I want to address an often-ignored aspect in kids participating in competitive sports: young athletes' emotional and mental health. As with many sports, a major factor in climbing performance is the athlete’s mentality. Too much pressure, and the climber may crack. Too little, and the climber may lose focus and motivation.
As a parent of a young climber, I struggle between encouraging my son, Jaden, to his potential versus pushing him too hard. Given that my husband and I also climb, we easily fall into the trap of fixating on grades.The sentence, "You have to start climbing V5 problems to be competitive" has actually come out of my mouth, when I could have identified specific skills in a difficult problem and encouraged Jaden to practice those skills. I want Jaden to "have fun and relax" at a competition, but alternatively, I want him to "take this seriously" so he will perform his best.
Udo Neumann wrote about training children who climb in his Art of Bouldering. Udo is the coach of the German Bouldering Team and shares training videos of the national team that includes Julie Wurm, Jan Jojer, and Monika Retschy. In a section on child development, Udo discouraged "grade-oriented climbing" because this puts children under pressure that can impact their overall well-being. For those parents and coaches who encourage children into climbing as a serious sport, Udo's approach is "a way that doesn't leave them either injured or disillusioned and out of sport for good at 13 or 14." Instead of fixating on immediate results, parents and coaches can focus on what actually matters: intention and consistency. Udo states that training is a long term commitment: "Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long term rather than winning in the short term."