So you've done your RCI training, and now you need to build up your skills and experience before going for the assessment. This period of consolidation is crucial. Good practise, good learning opportunities, and good people to learn from will make all the difference in getting you ready for assessment and, more importantly, helping you be the best Rock Climbing Instructor you can be.
It's easier said than done though, and many people struggle to find similar people to climb with or gain crucial group work experience. Here are some of my top tips for working towards your RCI assessment.
Find, or make, a group of like-minded people who are also working towards assessment, and then meet up (in person or even virtually) to discuss progress and practise skills. You could do this by posting on social media, putting something on a notice board at your local climbing wall, or just contacting a few people you know. Put yourself out there and make things happen. Spending time with people working towards the same things as you makes a huge difference in your progression and motivation.
Seek out volunteer and shadowing/assisting opportunities. One of the key criteria before going for your RCI assessment is to "have assisted in the supervision of 20 instructed sessions". This is a really important element of the consolidation period, as it helps people to build up the people skills, leadership skills, and group work experience vital to teaching rock climbing. You might be able to build the best abseil in the world, but if you can't anticipate the needs of different groups and adapt your ways of working to suit different terrain, weather and participants, then you won't necessarily be a good instructor. It can be hard to build up this area of your experience, but there are more groups, events and opportunities than ever before. For example, Womens Trad Festival, BMC events or meets, club events, guides/scouts/cadets, outdoor centres and providers, novice friends and family etc. Write notes afterwards and be committed to learn from every experience....you'll often learn as much from the times that didn't quite go to plan or could have been better, as you will when it all goes smoothly.
Climb with a variety of people, and at a variety of crags. This will make you a well rounded, adaptable climber, and help you to pick up little things from lots of different people. You'll learn lots from being the most experienced climber in a partnership and lots from being the least experienced...so take the opportunity to climb with a range of standards and levels.
Watch skills videos and read online articles, e.g. BMC TV YouTube channel and downloadable PDFs. If you can't get to the crags as much as you'd like or have some free hours of an evening, this is a great way of learning.
Use resources. 'Rock Climbing Skills and Essentials' is the standard recommendation for climbers. Guidebook introduction pages often have really interesting and useful information about history, geology and access which are often overlooked. Books on nature, climbing history, landscape etc.....find something that interests you and explore it. There are also some really great Apps such as 'Picture This', and BMC RAD. The outdoors is your office, so make sure you know lots about it!
Join Facebook groups that will help you hear of opportunities and have somewhere to ask questions. For example, 'Women in Mountain Training', area climbing groups, RCI trainees etc.
Go on workshops. There are tons of great workshops now, delivered both through Mountain Training or by other organisations. Make sure you are on the mailing list for organisations and providers you want to hear from, for example 'Friends of the Lake District', Mountain Training, BMC. (...I've heard it's worth joining Esther Foster's mailing list too)