I sparked a conversation with some local climbers about the strong youth climbers coming out of the Midwest. As many online forum conversations often go, this one took a slight turn in a different direction, to coaching (or sometimes lack thereof). In that exchange I received this very solid quote from one of the strongest climbers out of Minnesota, Nic Oklobzija. Yes, that Nic O. The First Ascentionist of The Raven (V12) and co-author of the upcoming Midwest Bouldering Guide.
“The only things holding [climbers] back in the Midwest are that our facilities are ill equipped to train at the same level as our counterparts out west and our coaching. I think the coaching is more a national level problem not just the Midwest. [Certain teams] are making it better but it does not compare to the same level athlete training that other sports enjoy.” – Nic Oklobzija
So why has it taken so long for climbing to catch up? Lets dig into this just a bit.
Rock Climbing as a “sport” is actually relatively new. Early on, climbing was almost purely an adventurous activity. As the focus moved slowly away from Aid Climbing to Free Climbing, the challenge to increase both the difficulty and volume of climbs began to gain notoriety. But information moved slowly. And often inaccurately. Like the telephone game we would play as children. Hearsay and anecdotal. All the while, in many sports around us, methodical and documented study was being done. Which leads us to today. Climbing is right there. Missing by a hair on the short list into the Olympics.
I grew up playing team sports. Let’s use the example of Football (as opposed to Futbol). I had a head coach putting together the overall strategy. I had an offensive coordinator working on a specific part of that strategy. I had a position coach working with me specifically on my role within that strategy. I had a player-leader calling audibles when needed. I had a strength & conditioning coach as well.
Now I understand that Rock Climbing is not a team sport, but I wrote the above paragraph to show the vast contrast. Climbing probably compares more closely to swimming. I can almost guarantee that an elite swimmer has a stroke coach, maybe several that specialize in each discipline. They likely have someone that consults them on the strategic pieces within a meet. They have a strength & conditioning coach, maybe one for each.
So this begs the question, why do the majority of climbers still get their information from hearsay, or worse their own personal trial and error. Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong proponent of the Try-Fail-Adjust growth philosophy. By all means, try things. And learn from everything you do. But as the saying goes, learning from other people’s experiences is truly the best teacher. So check this math out!
(Technique Specialist + Physiology Specialist) x Hard-Working Climber = Raising the Bar
It might look something like this…
While the discussion of having coaches makes 100% sense when it comes to competition climbing. I’d like to expand one step further. In other sports/activities, athletes have the option for a personal trainer to help them improve. Example: my wife runs marathons and now triathons. Not professionally or for sponsorships, but for personal gratification. She contracted a run coach. She’s worked with a triathlon coach. She has a swimming mentor.
So even the everyday, regular climber types (those wanting to progress from 5.11 to 5.12, from 5 pitches a day to 10 pitches, or V5 to V8) can benefit from increasing the emphasis and value being placed on coaching.
What are your thoughts? Comment below!!
~ Climb 4 Real ~
No, its not a typo, its just my most quoted line from the 1989 Weird Al comedy UHF.
But in all seriousness, I did have a great Father’s Day Surprise this year. My wonderful wife made some secret plans for a climbing outing, and even my 5 year old and 3 year old didn’t spill the beans.
The real story started about a week prior. And actually further set-up back in January. As you may have read in one of my earlier posts, I had set some climbing related goals for 2013. One such goal was to get outside climbing more days in 2013 than previous years. Twenty days to be exact. Well, guess what didn’t cooperate with my plans…
Needless to say, the late start to (in my opinion) climbable weather coupled with various additional schedule conflicts that come with a “Real Life”, I had not made it outside to climb a single time yet. So when I was whining away about not having gotten outside yet, in the second week of June, my sweet wife had to bite her tongue and keep the surprise alive.
So Sunday morning, Father’s Day, I am awakened by a shake. “It’s 9 o’clock, time for church.” [wait a minute… if it’s 9, we’re already late] So I open my eyes to an envelope waving in front of my face. I open it and it goes something like this:
Happy Father’s Day!
Get packed! We’re going Rock Climbing.
We leave at 7:30 sharp.
It is then that I look at the alarm clock and read 6:45. [Wow, this is awesome] So we get on the road and I notice some funny business, like secret texting and asking me what towns we drove through to get to the crag. But I play along. After all, this is very thoughtful of her and I am EXTREMELY appreciative. We hike to the base of the bluffs and set the gear down, when all of a sudden, “Oh, I forgot the bug spray in the car. Can you run down and get it?” [For real??? OK] And as I’m jogging back down the trail, around the corner comes my climbing buddy and fellow Father. Supplies!!!
It was a great day. Good warm-up on a classic 5.9, one mis-read sequence away from a 5.11c onsight, and the 2nd go redpoint. I had fun in the great outdoors, doing something I love with the people I love. Plus, although my wife is a distance runner, she is a natural on the stone.
So the seal has been broken. Outside climbing is the name of the game. And the Game is ON!!
2013 Goals Update
20 Days – 1/20 – 5%
13 5.12’s – 0/13 – 0%
~ Climb 4 Real ~