Shona Hanmer, head coach at Calshot Youth Competition Climbing Squad, outlines how this innovative idea came about and where it led.
What all started as an idea, a vision over a cup of tea is now a fully functional and evolving reality. Our dream, to have our own junior competition climbing squad, has come true.
Calshot’s Climbing Wall Manager, Jon Wilson, and I often discussed how good it would be to have a climbing squad and that we should definitely look into it. So one day we did, and here we are today with a Calshot Youth Competition Climbing Squad, with twenty four members ranging from nine years to sixteen years and eight coaches. Though, the journey here was actually quite an extensive one.
The foundations had to be built first and we realised that making the squad independent and not part of Calshot Activities Centre would be the best way forward. This would allow us to apply for funding, affiliate with the BMC, recruit volunteers and keep costs down. So I began the arduous job of writing up a constitution. I researched how to write one through CLUB MARK, which involved writing up our aims, how members would join, through to who would be in our committee, because every independent club needs a committee.
With the first draft of the constitution getting under way, we now had the issue of who would be in our squad. However with Calshot Activities Centre having over 60 enthusiastic kids within their clubs, gaining interest was quite easy, as was rounding up some parents for a general meeting. We also invited along any climbers who were enthusiastic about helping out and any kids that were not in the clubs who seemed keen.
The General meeting was held December 2009 and the amount of kids and parents who turned up was overwhelming. This was a very good sign; it became obvious we could be onto a winner. From the meeting we formed a committee with Jon being the Chairman and a number of the parents offering up their time to fill the other important roles.
Their invaluable time was then used to help finish off the setting up of the squad. We became affiliated with the BMC, a financial plan was put together, a coaching structure organised and the constitution was now final. We were ready!
Well just about. As Head Coach I now had the job of recruiting assistant coaches and structuring the first few session plans. Luckily we had some keen climbing parents who now play a vital part in the squad’s training, and a couple of experienced climbers were keen to share their knowledge. The coaches were now sorted; they had been on a safety training day with Jon and they had gone through their CRB checks. It was time to get the ball rolling and see if it worked.
On the 18th of April 2010 we had our first Squad session and with our maximum numbers being twenty four we were almost full with twenty two new members. This was a great result, but with myself being the only coach in the squad that had actually done any coaching, the first few sessions were quite challenging to run and it was difficult to tell if the kids were gaining anything from it.
For our last squad session before summer we decided to test this, so I organised an in-house competition. It consisted of bouldering, route climbing and the skill of balancing on a slackline. The results were pleasantly surprising, the kids were improving quickly and what had felt like a small input from us had made a big difference. This was the point where I knew the squad was working and would only continue to get better.
And here we are now nine months on with a number of achievements under our belt. We haven’t won any competitions away from Calshot yet, though that’s not from lack of trying. But at the moment we are fully operational, entering competitions all through the winter, with good personal results, our coaches are going through different training schemes including BMC fundamentals and CWA. We have received grant funding from the BMC and locally from the Calshot Association. Additionally we have had support from both Neil Gresham and Mark Pretty who came and worked with us for a day each. We have achieved a lot and the most exciting thing is the progress made. The kids are amazing. Their enthusiasm and dedication are really what has made this work. It is great to watch them improving, the thought of how good they could be by this time next year or in three years is an exciting one.
Information on how to affiliate a club to the BMC