Attention soccer moms and dance moms: there’s a new sport in town that will help your kids develop physically and mentally. Through climbing, kids can compete at a high level, get sponsors, travel, and possibly make it to the 2020 Olympics. They will need your help to be successful. Here are 8 tips to not f*ck it up.
1) Your kid is not special. Even if they’re the best of the best, they’re still a kid, and they will need freedom and structure to develop into a decent human being. Think about your kid’s long term growth and remember that climbing is just one component of their life. Accomplishments will not feed maturity.
2) Don’t force anything, seriously. If they want to come down, let them. If they’re tired and want to be done, leave the crag. And if they want to keep going, then keep going. The point is that kids need to be self-driven.
3) Show up. Be there. Kids want to know that you’re proud of them. The best way to show them that is to actually stick around during practice. Watch them send their projects. Belay them, video them, take pictures, whatever. Just be there.
4) Don’t make comparisons. Do you like comparing yourself to others? Do you think your kid would like it? Enough said.
5) Focus on things you can actually control. That includes the basics–eating right, warming-up properly, focusing on your own routine (think back to #4). Most importantly this does NOT include performance in a competition or on a project. Results are short, marginal instances compared to the process of achieving them and should likewise be marginalized.
6) Be open with them about your own experiences, especially in regard to your own passions. Teach them a healthy way to do the things that they’re motivated to do. Remember monkey see monkey do.
7) Let them try other things. If they don’t just want to focus on climbing, then sign them up for that soccer practice or piano lessons. They’re at a crucial developmental phase, so don’t cramp their style with your own possessive goals.
8) It is supposed to be fun. Climbing can be done from age 5 to 90. It’s a sport for life, so let kids be kids while they are, in fact, still kids. Projecting and even competing are not worth doing unless they are actually fun. Otherwise, games like add-on might be a better alternative.
By the way, as a former World Cup competitor and current youth climbing coach, I’ve seen it all. My own parents didn’t have these fool-proof tips to mold my young career, but their daily advice stuck with me: “Just do your best.”