. Have a look through the ‘Games’ pages in your session notes. You might consider some games are more suitable for your group than those suggested in the session plan. Good instruction and coaching comes from breadth as well as depth of knowledge. Find time to research online or invest in a couple of good coaching books. A list of good coaching publications can befound in the Additional Resources pages. Remember, our website contains useful resources, information and links.

10. Consistency

Aim for consistency in the quality of your sessions. In addition to teaching our students to climb, we are selling a product. The better we make that product, the more people will want to use it. This is good for climbing, your career, the centre you work for and your reputation. Beyond experience and research, discussing our experience with peers is a great way to expand our network, learn new ideas and invite opportunity.