Monday, 15 March 2010

Coaching Eleanor "Nat Berry 2.0" Hopkins

Eleanor Hopkins is probably the most promising young climber that has hit the British Competition Climbing Scene since Natalie Berry (My Girlfriend : P ). She is only 13 years old and already has made a name for herself amongst the top youth climbers in the country by winning the British Team Trials, placing 2nd in the YCS 2009 and making finals in the British Championships earlier in the year. Since she started climbing at Ratho, I have been helping with bits and bobs in her climbing. It started out with just a bit of beta on some boulder problems when she needed some help and since then it has moved onto me having full coaching sessions with her around once a month. As well as being incredibly talented, she is also gifted with an amazing drive to achieve and push herself. With her Dad (Martin Hopkins) as her training coach and Neil Mceachy, Neill Busby and I as assisting coaches, she can't help but improve at an alarming rate. Last year she succeeded in redpointing her first 7b+, this year she redpointed her first 7c and on my session on Thursday, onsighted her first 7b+!!!

My last session with her was on Thursday of last week. In this session, I wanted to concentrate on the mental side of climbing. I know most climbers are mental to a degree... clinically insane in my case, but all Eleanor needs is that extra push on hard routes. For a while i've been watching her harder attempts on routes and have felt that she really had more in her than what she gave to the route.
So to start of with, we warmed up and went into the bouldering cave. She chose some specific boulder problems she has been struggling with and I helped her with the techniques required to complete them. First go she completed her V4 problem, which she couldn't quite make the reach on originally. Second she made excellent progress on a traverse V5 (more like 7b route grade?). And finally she saw some pretty substantial gains on a tough V5 which isn't her style. One thing I notice with her (similar to Nat and most girls to be honest) is she lacks in shoulder strength. When it comes to wide moves on big pinches or open handed holds, she really struggles. Also core intensive moves she struggles with, but I believe the two areas to be connected. We must all remember Malcolm Smiths Pro Tips "Keep it Wide!!!". We will now be having regular bouldering sessions which we will be focusing on this main area.
The second stage of our session was on routes. I spent a long time discussing with her psyche up techniques and exactly what is required to climb hard onsights and redpoints when it comes to the mental game! I am a big believer that most climbers don't push themselves to their fullest, a climbers forearms must be screaming, their body must be shocked and their fingers must be peeling of the holds before they fall, any less and they shouldn't have fallen (I accept foot poppage though : P).

Eleanor spent 10 minutes route reading, getting psyched and getting ready for the onsight attempt of my new 7b+ up the old comp wall. When she was ready, she walked up to the wall and began her ascent. After seemingly cruising the supposed crux, she headed into the final roof, obvious she was struggling with some big moves, she asserted her self and changed body position decisively, slapped round for the lip of the roof and mantled. On top and clipping the chain she had onsighted her first 7b+! 30 minutes later, young hot shot Jonny Field steps up and gets the next ascent asserting the first asencionist (Neil Mcgeachy) and Eleanors 7b+ grade!

Seeing the difference in someone's climbing performance when adequately psyched up makes me ever more confident that what holds most people back is their confidence and decisiveness on a climb more than their physical abilities!

The futures bright, the futures Eleanors!