Day 10, creating that edge in competition climbing

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Do you ever feel that no matter how hard you try, things just don’t go the way you would expect? I’ve definitely experienced and witnessed this phenomenon. I used to think it was just me, that I was somehow cursed, but now I realize, it’s a cruel and random way the universe finds balance in our lives. If something really good comes into my life, I now anticipate the world trying to balance that energy out. Sound pessimistic? I don’t think so. I think it’s a good reality check and a forcing function to never allow myself to be too content with where I am in life.

This weekend, Youth Regionals was hosted across the nation. I volunteered to judge, which gave me a chance to watch some of the youth I have worked with and have seen grow up in climbing. First, these kids are awesome! Watching 5 year olds trying hard is priceless. Have you ever seen such determination and try hard? And their faces as the judge explains how they were scored. It’s adorable to see their brows furrowed in attention. I’m so impressed with these kiddos!

And at 5 or 19, they struggle with the same thing I’ve struggled with in competition climbing: Route reading, unlocking sequences quickly, and climbing your anti-style. In competitions, the problems can be set all over the place. One small error on the route setters part and everyone scores a 0. But, the one person who can break that barrier and it could make a dramatic difference in your overall result.

Sometimes, the setters under or over estimate their field’s ability. This can make too many flashes of one or more problems or it can make too many bottlenecks in the score on one or more problems. Neither is ideal, but for a route setter, this is part of their challenge and like any art, requires a bit of intuition to get it right.

As a competitor, this can throw you. For example, flashing 2 of the 6 problems out of the gate you can think: “Wow, I’m strong!” or “These problems are going to be too easy!” Then, when you are faced with a hard boulder, you will approach it with the wrong mindset and flail. If you ever encounter this phenomenon, be alert. Every boulder is a new round to fight through. If you assume every one of them will be challenging, then when you flash it, you will feel rewarded. And, when you are actually challenged, you will be ready to fight!

Warning: If you think every problem will be hard, you might be tempted to make it harder than it is. Be prepared for the challenge, but don’t make challenges when there aren’t any to be made. This includes stepping back to preview the route for all options before jumping on it. There were several kids who missed the obvious sequence or came into the obvious sequence too late in the round.

As for the bottlenecks, this is tricky. If you are struggling and you are pretty sure you aren’t missing something, then chances are many other competitors are also struggling. The difference is going to come down to the one or the few who can break through that section.

This part is difficult to do. Sometimes it’s a matter of strength, sometimes it’s thinking outside the box, and sometimes it’s simply luck. Try to do your best to be stronger, think outside the box and clear away any doubts so you can envision possibilities. Then, see what happens! Maybe you will get lucky and be the one or one of the few who makes it further.

All in all, if the competition seemed really hard and not your style, don’t worry. These things happen. It will continue to happen as well. The best you can do is the best you did. Be sad about your performance if it will help you clear your spirit, then begin to look forward. What did you learn from today? Why were certain problems challenging? Why did others do better? What could you do differently, if anything? Finally, what’s next?

If you made Divisionals, you know what to look forward to, but if you didn’t then it’s time to think about rope season and next year for bouldering. I hope you remembered to have fun. You did awesome and you should be proud to be out there trying.  For everyone else, keep your sights on why you are competing and look forward to how much more skilled you will be from having participated in a competition. Remember this, the more you compete, the more you will learn and the more likely a competition will suit your style.

Hang in there!

Have fun and Happy Competing!

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About Audrey Sniezek

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