Words by Jane Chin, Photos by Cass Chin
Sender One Santa Ana (SNA) and Los Angeles (LAX) both have competitive ("comp") teams that practice at their respective "home gyms". Given the distance between the two gyms, Sender One coaches hold monthly full team practices and an early season "all team lock-in" event. This encourages bonding between comp team members and fosters cohesion for Team Sender One. For the 2018 sport and speed climbing season, the all team lock-in event took place at Sender One LAX on February 17, 2018.
While the Sender One Youth team trained together, coaches Christian and Nate held a parent orientation to discuss team goals and important information about USA Climbing membership requirements for competitors. Many parents were new to the comp team, and climbing in general, and welcomed a forum where they asked the coaches questions about training methods, safety, and USA Climbing rules. Coach Christian Mercene, the SNA youth head coach, really listened and addressed new parents' questions and concerns. Coach Nate Withey, who has extensive personal competition experience, was able to answer technical questions about USA Climbing's rules. Parents are encouraged to visit USA Climbing's rules page and watch the short video explaining its competition rules.
After training and dinner, Team Sender One visited Sender City. Parents were welcome to try out the obstacles, some of which were quite challenging! My husband won the "speed climbing challenge", but I was able to pass his high-point on the the "moving cog-wheel" climbing problem. Many of the challenges required leaps of faith, such as jumping off high objects or platforms into the air, which are wonderful exercises in "trust" and made these obstacles popular in adult team-building/confidence events.
Groups began to form, with some kids heading to the party room to watch the climbing movie, featuring world class climbers Chris Sharma, Alex Honnold, and Margo Hayes. Others hung out with coach Melanie (who seemed to be exercising for hours at a time!) at the fitness area. The rest of us headed to the climbing walls to work off the dessert we ate! At 10pm, the gym doors were locked and all the other guests had left. Team Sender One and their families were locked in. A few parents collectively took a breath as Team Sender One took over LAX!
Kids ran all over the place, playing hide and seek, clamoring upstairs and downstairs. The main lights turned off, leaving the spot lights shining on the iconic Torch and the other big walls. Those who brought head-lamps did some "head-lamp climbing".Coaches also rigged up a "King Swing" in the middle of the lead climb arch. This was a long rope that required the swinger to climb up the wall, then jump off, for a long fall and wide swing.
By this time, it was past midnight. Many parents were exhausted since it was past our bedtime! People began staking sleeping spots around the bouldering areas. We set up the ground sheet and sleeping bags/pillows, and as things wound down, we settled to sleep. It was quite a pleasant experience to sleep in the dark and quiet building, with the occasional sound of an airliner taking off or landing at LAX.
The next morning Team Sender One campers woke up, packed up, and met for potluck breakfast. Coaches Toby and Christian greeted everyone and asked about favorite parts of the lock-in. King swing, Sender City, Rope swings, the (climbing) movie, "everything" were answers, followed by the next question: "When are we going to do this again?" Looks like the lock-in was a success!