Parents play a key role in facilitating and supporting the participation and development of youth climbers. As a parent you need to know that your child's safety and well-being is of paramount importance.
Some children just want to climb. They are the ones that clawed their way out of play pens, crawled up the stairs, toddled to the highest point in the play ground. Trees, high walls and roof tops enticed them upwards. Climbing is simply a natural human movement.
Climbing as a sporting activity helps young people develop physically, cognitively and socially. It it is a sport which demands balance, coordination and strength from the body of the young climber. It promotes problem solving, tactical thinking, and the development of complex motor skills. Climbing is a very social sport with climbers of all ages and abilities mixing together as they meet their shared climbing challenges.
Is climbing safe?
Climbing is widely considered to be a 'high-risk' sporting activity compered to more mainstream sports. In reality this is not the case. There has been some scientific research carried out to evaluate the safety record of climbing. This research has found that climbing, particularly indoor climbing has to date shown a small injury rate, minor injury severity and few fatalities. Click on the following links to read some of the research:
Climbing is not without risk, there is an inherent risk associated with the sport. It is the proper management of this inherent risk by appropriately qualified and experienced people that keep the incidents of accidents low. Parents should ensure that supervision and instruction is carried out any all supervision, instruction, coaching etc is carried out by appropriately qualified and experienced people. Please contact Mountaineering Ireland if you would like anymore information.
What equipment is needed?
For equipment is is usually possible to rent climbing equipment from the climbing wall. This can be a good initial option until the child is sure they are going to stick with the sport for a while. If the child does decide to stick with the sport there will be a few pieces of equipment that they will use regularly:
Good fitting climbing shoes are essential for climbers of all ages: Fitted too small and they pinch the foot reducing performance; fitted too loose the foot moves around in the shoe and performance is again reduced.
For young climbers the fit of the climbing shoe is even more important: Fitted too small the growing bones of the foot are restricted leading to growth deformities; if fitted too loose poor use of foot-work, a key component of climbing technique is ingrained.
There is often a baffling array of climbing shoes available in outdoor shops. Most good outdoor retailers will be able to help you pick a suitable shoe. Here a few tips to guide your decision:
- Velcro closures may be better than laces as this encourages the young person to take the shoe off when not climbing, allowing the foot to relax.
- A flat shoe rather than a very curved aggressive shoe will put less pressure on the foot.
- A softer shoe will allow the young climber feel what is under their toes.
A chalk bag is a simple puch worn around the waist that is filled with chalk. The chalk is used to absorb the sweat from hands in order to improve grip.
The climbing harness is the key piece of safety equipment. Very young children may need to wear a full-body harness
. Slightly older children will be able to wear a regular harness very much the same as adults.
A belay device is used by climbers to control the climbing rope and ensure the safety of the climber. It is a very simple device to use and is very effective.
A locking carabiner is used to connect the belay device to the climbing harness.
If you are climbing regularly you may want to invest in your own climbing rope. Climbing ropes are very strong and robust. They have a level of elasticity to absorb the forces generated when the climber falls.
Where can I get more information?
If you need any information about youth climbing, or climbing in general please contact Mountaineering Ireland.
Damien O Sullivan - Talent Development Officer - firstname.lastname@example.org - 01-6251117
Anne Kane - Youth Development Coordinator - email@example.com - 028-43725354
The staff and climbers at your local climbing wall are also a great source of information.
There are some really great publications with lots of essential information for parents of climbers. Some of the most useful are listed below:
Rockfax - Beginners Guide to Climbing
- Whilst this excellent book is designed for children, it is also an excellent resource for the parent of a climbing child. It is available online from Rockfax and at oudoor shops and climbing walls.
BMC - Climbing Wall Essentials
- This instructional movie is filled with really great information which will help any parent become much more comfortable and knowledgeable in a climbing wall. It is available to buy as a dvd or download from the BMC online shop