A Parent's Guide to Onsight Climbing Comps

A Parent's Guide to Onsight Climbing Comps

Our last post, "Surviving Isolation," was given from the youth competitor's perspective. This post is from the parent-spectator side. Here are some tips we've learned while cheering on our climbers - with a little one in tow.

Schedule: Know your child's check-in time for Iso and their place in the running order. Check with your child's coach, the USA Climbing website, and/or your region's Facebook page. Onsight competitions are usually long, taking several hours.

Iso Check-in: The check-in times for Iso are STRICT. Plan for traffic and time to find parking. Often, there will be a specific drop-off area for competitors. Make sure your climbers do NOT enter the spectator entrance, because seeing the climbs before they compete will get them disqualified.

Parking & Food Options: In some locations, parking is extremely limited. It may not be convenient to leave and return later for your child's climb time. Many venues provide food and drinks for purchase on site, but some do not. Some places have dining options within walking distance, others do not. Do your research ahead of time.  Bring food and water for your people, always. A group of us once brought camp chairs and a table since we knew we'd be waiting for very long time - party in the parking lot!

Climber Siblings: If you have kids with two different Iso check-in times, remember that the child who climbs later will NOT be allowed to spectate during the earlier session. What will this child do while you watch his/her sibling climb? Come later with a teammate? Tailgate in the parking lot with other stranded siblings and parents? It's something to think about. Coordinate with other families and come up with a plan for the day.

Spectating Tips: Scope out the climbs. Look for the signs that designate the category (e.g., "MYD1" for Male Youth D Climb #1). If the climbs are all over the gym, there is no need to save your place for hours before your child climbs. The crowds wax and wane, and people follow their kids from climb to climb. If you can maneuver into a good position about 10 minutes before your child is going to climb, you are fine. Just FYI, most gyms do not have a lot of seating for spectators - something to consider if you are inviting elderly grandparents. High-level comps like Nationals may have a stage and one main spectator area (possibly with chairs), in which case it's a good idea to find a seat early.


Encouragement, but NO Advice: During the competition, do not yell anything that could be construed as giving advice about a climb (i.e., "beta"). This includes seemingly innocuous things like: "Breathe." "Relax." "Yes! That's it!" Receiving beta about a climb is grounds for disqualification. No physical contact, no passing of items (even water), no sign language, no direct communication with the climbers is allowed until they finish their routes. Cheer loud, cheer often, but limit your words. We usually say some variation of "Yeahhhhh, [child's name]!" or "C'mon, [child's name]!" to keep ourselves in check.

Video: Taking videos of your child's climbs is a good idea in case of disputes later on. It's also helpful for analysis and coaching.

Rules, Scoring and Results: Acquaint yourself with the rules and the scoring system. We have an explainer for onsight sport climbing scores here. USAC explanatory videos are here: http://www.usaclimbing.org/Officials/Rulebook.htm. You can track results at http://www.usaclimbing.org/scoring-and-results/results.htm

Younger Siblings: Safety, entertainment, and feeding are the main concerns. Keep your little ones safe from falling climbers. Keep climbers safe by keeping your curious toddler out of the way. Soft (front or back) carriers are my favorite for keeping a little one safe (and maybe napping!) while I follow my climber kids around from route to route. Bring small toys, books, and electronics, if appropriate (another episode of "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," anyone???). Pack snacks, meals, and drinks. Also, if you are nursing or need to change diapers, be prepared to be flexible and creative. Climbing gyms usually do not have baby-friendly facilities. ;)


Community: Reach out and connect with the other parents. The climbing community is very friendly and helpful. Volunteering is a great way to contribute. We all have to be there (for hours and hours), so take the time to meet others and join the community. Climbing is a sport in which the crowd cheers for every climber, regardless of team affiliation. It's awesome to see ALL of our kids try hard and push themselves!

We'd love to hear from you! What tips do you have for navigating onsight competitions?

So, you made Divisionals!

So, you made Divisionals!

Iso: What It Is and How to Survive It

Iso: What It Is and How to Survive It