During the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend I was invited to speak at the Banff Coaching Conference. As a former youth competitor in Canada, I trained on a team with a coach for my entire youth. Until I turned 20, I trained, competed and traveled each year to the annual Youth World Championships in Europe, Asia, and South America.
Chris Neve, the organizer of the conference, put together a panel of 3 former youth competitors, including my sister and fellow Five Ten athlete Stacey Weldon, Canadian climbing superstar Sean McColl, and myself. Katie Brown and Jason Holowach (a strong climber from Saskatchewan) had originally been on the panel, but were unable to attend in the end. A host of approximately 30 coaches and presenters attended from various parts of North America. The conference took place over the course of 2.5 days, but we unfortunately were only able to attend for our panel discussion. Chris Neve had put this panel together as a result of my article titled "Growing up Climbing" in a recent issue of Gripped Magazine. He wanted personal experiences from our histories as athletes that related to our relationships with and influences from our coaches.
In the end, the discussion lasted just over 2 hours. Stacey, Sean and I have all had different experiences with coaches over the years to share. Stacey, unfortunately, had the experience of a climbing coach who psychologically brainwashed her athletes into becoming people that they were not. She remains the only athlete from that team who has continued climbing. Sean was coached by two of the finest coaches in Canada, Mike Doyle and Andrew Wilson. These men recognized Sean's talent early in life, and pushed him to excel and be who he is today. I also had amazing coaches, Knut Roke and Simon Villenueve, as well as Pete Woods, Dan Smith, and Ryan Greenberg. Many amazing guys, who really pushed me to be the climber who I am today, and I remain close to them all to this day.
A few key points were brought up in this discussion. First of all, we all agreed that the support and motivation from our families were extremely important in our success in climbing. Both Sean and Stacey and mine's parents have been heavily involved in Canadian competition climbing. Having climbing as a sport be so accepted in our families as a lifestlye really allowed us to pursue climbing as we wanted. We also agreed that having close relationships with our coaches also helped us to be who we were today. Each of our coaches introduced us to climbing on rock, and this was a huge influence in the development and continued love for climbing. All in all, we discussed that coaches must be honest, open, and push us within our limits. Watch out for injuries, and watch what you say, because athletes take your words as the truth.
Stacey, Sean and I received great feedback from the attendees. I felt it was really great for coaches to receive an athlete's perspective about coaching and climbing. I hope that this panel becomes a permanent part of the panel and each year different athletes may be invited to speak about their experiences, both good and bad, so that future coaches may learn and benefit from them.
As for the rest of the weekend, I was able to spend a wonderful dinner with a big Weldon family, as well as attend the long awaited wedding of my former coach, Knut Rokne. What a treat.
Coming up, a close knit group of climbers in Vancouver have been training hard for the upcoming competition season. Our first big competition is the annual Seattle Bouldering Challenge on November 20th. This year they are offering a $5100 cash prize purse for the Open categories. SICK! Motivation is high!
(Unfortunately I didn't take any photos this weekend, so here is a photo of me and my sis, the rock star Five Ten girls)