In early January, the newly selected 2019 GB National Development Squad gathered at Kendal Wall. In store for the young guns was the first of four training weekends, and the first of such weekends to be organised by recently appointed Talent Development Coordinators, Lu Whittaker and Tim Cunnington. Here's a parent's perspective from attendee David Xiberras.
In a break with tradition, the presenting of Squad kit was left for a subsequent weekend which allowed for a quicker start and more time for practical activities. There were a number of new faces amongst the coaching team and, of course, a number of new Squad members. But with plenty to get through over the two days, relationships developed quickly as coaches and athletes worked through a busy programme at Kendal Wall in the Lake District.
Following a focused, introductory talk from Lu, the Squad divided into two groups which would rotate through the various planned sessions. Youth B and Juniors started with their physical profiling assessments whilst Youth C and A had the opportunity to test themselves on some demanding comp-style lead routes.
Meanwhile, parents were invited to a workshop with Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Emma Wood, entitled ‘Supporting Your Talented Child’ offering information on how the brain works in high pressure situations and strategies to support our children when competing. Emma did an excellent job of putting her ideas across and the chance to reflect on our own experiences was very welcome. The high take up of places for her drop in 1:1 sessions for athletes on the Sunday confirmed that her input was well received by the athletes too and stands as a good example of what the BMC hopes to offer Squad members in terms of adding value to their preparation for international competition and their development as climbers and as people.
After lunch, Nick Colton, in his capacity as the BMC’s Safeguarding Lead, delivered a well-structured Safeguarding presentation to athletes and parents, a tricky task given the wide age range of the assembled audience.
Moving back into practical sessions, the final session of Day One saw Youth A and C athletes undertake a Warm Up Workshop followed by the opportunity to team build on Kendal Wall’s Via Ferrata supervised by the Wall’s instructors. During this session athletes also had individual meetings with Squad Coaches to receive their Technical and Tactical feedback from video analysis of their performance at November’s Selection Event which earned them a place on the Squad.
The other half of the Squad, Youth B and Junior athletes, finished off their physical profiling assessments and then undertook a Creativity for Bouldering Workshop with some challenging and imaginative blocs made up by the athletes to test each other on.
Creative bouldering training in action. Photo: David Xiberras
The moment athletes in Youth B and above had been waiting for arrived first thing on Sunday morning when Competition Programme Manager, Zoe Spriggins, revealed the athletes’ European Youth Cup allocations and arrangements for European Youth Championships and World Youth Championships selection. Suddenly each athlete’s season took shape; it’s genuinely exciting as a parent to watch a group of talented and committed young people contemplate the challenge and relish the prospect of competing on the international stage. There will be ups and downs and plenty of learning but it is an absolutely privileged position to be in.
Bar an important briefing on anti-doping, the rest of Sunday was a mirror image of Saturday with the two groups swapping over, allowing athletes to participate in all planned activities.
Throughout the weekend the new coaches’ passion for their work was notable and their positive approach went down well with the athletes, going a long way towards making a weekend that necessarily has its fair share of functional sessions enjoyable.
Greg Conlon, father of new Squad member Rhys commented: “It was evident the coaches had invested a lot of effort. Rhys enjoyed the sessions, particularly Freddie’s enthusiasm. He thought the Via Ferrata was fun too.”
This was the first time in recent years that Kendal Wall had hosted a GBNDS Training Weekend and they did really a fantastic job, making everybody feel very welcome. From the athletes, their coaches and their parents, thank you!
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