4 Things To Do Before Rock Climbing Team Tryouts
Are you ready to try out for the competition team at your rock climbing gym? Here are four things to do before tryouts.
1. Consider your personal goals. Why do you want to join the competition team? Why not just climb on your own, recreationally?
I asked my kids what they like about training with the "Comp Team" at our gym. This is what they said: "You get to meet people your own age that climb at your level. It's more fun to train with friends. You get stronger because coaches will push you harder than you push yourself. Competitions are fun. They are more exciting and focused than just going to the gym and climbing around. Competing also forces you to get good at all different styles of climbing because you have to be ready for anything."
As a parent, I also appreciate the development of sportsmanlike character and mental tenacity that training and competing on a team brings. I've seen my kids grow in their ability and desire to help and encourage others. I've also witnessed a great increase in their capacity to recover from frustration and failure, and to persevere under pressure.
If you just want to climb freely on your own, just for the fun of it, maybe recreational climbing is a better fit for you. (And there is nothing wrong with that.) However, if you want to be pushed out of your physical climbing comfort zone, to make friends with other motivated athletes, and to develop your mental game, you should consider trying out for the team.
2. Assess your skills, attitude, and work ethic. Do you have what it takes to be on the team? If not, what do you need to do to be ready?
We asked some of our Sender One Climbing Team coaches for their opinion on what matters most when they consider athletes for the competitive team. It was interesting to hear that they do not simply look for the strongest climbers with the best technique. They generally look for athletes that can climb at least V3/5.11, but that is not all. They also look for desire and motivation. "Show that you really want to be there, on the team," advised Coach Astrid Dawson. "Are you self-driven and independent? Can you put in the work without the coach telling you what to do?" asked Coach Nathan Withey.
Coaches highly value mental toughness and the willingness to learn and to try hard. Head Coach Christian Mercene said, "When we are assessing kids, we see how they deal with adversity. Do they crack under pressure? Are they able to take advice when given? We are looking for fundamentally sound climbers (good technique) who are coachable, and have a positive attitude." Coach Nathan questions, "Are you mentally strong enough to get worked hard and handle the pressures while competing? Are you coachable? For instance, can you listen and be willing to give it a try, even if you don't think the workout will work?"
Coach Christian also recommended reaching out to your coach and asking for a personal assessment. A personal assessment can help an athlete to recognize areas in need of improvement and to work on those things before the actual day of tryouts. If you don't have a formal coach, perhaps someone who has been a climbing mentor to you can give you some tips.
3. Count the cost, in time, energy, and finances. Are you ready to commit to the team?
Do your research. Each gym and region is different. How many times a week does the team train? How many hours per session are involved? What is the competition schedule?
Parents, know what's involved. If you are new to climbing, take a look at the USAC Parent Handbook to educate yourself about climbing in general. Also consider: Beyond the financial costs of training at the gym, USAC membership dues, and competition registration fees, climbing competitions take time and can sometimes involve out-of-town travel. Also, because climbing is a smaller, developing sport, it requires community support from volunteers. Coach Astrid's advice to parents: "1. Know what you’re getting into. 2. Make an effort to connect with the community." Our blog helps you do the first. The second makes practices and competitions so much more enjoyable for you.
4. Prepare yourself, physically and mentally, for Tryout Day.
Finally, after you think through the first three points, take practical steps to be ready for the actual tryouts. Work on your physical and mental weaknesses. Find out what you can about the format of the tryouts. At our gym, they stage a mock onsight competition in addition to other skill assessments. Other gyms may be less formal. Be ready to try hard and to keep your mental composure. You can count on the climbs they assign you to be really hard. The coaches don't want to see you top everything. They want to see how you think out a difficult sequence, what you do when you get stuck, and how you handle the stress and adversity.
On the actual day of tryouts, Coach Christian encourages athletes "to be confident in their climbing, and to have fun!"
Experienced competition climbers and coaches, do you have advice for athletes who want to try out for the team? Share your wisdom in the comments!