For quite a few years, TCA has run youth squads in Bristol and Glasgow, where young climbers meet, develop skills and compete in competitions. One of the fantastic side effects of TCA squads has been the camaraderie and the entirely unplanned community that has emerged around our squad parents. For many, what started as the usual parental taxi-service to a sporting activity has spawned a new social group and for many a passion for a new sport. We spoke to parents in both cities to find out more.
Beginnings varied, some just happened upon climbing as a local activity, others found TCA via Groupon. Terry first came to TCA a few years ago with his twins for a birthday. “I have become part of the climbing family since Jasmine became a member of the Aspirant squad, and continue to make new friends.”
Laura had been bringing her son to lessons for 3 years, but only started herself when he joined the squad last year. “I love that I can do something active which my children do as well. There are far too many clubs that us parents take our kids to and have to just wait for them. I have really grown to love bouldering”.
So much more than exercise
A recurrent theme in feedback from squad parents – whether new to the sport or lifelong climbers – has been the sport’s ability to do more than just get them moving. For Laura “it has helped me push through many barriers physically and psychologically.” A thought echoed by Roz “I feel it is really good for my physical fitness, It is also good for mental wellbeing because it really focuses the mind. Achieving something new at TCA sends me home on a real high – I didn’t expect to be learning a new sport at my age! (51).”
Climbing has always been a mindful activity
“It doesn’t matter how many things you have to remember and or are going through your head when you are on a wall or rock, your mind clears and you think of nothing else but the climb. SO refreshing.” Another mum agrees with Terry, “I find that it really calms my mind at the end of a busy day/week. It’s as hard and as challenging as you want it to be and I really enjoy that. I can push myself depending on my energy levels. It’s a great feeling to use parts of my body that don’t normally get exercised!!”. The word challenge comes up time and time again, but in a positive sense, Nige says: “Climbing composes all the elements: challenge, adrenaline, achievement, frustration and determination. Whether you’ve had a good or bad day nothing seems to matter when you’re on the wall your entire focus is there.”
A sport for all
Terry, who first tried climbing on holiday says his family became hooked, “it’s a great family activity, that we can all do together, no matter what our individual abilities are”. It’s an exercise you can’t get bored with, there are always new puzzles to solve”.
Peter decided to take his daughter climbing knowing that it’s a very egalitarian sport “We deliberately gave her opportunities to climb because it’s a sport that girls and women can both take to a highly competitive level and enjoy all their lives.” In Bristol, a group of squad mums have connected. When asked what she gets from it, for Georgia, the answer is simple: “enjoyment…it makes me feel happy“. Another mum has noticed gains after a short period of climbing “I’m improving every week, as I can climb longer and harder than I did a few weeks ago!”
Strength comes with practice
Nige puts it nicely “Climbing as a sport where the more you put in, the more you get out. There is nothing better than completing a climb that you’ve struggled on for a couple of weeks. Everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you think you’ve got no upper body strength, it will soon develop and you will soon be able to climb things that you never thought were possible.”
Mike who climbs mostly with his son (and clearly pushes himself!) says climbing can be “simultaneously inspiring and soul-destroying” but still recommends it as “a whole body and mind workout with lovely people.” In a world, in many ways, full of instant gratification climbing makes you work hard, but it’s worth it! Charlie says “I get a sense of achievement when I nail a climb and a challenge when I don’t.”
At TCA, we’re blown away by the impact that climbing has had on the lives of our squad parents. Finlay is realistic but nonetheless impressed. Climbing “makes me feel like I’m slowing the impact of ageing and other times makes me feel my age.” He appreciates the “good group of mutually supportive people” that he has met through climbing.
Louise explains “As an activity, the skills, commitment, sense of being part of a larger, friendly, network and both the physical and mental strength required, have given my daughter skills that have supported her in all aspects of her life.”
Recommending climbing to friends, Roz says “I describe it as challenging and fun in a really relaxed, non-judgmental environment” while others describe TCA as a “fun, welcoming place to hang out and exercise without feeling that you’re really exercising.“
That’s what we’ve been saying all along! If you’re bored of the gym or if you are regular transport crew for a climber and haven’t yet found the courage to try it yourself, just speak to staff, we’ll happily talk you through the basics or point you in the direction of a sociable bunch. You don’t have to have kids to find new friends at TCA, just pop along and give it a go! You may start a whole new chapter, at the very least you’ll get some exercise. New climbers info: The Mothership / The Church.
Squad trials are approaching for both Bristol and Glasgow. Find out more:
If you have any pictures of climbing squad parents – we’d love to update this page. Assuming you have permission to share the images, please send them to Helen.