WYCH 2017 – A Climbing Future

So recently I posted a blog about the recent world youth championships that had a bunch of numbers about the event (you can check it out here) It was a pretty huge competition and I left it feeling pretty inspired, but also a little lost.

With some of the most knowledgeable coaches on the planet, most talented youth climbers in the history of climbing all congregating in one place, it is easy to feel start struck. With 4 disciplines running (including combined) everywhere you looked there was something going on. Even in isolation, with so many competitors, the warmup challenges and antics and activities were varied enough you could probably write a book on them (even though everyone has a thoroughband now).



Ben takes a break from one of his qualis

The question that rolls around in my head pretty regularly about almost all of my projects is ‘am I on the right track?’ and inevitably then ‘how do I get there?’ 


I made connections with coaches from other countries, spending most of the time quizzing them on how their seasons run, selection intricacies and how the US boulder scoring works (apparently it’s magic). I spent most of the days walking to or from the wall, pacing warmup areas or coaches spaces in front of walls watching. We slipped in some climbing at the gigantic Austrian facility, but mostly just chatted with fellow coach Kim Kamo about some coaching or setting topic, hashing out an imaginary program or workshop, conceptualised, critiqued and adjusted.


Oceana climbing her way to 9th place in Youth B

For some reason, the way my mind works is to frantically take notes, image snippets, parts of conversations, numbers and a host of other bits and pieces of experiences, roll it around the inside of my skull for about a month, as I come to false conclusion after false conclusion…… until eventually I can output some condensed piece of philosophy that is hopefully useful in my current framework of perception. Or more simply, a direction.


It’s exhausting, to be honest. my poor girlfriend would ask me on my recent week-long holiday (thank you to everyone that made that happen!) what are you thinking? To which I would reply ‘what kind of person I want to be’. The things I do and involve myself in have roots that plunge deep into the heart of who I am. A more appropriate response probably would have been what direction do I want to take my coaching and setting in, but truly that comes back to how I see myself fitting into the world around me.

Anyway, I digress, as is always the case, these big comps seem to leave a big impression. You can easily become bewildered by all the new walls, holds, shoes and ropes that seem to evolve and come out of every crevice and corner. The new talent and training ideas appearing as if from nothing. My god, what are the Japanese teams doing? and how can I get my kids to do that!?

I came back excited but also lost.

Where do you start when you have open athletes that basically have to save up through their full-time jobs to finance any world cup prospects, national youth team members without coaches, mountains of international holds that are anywhere between 150 and 300 euro’s each and a comp scene that is maybe 10 years behind what we are seeing in Europe.  The task seems monstrous.

Luckily, Sport Climbing Australia, in partnership with a host of other hardworking volunteers have been putting time into compartmentalisation of these tasks. Creating committees that deal specifically with each element. Ideas are getting developed and conversations are getting turned into manageable ideas. Obviously, none of which you will likely ever see until finished products are ready to be deployed.

Progress is slow, as with anything, real change takes time and dedication, and of course, I have my own plans as well…….. Think global, act local…….

I suppose after everything, the one thing I figured out that helped me settle is that we are all a little lost. No-one seems to have the one right answer, we just get better and faster at seeing when we are wrong so that we can adjust, side step and keep moving.

It has been a fascinating journey for me as one of the Australian coaches over the past 3 years. Plenty of ups and downs. Going to World events has been eye-opening, meeting coaches that share the same ideas and visions that I do, that have jumped the same hurdles that I face and those that have really forged the way for all of us. Inspiring.


Jesse throwing down in semi-finals

Whether the future still holds national plans for me is yet to be seen, but I am certainly feeling less lost as the excitement for what is to come grows.


I hope your next climb is not your best because I want you to look back in 5 years and think how far you have come.



The training wall in Innsbruck