so you want to be a rock climbing coach? Part IV – The Competition

The Competition

Aurora competing

Aurora competing

As her coach, I think I nailed all of the pre-comp preparedness, less the validation of which category she was actually registered into. Doh! Aside from that, there would be no surprises about the format or rules when she arrived. Being informed ahead of time would help keep her nerves down.

She arrived early enough to check out the pros competing, scope out the problems from behind the ropes a little, and warm up. I had emailed them earlier that morning about all the things they should be prepared with at the competition, but I did it too late. Therefore, I made sure to have a few things on hand, just in case.

Everything went really well. I warmed her up, we got her climbing in the shortest queue straight away. She got her 5 problems early on and we started seeing sends on higher point values without falls bumping her overall problem set up. There were other girls her height, possibly around her age, competing. Keeping an eye on the problems they were tackling, we tried some of the same higher point problems they were having success on. Aurora was not as successful on all of those and now came the true test of my ability as a coach.

Once she started falling, we had to balance tackling these high point climbs with climbs that were hopefully more approachable. At first this worked well, fall on a really hard climb, succeed on something a little more reasonable but sufficient to bump up her total. Then, we ran out of those problems. Everything she would try would be hit or miss. Could we keep her psyche up with 2 hours left in the competition and the possibility of no further sends? Could she pull off one of these harder climbs in 5 attempts and with confidence?

The girls were around from time to time and I didn’t want it getting into her head that she was directly competing with them. It was possible that she was, but that wasn’t something for her to worry about. I kept a watch with the help of her parents. Aurora simply needed to focus on trying her best and trusting both her intuition about a route and our suggestions. As I watched the other youth climb various problems, I knew Aurora could do them, too, but her skills gap became very evident at times and it was tricky to know whether to push her to try or let her walk away when she got flustered. I opted to trust my gut and encourage her but allow her judgement to be the final call. Sometimes that bit of freedom was all she needed to bolster her confidence.

For instance, we had agreed she would attempt this red problem but I was surprised to see her choose the yellow one right next to it instead. I couldn’t see point values but she determined it was a better point range problem and more approachable than the red one despite watching a few guys fall in the same spot on it. She cruised it and the guys were supportive and helpful in suggesting she try another route that could be ‘easy’ for her but worth a lot of points.

Then there was this brown route, worth an amount of points within range for her to up her overall score. Aurora got psyched on it and after 3 tries was able to match on the last hold before the finish. Unfortunately, the finish was a reach for her. She could just barely get her fingertips over the lip. She was desperately stretched with barely a pad’s width of 3 fingers hanging on above her. She couldn’t figure out how to get her left hand up to match. I ambitiously yelled up to her to jump for it….she was so close!

Strike 1.

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About Audrey Sniezek

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