Words by Jane Chin
We were at the Top Out bouldering competition in Santa Clarita when I saw a familiar face. "Andrew! How have you been? Where have you been!" I asked. Not many parents of youth climbers are climbers themselves, so parents like Andrew who climb, make an impression on us. As we shuffled through the crowd, following our kids to their "ISO" (isolation) chairs, I learned that Andrew has been climbing at Sender One LAX and that his daughter is on the Sender One LAX youth competition team.
I was curious about Andrew and his daughter's transition to Sender One’s team. I asked about the format, grouping, and atmosphere of the youth competition team. Andrew encouraged me to reach out to Jordan Terry, Sender One LAX's head youth program coach with my questions about training philosophies or methods.
I reached out with a general query, and Jordan responded right away with information about the team and try-out time frame. I marked the date on my calendar.
My husband and I had been climbing for about a year in 2014, and when our son Jaden was 7, we encouraged -- all right -- made him join us. After all, a kid could only spend so much time doing homework or sketching in notebooks before getting bored of waiting, and we parents could climb for hours if left to our own devices. Climbing became an activity we could do together, and our weekend climbing sessions became an important family ritual.
We could see that Jaden had better instincts on the climbing wall than other sports we had him try over the years. He participated in six local climbing competitions in 2017. As Jaden competed, his motivation to improve as a climber also grew.
As a parent of a young competitor, I struggle to find the right balance between "pushing just enough" to help my kid realize his potential, versus "pushing too much" and burning him out from climbing altogether. Being a climber makes this struggle harder: I know just enough to badger Jaden with unsolicited beta and advice. This is why I rely on climbing coaches, their words motivate my kid, where mine annoy.
On the morning of the SenderOne LAX youth team tryout, we checked in and headed to the warm-up area. The tryout format was a mock on-sight comp, with timers and clipboards. Jaden had his "competition scowl" on and I could tell he was nervous.
There were two rope problems. My husband and I watched from the spectators' bench and held our breath as Jaden navigated through each route. "My hands are sweaty. I should have brought the camera," said my husband.
"Come on, Jaden!" "Go, Jaden!" We didn't know the coaches or the kids, but we could hear them cheering for Jaden.
As Jaden completed the rope courses and made his way to the bouldering area, one of the youth team members complimented Jaden and gave him a high five. This display of camaraderie for a climber the team did not yet know made us smile.
Jordan and Toby (another coach) introduced themselves to us, and we settled into the group of parents as Jaden waited for his turn on the boulder problems. Then, the familiar face: Andrew was volunteering as judge for a boulder problem in the try-out! As we were leaving, Toby walked by and said, "Good climbing, Jaden!"
"You know what I liked," I said to my husband, "I understood the purpose of each problem they chose for the try-out." One boulder problem was balance-y and technical, and another tested core and grip strength. My husband liked the mock comp format and the organization of the try-out. We both saw the event was well thought-out and planned.
Jordan let us know that the decision will be made in a couple of days. It was an incredible experience and we will remember the way the Sender One team members cheered for Jaden. Hopefully, we'll be part of the team soon.
Don't forget, Sender One SNA will be hosting their tryouts on Saturday, January 27th. Don't forget to sign up!
EDIT: Jaden made the competition team!