South West squad day

For the last I don’t know how many years I have worked very closely with young climbers aspiring to be the best.  Whether that is to do well in the Regional rounds of the BMC YCS, or to get through to National Finals, or better still to stand on top of the podium at the National Finals.

When I was a youngster, the South West always fell short finishing up mid-pack.  It wasn’t until 2010 where we turned a corner and managed to get a very respectable 4th place in the team event.  In 2011, we upped our game and finished a hard-earned 2nd at Wolf Mountain, 3rd the year after and back to 2nd in 2013.  As we were so incredibly close last time, we decided this is going to be our year.

2013 SW squad

2013 SW squad

With the team being spread out all over the South West, I decided to organise a day where we got together for one big training session.  Obviously, it wouldn’t be possible for me to coach and manage 20-30 kids myself, so I joined forces with two of Bristol’s best coaches and good friends Cailean Harker and Claudia Hesleden.  We took our time planning out the day, making sure that we picked the right workshops best suited for the kids.  Once we decided on the content the next phase was trying to fit it all in to one single day.  With Bloc Climbing Centre and Undercover Rock being so close to each other it was a no-brainer to split the day between both centres.

The day kicked off 10am at Bloc.  After an initial group pulse raiser, we split into groups and discussed the main principles of warming up: why do we do it; what benefits do we get from it; how long does it take; what should it include?  These were just some of the key points we covered.  From then we went straight in to a comp.  There’s no better way to simulate competition pressure than actually climbing in one.  We had 3 comp specific blocs set for each category.  This worked really well.  As a lot of the kids don’t climb together regularly, it helped to really build the competitive environment and at the same time got everyone working together route-reading and discussing beta.

After the comp there was barely any time for a drink and a snack before we went into to the 1st of 3 workshops.  We had each group on a 30-minute rotation between the 3 coaches.  Cailean was in charge of  “Route-reading”.  In this session the group discussed the fundamental reason why we route-read; how we do it and what do we look for?  There were also some practical challenges thrown in for good measure!

Claudia’s session was all about “How to train?”  What different types of training are there; how to train them and when is the best time to train them.  This really got the kids thinking about how their body’s work and respond to different types of training.  Following on from a discussion they headed down to put all that theory into practice.

The 3rd workshop involved “Video Analysis”.  In this session, we analysed a couple of different climber’s performances breaking it down into: how they climbed, what affected their performance and how could they improve their performance.  We also looked at efficiency, pace and technique.

Before we knew it was 1pm and lunchtime.  The morning flew by and was really fun.  I really enjoyed having the time to go a bit deeper in to each session. Normally with group/squad sessions you have limited time, so you can’t go into as much detail.  If you think about it, climbing is a pretty complex sport.  No hold, move, bloc or route is the same.  It’s not like other sports.  Take the 100 meters for example.  You have a starting point, the gun goes off and you sprint to the finish line.  The movement should not differ from leg-to-leg.  The only variables would be track type and wind resistance and even those are going to be minor.  Whereas with climbing its all different.  Yes we might repeat moves like the “rock-over” for example, but the hold we are holding on to might be different or the foot hold might be further away.  Thats the great thing about climbing, none of it is the same.

During the lunch break we made our way over to Undercover Rock and climbing started at 2pm.  After re-warming up we went straight into a route climbing competition.  Again each category had 3 comp specific routes set.

It was great to see all of the kids putting all that route-reading to good practice.  They all climbed so well in the comp and there were some spicy routes!  We finished up the day with a couple of sessions specific to the categories we had.

Category D and E recapped on route-reading, looked at concentration and focus on comp days and providing feedback on the day’s performances.

As Category C have just moved on to leading, lead prep was on their agenda. We broke down lead climbing and looked at clipping, efficiency, route-reading and pace.  How to plan your strategy with all those in mind.

Category’s A and B looked at complex route-reading.  They had one last route to climb, which was particularly “sequence-y”.  The route was set to make them think hard and after spending some time reading and discussing it they had to put their skills to the test.

Complex Route Reading

Complex Route Reading

Overall it was a great day!  Everybody climbed so well and the coaches were just as tired as the kids.  All the preparation paid off and the feedback we’ve had back on the day was excellent.  In fact, it was so good we are considering making it a regular thing; opening it up to adults and none South West squad members.

The Team

The Team

If you are interested in doing something like this, or you want to learn more about something we did on the day feel free to get in touch.


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