So, you made Divisionals!
What does it mean?
By earning a top ten placement at the Regional Championships, you have qualified for the Divisional Championships, a.k.a. "Divisionals." At the time of writing, there are eight divisions with 2 regions in each. The divisional competition is a usually a two-day event, with the qualifying round on Saturday (top 10 advance to Finals) and the finals round on Sunday. The top 6 climbers from each of the eight divisions qualify for the USAC National Championships. Sport & Speed Divisionals usually take place in June every year, with Nationals in July. Bouldering Divisionals are in January, with Nationals in February. Check the USA Climbing Website for this season's calendar.
If your category has special cases, such as Foreign Nationals (not U.S. citizens), World Champions or National Champions, more than the top ten finishers will be invited to Divisionals. Also, if one of the top ten declines their invitation, the next competitor in line will receive an invitation. In addition, if your co-region has open spaces, those can be passed to your home region. So, if you are 11th or 12th (or even 13th/14th), double check the USA Climbing site to see if you've received a second or third round invitation. Finally, in the Speed discipline, all participants are invited to Divisionals, regardless of placement.
How do you prepare for Divisionals?
Logistics: REGISTER for the competition and pay the necessary fees (~$150) on the USA Climbing website. You must register on time, or your place will be offered to the first alternate. Politely bug your parents until it gets done. No one wants to not go because of a missed deadline. As soon as possible, make the necessary travel arrangements (flights, hotel reservations, etc.). Consult your local climbing community for recommendations specific to your area. Sometimes there will be a block of rooms reserved at a special rate. Discuss your arrangements with your coach, teammates, and other friends.
We love coordinating hotels and getting athletes together from our team and others to play cards, board games, and hang out. We like those affordable suite hotels that have free breakfast. If you don't have dietary restrictions, then that can work well. Otherwise, plan food, too. Make sure you have good meals planned for the road because it's often harder to eat well when traveling.
Research the local area for things to do during downtime. Have your parents look for grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, other climbing gyms, and other places of interest. You probably won't have time for too much other stuff, but it's nice to have options. Of the 20 or so athletes in each age/gender group, only ten make it to finals on day two. Aim to be in that day two group.
Training: Talk with your coach for a personalized plan, but here are a few general suggestions. If you have only been training a couple of times a week, consider adding another training day while preparing for Divisionals. In addition, climbing at other gyms, with different terrain, holds, and setting, will give you exposure to a wider variety of styles and movement, which is very beneficial.
Ask experienced championship competitors for beta - they may know about specific training opportunities available in your area. Some gyms host special intensive training sessions.
If you live close to the venue, go there and acclimate to the gym, their setting, and the general environment. We take it for granted but pay attention to diet and sleep, too. For some of you kids, maybe dial back on the video games so you can be more rested. :)
An important note about Speed Climbing at Divisionals: Not all gyms that host a USAC Sport and Speed Divisional Championship Competition have regulation speed walls, be it the 10 meter or 15 meter. If the gym doesn’t have one, they’ll try to make do on a wall as close to the regulation wall as possible, but it may turn out to be a 5.4 jug haul ladder climb. This is an issue if you’re Youth B and above climber has been training really hard on the regulation style climb. If you're not familiar with these walls, they don't change. The layout of the holds are the same every time and the movement can be rehearsed and dialed to perfection. Not so with the jug hauls which change every time. Keep that in mind before you plan your trip. Try doing a google search for images of the gym to see if they have a speed wall. Or give them a call.
What makes Divisionals a great competition?
Divisionals is often a favorite for athletes, parents, and coaches because it is a smaller event than Regionals or Nationals - only about 20 kids in each category. That means shorter Iso times. You might have to travel, which means a hotel stay and extra time with your buddies. It's a two-day competition, with Qualifiers on Saturday and Finals on Sunday, so it's both extra exciting and at the same time more relaxed because the event is spread out.
If this is your first time, go with the mindset that the climbs will be harder than anything you've faced before. But for good reason. You're now climbing with the cream of the crop from your division. But because of this, the fundamentals are more important. Read your routes/problems before you start, bring your chalk, breathe, trust your training, and have a great time. The setting can also get really fun and exciting. In our region, we're seeing fewer crimpy climbs and more IFSC world cup style climbs with volumes, slopers, and dynos. The setting starts to get more "futuristic" and progressive, but that's good because that's what you're going to see at Nationals if you qualify. Watch lots of IFSC events if you want to see high-level competition setting.
Lastly, as always, as you prepare, don't forget to have fun and enjoy it. Soak it in. It's a really special trip that you've earned with your hard work. (Parents, this is a great opportunity to reinforce the lesson that success comes with countless hours in the gym, a ton of effort, and preparation.)
Questions? Let us know in the comments! Want to make sure you're ready to crush after Iso? Read our Iso tips post.
For you experienced Divisionals competitors: What advice would you give to a first-timer? What do you like best about Divisionals? Share your wisdom in the comments!