Michelle Forrest - Development Coach

Michelle Forrest Resized

What do you do for work?

I work at The Climbing Works full time as the Coaching Manager where I organise anything and everything to do with coaches, coaching and groups.


When did you first start climbing?

When I turned 14 years old my mum booked me onto an induction course at our local wall (Peterborough Climbing Wall). My older brother had been climbing there since he was 14. We would go every other Sunday and stay there all day, I guess my mum just wanted to get us out of the house.


When did you start to think that climbing could be involved in your career?

I remember clearly having to visit the career adviser at school. I had decided that I wasn't going to university so my tutor had me sit down with the career advisers to discuss job opportunities once I'd left school. My criteria were: I either wanted to work with animals, but not as a vet. Work in design, but not as a fashion designer or work in climbing. A week later I received a letter that said that they couldn't find a job to suit me. I think I laughed about it. About a month later I saw an advert at my local wall for a group leader at an outdoor activity centre, I applied for it and got the job.

Michelle Forrest bouldering with a snowy mountain behind her

What pathway have you weaved through Mountain Training qualifications?

I was very lucky to work for a great outdoor activity centre called Robinwood who paid towards any outdoor qualifications. I went for my Single Pitch Award (SPA) [now Rock Climbing Instructor] training soon after starting at the centre. It took me another two years to go for my assessment and it was at this point that I decided I wanted a change. I was having a great time instructing archery, canoeing, caving and climbing but I really wanted to focus on climbing. I had a look around at jobs instructing in climbing centres and saw that I needed an SPA, I passed my assessment and then moved to Sheffield to try and get a job at the walls. [Note: the Climbing Wall Instructor, formerly Climbing Wall Award, did not exist when Michelle was doing her SPA. Walls now generally accept either qualification and some are happy to train individuals ‘in-house’.]

I managed to pick up instructing worked at both The Edge and The Climbing Works. After about 6 months, The Climbing Works offered me a full time position as their Chief Instructor. While working with different groups it became apparent that the groups needed more than instructing and teaching correct technique and body position was really important. As soon as the Mountain Training Coaching awards were written I went on the Foundation and Development Coach courses. I also completed my Climbing Wall Development Instructor during this time in preparation for Performance Coach. I passed my Development Coach a year ago and I'm now on the pilot scheme for Performance Coach.


What do you love most about working in the climbing industry?

It's great to work in an industry that I'm passionate about; the people are really friendly and I like the sense of community. Sometimes it doesn't even seem like it's work. It's also a pretty exciting time to be working in the indoor climbing industry, in the last seven years there have been a number of new walls, coaching schemes, award schemes and the possibility of climbing as an Olympic sport.


What did you enjoy most about becoming a Development Coach?

For years I had been 'coaching' my groups and clients using my past experience as a trampolining coach and also the skills I had picked up from the four years of working in the walls. As a Development Coach I feel much more confident with what and how I coach, I've learned a lot of new coaching skills going through the process and it's great to be able to put it all into practice with my climbers.

Michelle Forrest bouldering

What advice would you give to anyone else thinking about becoming a qualified climbing coach?

Don't think coaching means elite, some of the best coaches only work with grass roots. They have the most important job, building the foundation for each climber. Without good foundations they won't reach their full potential.


Who’s had the biggest impact on you as a climbing coach?

There are a number of people who have had an impact on me as a climbing coach, firstly my friend Kate who persuaded me to become a trampolining coach, this decision has really set me up for where I am now. My husband Tom has had a massive impact on me as a climbing coach, he is also a coach which makes for some really interesting debates and discussions about coaching.


Are you hoping to become a Performance Coach in the future?

Definitely, I have a lot to learn but so far the scheme has really expanded my mind and taken my coaching to the next level.