Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
July 1, 2013, Central Saanich, BC (ISN) – World Champion climber Sean McColl was on hand Monday at The Boulders Climbing Gym in Central Saanich to work with a number of Boulders youth climbers in advance of the IFSC World Youth Climbing Championships coming up in August.
For those not familiar with the sport of climbing, imagine for a moment that you are a young hockey player and one day you show up for practice and there, leading you in your session and coaching you that day, is none other than Sidney Crosby, arguably the best hockey player in North America, if not the world.
Such was the case for the local sport climbing community Monday afternoon at the Boulders Climbing Gym in Central Saanich, when a number of young climbers and their parents gave up their Canada Day plans to come and train with 25-year old Sean McColl, the current Men’s World Climbing Champion and one the most successful competition climbers to come from North America.
World Champion climber Sean McColl (right) gives a few pointers to Boulders youth climber Aidan Doyle on Monday at The Boulders Gym (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
McColl, a Vancouver native, who now lives and trains in France, has returned to Canada for the next few weeks to serve as assistant coach for the Canadian National Youth Climbing Team that begins its National Training Camp at The Boulders on Tuesday, in preparation for the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Youth Championships that take place at the Boulders from August 15-19th.
As a former three-time world junior champion in the lead climbing category and two-time world junior champion in the speed climbing category, McColl is well-qualified to advise the junior climbers in attendance Monday on the intricacies of the sport and is appreciative of the opportunity to do so. “It is a really big passion of mine to share my experience. I almost feel in a way that owe it back to the sport. I want people to ask me questions and learn from the extensive experience I can give them. I’ve had success, but I’ve also had failures and poor finishes in competitions and I hope they can absorb all the knowledge I have gained from both the wins and the losses so that it helps make them a better competitor.”
World Champion climber Sean McColl (centre, green pants) was on hand Monday at The Boulders for a special training session with Boulders climbers and their parents (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Kimanda Jarzebiak, Chair of the Boulders Gym, puts things in a similar perspective. “I think that Sean provides all North American climbers with the ability to visualize what success looks like. He’s the most successful competitive climber that North America has ever produced, so not only do these climbers today get to interact with him, but he’s reached the ultimate goals in the sport and for these climbers to actually spend time with someone who has achieved those goals should be really empowering. For these kids to spend time with him is amazingly generous of Sean and a really neat opportunity.”
The climbers working with McColl today, including those in the U12 age category and six climbers who were offered places on the Canadian National Youth Team, were also appreciative of the time they got to spend working with McColl.
Boulders climbers on hand to work with Sean McColl (back row, third from left) included (kneeling left to right) Tristan Gosselin, Alison Stewart-Patterson, Elena Moss, Tula Sherkat, (back row standing left to right) Cameron White, Tosh Sherkat, Aidan Doyle, Elan Jonas-McRae, Robert Stewart-Patterson, Brennan Doyle and Kimanda Jarzebiak (Boulders Chair)(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Fourteen year-old Tosh Sherkat, an alternate on the National Youth team who recently had a third place finish in lead climbing at provincials and a fifth at Nationals, noted, “being here, as a member of the National team on the world stage is definitely a dream and to be able to train with Sean and ask questions of someone of his caliber is really awesome.”
Nine-year old Brennan Doyle, who was at the gym with his brother Aidan, also a climber, echoed that sentiment. “Today is a really good opportunity to learn more about the sport and to meet a top competitor in it and try and learn some things from him.”
Finally, eight-year old Tula Sherkat, who along with her brother Tosh and Mom Sasha have moved here from Nelson specifically to train at the Boulders, simply said, “It is awesome and really cool to be able to train with Sean today.”
After McColl did some climbing himself and worked with a few of the competitors on the wall, he sat down with the group for a question and answer session and offered some key points of advice.
World champion climber Sean McColl would show off some of his own moves prior to working with the other climbers at The Boulders on Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
“First, for those who are thinking of getting into climbing in a serious way, get a trainer, get a program and then most importantly, follow that program. For the kids here, they all have the structure of the programs here at the Boulders and the excellent staff and coaches, so for them it then becomes important to be open to criticism and to be able to adapt and learn in every component of the sport, from new moves to new routes.”
“It is also important for athletes to enjoy the process and have fun with it, especially the process of training,” added McColl. “Don’t just train with the ultimate goal of doing well at a competition, but train because you love training and because you love the process involved in getting to that next level, whether it’s the next hold up the route, or getting to a competition that you did not qualify for previously.”
Sean McColl (left) gives a high five to Tula Sherkat (right) after she completed a successful training climb on Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
McColl also stressed the mental side of climbing to the climbers noting that it is a unique and special component of the sport. “It is tough in some respects to totally visualize the moves you are going to make on a route, mainly because you are faced with a new route each competition. However, there is rarely a move that you will face in competition, that you have not already seen in training. It becomes important then to trust your first instincts and trust your training. Sometimes as climbers, when we are faced with a tough part of the route, we take too much time and overthink or second-guess what move we are going to make, and then when we try it, we half-commit to it, stop, try again, and by that time, we are tired and when we try to fully commit the next time, we fall. Often your first instinct is the correct one, and one you’ve likely done many times in practice, so just go with it and you’ll have greater success.”
While belaying Brennan Doyle on the wall, Sean McColl gives some advice to Aidan Doyle (left) and Tula Sherkat (right) who were watching the climb (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
He also stressed that the thought process involved in climbing has to be all positive. “As soon as you start to doubt yourself on the wall, that is when you fall. As soon as you think your foot will slip, your foot will slip. As soon as you think your foot will stay, it will stay and you will have success. Everything you do, or that happens, even if you break a shoelace when tying up you shoe, has to be viewed positively…keep positive ideas in your head and success will follow.”
“Another good analogy,” added McColl, “is that anyone, hypothetically, can fall off the very first move of the route, but no one ever does because no one is ever thinking about that at that stage. The challenge then becomes to carry that same thought process [or lack of thought?] higher up the wall for the hard moves or a tough sequence of moves. If you keep a positive frame of mind, trust your instincts and training and tell yourself that you will stay on the wall, then you will stay on the wall and do well on the route.”
Boulders climber Aidan Doyle tries a tough move on the wall under the watchful eye of World Champion Sean McColl (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
McColl will continue to pass along his knowledge to other Canadian climbers at The National Youth training camp which runs at The Boulders from July 2nd through July 6th. There will be 33 athletes, ages 14-19 attending the camp where they will be preparing for the World Youth Championships. They will be training in both the speed and difficulty climbing categories with the help of McColl and other team officials who will be in attendance.
The IFSC World Youth Climbing Championships take place at The Boulders from August 15-19. This is the first time that the World Youth Championships are being held in North America. Competitors from over 30 countries, including Canada, will particpate. Come out and volunteer or be a spectator at this world class event where over 3,000 people are expected to attend. Volunteers are also still needed to assist at the event. More information is available www.climbtheboulders.com