Last weekend, I traveled to St. Louis to teach clinics at Upper Limits Climbing Gym. Besides the knowledge that I wouldn’t be sleeping much, I didn’t really know what to expect. Friday night started off with a co-ed adult clinic, followed by a slideshow and then the true whammy – an overnight/sleepover clinic with the youth team. I was lucky to stay awake through the women’s clinic the next morning, thanks to an awesome group of motivated young ladies.
I’m a bit new to the role of teaching clinics. I’ve coached a few youth teams in the past and have found I’m terrible at it. I struggle to analyze why people fall and what they need to do differently next time. Typically, the only thing that comes to mind, just as when I analyze my own failures, is “try harder”. While extremely important, there is nearly always a subtlety that could be improved to execute a difficult move, whether on someone’s very first lead, or on a seasoned project. The challenge is to unlock those subtleties. Blank stares from teenagers wondering why someone barely older than them is in charge adds another instructional obstacle.
On the contrary, I didn’t receive a single blank stare while in St. Louis – I’ve never seen such a motivated crew, and a respectful group of kids and young adults. It was remarkably humbling to be around climbers of all ages who love the sport, have a ton of fun, are receptive to feedback, and climb really really hard. Whether that weekend was their first time climbing or they’d been with it for upwards of 20 years, these mid westerners did not hold back – no takes, no hesitations they just went for it. I even learned a new fascia warmup dance, from teenage boys mind you.
So where does all their psych from? I met many self motivated individuals during my short stay in St. Louis, but I was also floored by the amount of support everyone provides. More experienced climbers coached newer climbers and older members of the youth team mentored younger members. These guys showed a lot of maturity, which definitely transferred to their climbing. Their technique looked more like that of an adult than a kid relying on being light. Those skills can only be attributed to excellent coaching, learning from one another, and self motivation. Upper Limits is also an incredible training facility, I highly recommend it if you’re passing through. But be warned, problems there aren’t nearly as soft as in Boulder! I’ll admit I was projecting around the V5/6 level.
Thanks to Upper Limits for inviting me, to all the folks in my clinics who gave it their all and brought a ton of enthusiasm, and to Dane Iwata and Greenz Productions for the the above photos and the below video of my three favorite climbing “rules”.
Tomorrow I’m headed to Cuba to bolt routes and train guides with SRCFC, the Christian climbing organization. Cuba will definitely be an adventure, I can’t wait!