Even Good Beta Spray is Bad Beta Spray.

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.
— Aristotle, in Nichomachean Ethics
betaspray

Believe me, I understand the urge.  You want to help.  Or you want to show off.  Or you want to be an Exspurt.  It could be that you have every great intention, and you really want to see that person succeed and see progression in their climbing.  I doubt it, but it's possible.  

Problem is, progression is about learning, but because of your spray, they likely didn't learn a damned thing.  

The more I coach climbers, the more I become aware of this fact.  I've been guilty.  When one of my partners is struggling, I'm always happy to help them work out what beta will be best for them.  I very rarely offer up beta to anyone but my closest partners, but it's happened, I'm sure.  While I do try to always explain why the beta I'm suggesting is better, and what my thought process was, I'm still generally doing them a disservice by telling them in the first place.

Of course, there are two types of Beta Sprayers.  Those with good intentions, and those who just want to hear themselves sound smart.  You know the latter.  Ignore them.  But the ones with good intentions might also be harming you.  

One of the most important parts of the learning process is reflection.  It's been said that we don't learn from experience...we learn from reflecting on experience.  

Too often we dole out beta that the climber isn't quite ready to understand.  They might be 3 minutes from making the connection on their own, or they might be 3 years from it.  Regardless, if we give them that beta, and they can't sufficiently reflect on why it worked, what about it was better than the methods they had tried, and how to implement it further, then we've given them nothing.  Less than nothing.  We've set them back when they may have been so close to making the connection on their own, and locking it down.

In my coaching sessions I still occasionally give beta.  However, I now do it in a very specific way.  I ask questions, or at most, give positioning cues and tell the climber every step of my mental process in coming up with that beta, and why I thought it would work.  I work backwards with them from the point of failure, asking questions as we go, to find out what started the chain reaction that caused them to fall. More often than not, a week later I get a message saying "I just used that new technique I learned to send a longtime project!"

If you're that person who gets flustered in 5 minutes and MUST ask for beta, then ask someone who can explain it and tell you why, rather than just tell you how they struggled up it.  

If you're the person giving the beta... the one with good intentions... take a second to decide if you're doing them a favor, or stunting their growth.  

Your partners and significant others are likely to get frustrated when they stop getting the beta that they used to rely so heavily on. However, in a season or two, they'll thank you for it.

 

If you're intrigued, and want to improve the way you give beta, here's a great article from our friend Will Anglin on some of the finer points of Motor Learning as it applies to climbing.