so you want to be a rock climbing coach? Part V – Rock Bottom to 2nd Place

Rock Bottom to 2nd Place

Aurora climbing

Aurora climbing

As her coach, I knew that her dynamic skills were not developed. She has a tendency to push away from the wall rather than up and this is exactly what happened and to the mats she fell. Oh crap, I thought. That was my fault. We aren’t allowed to give them beta on the route, anyway, so I shouldn’t have yelled to jump but it was also bad advice. I should have gotten her to calm down so she could solve the problem herself.

At least she had one more attempt.

We reviewed the beta (information about the climb) and what she experienced and thought about that last move. She agreed she could and should have jumped for it. She felt committed to doing that this time. I coached her to take a deep breath at the wall before climbing and shake off that last attempt to focus on this one. She did exactly that. No mistakes on the lower section, she made the crux moves and was now matched on the final hold before the finish. Do or die, so to speak. She went a little more dynamically, got a little more purchase with her fingers, but hesitated to jump. She tried for the match, again, to reel in her right hand to allow her left to float up to the edge, but her fingers slipped off the lip and she tumbled to the mat.


She wanted that climb, she had that climb, and now she was out of attempts. That climb, as it turns out, would have put her into first place. But, this was not the lesson she or I needed to learn this day. I can count the number of times I felt I let myself down on a climb for whatever reason: giving up, not trusting the move, not trusting myself, being scared, not feeling as competent as those around me, etc. I have definitely cried or been close to tears on a route, after a climb or in a competition. Therefore, when this emotion was triggered for Aurora, I knew exactly what she was going through.

The first thing I did was remove her from the situation. No point making a scene and having everyone watch her process. We just needed a small break to work it out and shake it off. The only thing was, I couldn’t recall being consoled for all those moments when it happened to me and here I was facing a different version of myself wondering what I should say or do. How should I handle this? What would I have wanted someone to say to me in this situation?

Strike 2

Thankfully, Aurora didn’t shrink away from me and being the introspective and strong individual that she is, it wasn’t long before she was able to voice her thoughts and put some perspective to what happened. I know it’s hard to hear the positive when the result, in your mind isn’t what you consider to be a positive result. And trying to instantly look at a situation in a different light can be tricky but that’s exactly what we did. After our little decompression and refocusing moment passed, I began to worry if this would get into her head and prevent her from further successes.

At first, I think it did exactly that. She wasn’t brave to commit to some moves, she was backing down off of hard climbs but then we found a few small successes and the next thing you knew she was back on a hard climb, crushing it in front of those girls and a handful of guys all of whom were struggling on it. This boosted her confidence and though it would be the last send of the night, she happily gave everything and tried hard on a variety of problems, some with promise and some just to try.

At the end of the night, she was beaming and non-stop chatting about the problems. She didn’t care what place she came in, knowing she hadn’t completed some higher valued climbs the other girls had done. We went to to dinner thinking results were announced at 7:30 pm. On our way back, I asked her how she would feel if she came in last. She was very positive about this though I was very nervous for her. I really didn’t want to see her in last but had no way to know for sure how she did.

When we got back to the gym, people were leaving with their winnins. It turns out they did the announcements at 7:15. We missed it! I found the scores, which had yet to be posted, and found that Aurora was last in the intermediate category.

Strike 1, 2, 3!

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About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
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