so you want to be a rock climbing coach? Part VII – Strategies and Tips for Amateur Competitors

Strategies and Tips for Amateur Competitors

Alannah Yip

Alannah Yip on Women’s final #3

Here’s the pre-comp strategy list I use for an Amateur competitor (simplified):

The week leading up to the competition:

  • Make sure you are registered for the competition!! and in the right category…
  • Review the rules ahead of time, get clarifications for questions well in advance of the day of the competition
  • Practice the competition format early in the week (comp is Saturday, aim for Tuesday)
  • Have a stretch out session later in the week, no hard climbing…easy, onsight level, low to moderate mileage (do not trash yourself…leave feeling like you want to climb more) (comp is Saturday, aim for Thursday)
  • The day before the competition, stretch, hydrate, eat well, rest well, maybe do light cardio. If you need this day as a gym day, climb very light, almost jokingly easy for yourself…tease a pump, very low mileage…you should start to feel amped to climb more
  • Avoid stress and stressful situations as much as possible. Anything that comes up that persists to the day of the competition, shake it off, box it for later and focus on the competition. Set your mental state accordingly. Embrace that you have the stressful situation at hand, but give yourself permission to temporarily let it go, to be fully present for the event. Have fun with friends and simply do your best. Whatever is stressing you out will be there when this is over and it’s quite possible you will have a clearer state of mind to face the situation once the competition is over.
Alannah Yip

Alannah Yip

Day of the competition preparedness (simplified):

  •  Eat a breakfast, stretch, hydrate, meditate/mental prep, pack and arrive with plenty of time to the venue.
  • Pack snacks, depending on how long you will be at the competition and regardless if snacks are said to be available. Pack your snacks. Have the things that you enjoy on hand and available to you. Apples, gummie bears, things that break down quickly and have some sugars are perfect for replacing depleted glycogen levels. This will help you last longer and is why some sugary drinks are said to aid in recovery. Do not eat anything heavy. A sandwhich, even a banana, take bites throughout the event. Too much food to digest in the stomach takes blood away from your appendages.
  • Pack two pairs of shoes, a spare set of pants or shorts and top, your lucky charm if you believe in that sort of thing, a spare hairband, spare chalkbag, a spare bobbypin or hairclip, tape, ibuprofen, first aid (if you are worried the gym won’t have a band aid or wrap), water bottle filled with water and your favorite electrolyte. I use Elete Electrolytes, which are tasteless and only add the salts, magnesium and potassium you need–no sugars. This allows me to balance my intake to precisely what I need, when I need it.
  • Set expectations with parents/friends/spectators, do you like them to cheer for you or keep out of your way? Do you mind if they video you or is that too much pressure? Tell your spectators what you need and expect if you know this could affect your performance.

Strategy for Top 5 completed problems tallied for rankings (-1 point for falls, max 5 attempts) (simplified):

  • Start warming up at least 30 minutes prior to the competition start
    • Loosen the joints
    • Stretch
    • Traverse to get blood flow or do some cardio or jump rope
    • Start to boulder on easy terrain, mix in some bad holds and bad feet
    • Do some bouldering with tracking feet (use handholds for feet) to warm up the abs and simulate steep climbing
    • Make moves a bit more dynamic
    • Do a few dynos of varying styles and distances on varying hold types
    • Do a few single hard moves
    • Hydrate, breathe and get that last bathroom break in no later than 5 to 10 minutes before it starts
    • Scope out your desired starting location and proceed to get in the queue to be queued (you should know your first 5 climbs you are aiming for by this point)
    • As soon as you are able, hand your scorecard to the judge
  • Tackle 5 onsightable problems. With the point system, you should have an immediate idea for what is too easy and what is approachable. Start with approachable but not easy.
  • After you have your top 5, start eliminating the lowest point problems. if all of your climbs are higher than 400 points, for instance, there’s no reason to touch a lesser valued climb. As your score increases, the difficulty of what you need to attempt to keep progressing also increases. If you go too hard too fast and start falling early, you need to re-set and drop down some grades.  One fall may be acceptable at that range, but 3 off the bat is too hard. You should look at those problems only after exhausting all other problems you can tackle in fewer attempts.
  • Take breaks. The SBC ProAM was 4 hours in length. Every 30 minutes or so, make sure you are hydrating. Snack on a gummie bear or two, not fistfuls. Take a bite of your sandwhich or banana. After 2 hours, or before you start going max hard, take a break. Watch the action if you want, eat something a little more substantial, hydrate, rest, use the restroom, but don’t rest more than 20 minutes. You don’t want to cool down, simply want a bit of time to recover and refuel, then get back in the ring.
  • In the last hour, look for obscure climbs, climbs that have tricks to them that are worth high point values, climbs in your point range you might have missed earlier. Revisit climbs that you passed over early on because you were falling too early.
  • In the last 30 minutes, gradually proceed to try everything that looks cool whether doable or not. Find short queues where possible. At this point, I am assuming you have gotten the top 5 you can get from trying all of the climbs possible for you. This is the time to throw caution to the wind and be bold about attempts and problems. You might surprise yourself and if not, then you should be no worse off.
  • Climb until they tell you to stop. Don’t give up on yourself unless of course you are that person who sends all of the top 5 hardest climbs in the gym. To you I ask, why aren’t you in the Pro category?

These are my views, what has worked well for others?

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About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete, climbing coach, computer software/technology enthusiast and occasional enjoys baking, cooking and fine wine.
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