Before I begin, it is important to remember that as a coach, route setter, event organiser and community member, I am always looking for ways to improve the sport. In order to improve, we need to first understand and accept the areas that are letting us down, and how we can turn them from weaknesses into strengths.
I say this, because I am sure that some you reading will at first feel attacked, maybe even offended at my observations and take a stance of defence. So remember, if you want to get better, if you want to improve, you have to stop making excuses, stop defending your position and open up to the idea that things could be better.
Watching the World championships was both over and underwhelming. The organisation and management of the event was superb. It seems that the Austrian crew learned greatly from the Youth World Championships last year and put on one of the best organised events of this scale have ever been to. But, overwhelmingly, there was an issue with the setting.
The setting was not quite right the entire event. Holds put on in the wrong place, rounds of boulders too hard, routes too easy. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen these mistakes before. I have made these mistakes before. I understand the pressure and the chaos of setting for multi-day events. But in events with up to 16 categories, and climbing abilities across a spectrum exponentially bigger than a World cup, in facilities where we had to share holds between boulder rounds. I’m not trying to flex on the setters at world champs, I am just highlighting the fact that everything was available to them, or at least, the most a team has likely ever had, and still we see setting that misses the mark.
To me, this is a very clear signal that the processes in place are not appropriate. As I have never set on a World team, I couldn’t tell you exactly what those processes are, but I have set on teams with world cup setters and the organisational processes they use seem to be pretty standard. How routes are organised, tested, tweaked. Maybe the tweaking process needs work? Maybe the freedom of having almost any material you want is too much? Who knows.
I love process and I think it can always be better. Check out my blog after Open Nationals for a deeper look into my ideas around testing and tweaking routes.
Process aside, the next glaring issue, the issue I have battled with since head setting my first national boulders. The women’s routes and boulders. The entire event, the setting team got it wrong. Boulder round qualifications that were too hard, finals that were too hard, final routes that were too easy. I remember lamenting on a similar scenario after Ballarat semis (read more here). Asking female setters to show me how to do it.
I’ll be honest, I have resisted. I have resisted putting more females on setting teams because of their lack of experience, and because I knew that it could create more work for me. I continued to provide a platform for men and resisted giving that same platform to women because I wanted them to get more experience first.
What a mistake. A mistake of epic proportions. I have hindered when I should have supported.
We rejoiced when one female was added to the setting team for worlds. But it’s not enough. Look at the IFSC officials list here
, and tell me how many female setters you see. Not enough. How many head setters were female this season? How many females on the setting teams?
It’s time to progress. It’s time to push forward and ask for better. World championships was not a good competition, particularly for the females and one female setter is not enough.
I think 50% of the setting team next year should be females.
I think 50% of the head setters should be females.
I think the IFSC need to be more transparent with the entire setting teams at events and publish the whole team.
Because it’s not enough to just shrug and say that’s competition.
It’s not enough to accept the status quo. Especially if you want the sport to get better. Thinking you are the best is not strength, it’s weakness because it stops you from ever getting better. And I want it to be better.
Support your female setters because one is not enough. Our community deserves more, our climbers deserve more and our competitions deserve more.
PS. Huge thank you to Team AUS biggest supporter Yvette Harrison for her amazing photography of the athletes during the entire event. You are a superstar!