Role Reversal

For the past five year’s I’ve been professionally focused on two things – setting and coaching. Because of this, I’ve been to cool places, met cool people, and got to be backstage on some really well run and fun competitions. The catch is that if you’re always coaching or setting, you never really have the opportunity to play for yourself! So last February at a Tour de Bloc I gave it a whirl. You can read my original post here.

After that finals experience, I definitely wanted more. Competing is fun! So, one of my goals for this fall was to compete in a couple of the OCF sanctioned competitions. I figured it would at least be a fun experience, and maybe it would also help me further understand the pressures my athletes face.

The first OCF local this season was at Coyote Rock Gym in Ottawa. Coyote is pretty old-school. The walls have no texture, most of the holds are from the 90s (and some of the spinners might be from the 90’s as well), but their age is also their strength – those people know how to run a comp!

I was both excited and a little nervous in the days before the competition. I kept catching my brain telling me “this is a terrible idea, you’re not a good climber” and, “you are not at all ready to compete at this level, you’ll look stupid.” This sort of negative self-talk is not new to me, and I’m sure it’s not new to you either. It sucks. But, I had recently re-read Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, and remembered this gem:

“When the demon starts to slither my way and say bad shit about me, I turn around and say, ‘Hey. Cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.’ Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works.”

So when my demon decided to speak up, I told it to shut up! Of course this doesn’t always work, and sometimes I can’t muster the will power to even yell back, but I’m working on it. I’m working on replacing those negative thoughts with positive ones, and I’m also working on setting better goals so my demon doesn’t have any ammunition to make me feel bad about. My new anti-demon weapon is the process goal.

Leading up to every competition I have my athletes come up with a process goal for themselves. Process goals, unlike outcome goals, relate to the actions and decisions you make during the competition. As such, achieving your process goal should be completely under your control (though it may not be easy). My process goal for this competition was to give 100% effort on the coordination and power boulder problems, because they are my weakness. I told myself I didn’t care about attempts on coordination moves, because I just wanted to try and teach my body how to stick them. If I didn’t send a single coordination boulder, that would be fine, as long as I had given full effort on every attempt.

When the time finally came and I got to leave ISO, I was feeling pretty good. My demon was moping because I had done a good job of being rude to it all morning, and I had a clear picture of what I needed to do in order to achieve my goals.

After problem 1 I was feeling pretty good. It went on my 5th attempt. Not exactly optimal, but at least I had one top on my card. I was on the board!

Problem 2 and 3 were powerful, tiring problems. I got number 2 second try, but it left me pretty pumped. When I saw that 3 was another of the same, I threw in the towel after 2 attempts. There were 3 more problems to go, I didn’t want to be burnt for the slabby ones!

Problem 4 was exactly what my process goal had prepared me for – a running catch. I had a ton of fun trying this problem! I knew I just needed to figure out where my limbs should be while I ran, so I tried it over and over and over and over… And on my 13th try I stuck it!

Problem 5 was a monstrously hard roof problem. Was I supposed to be starting backwards? I don’t know. Major props to Cat Carkner for sending that beast.

And finally problem 6. I turned around and faced my most favouritest of problems ever – volumes on a slab – and onsighted.

All told, I ended up with 4 tops in 21 attempts. Yes, twenty one attempts. My athletes definitely gave me heck for that score! But I achieved my process goals, and I got a cute little gold medal as a bonus.

In the next few months I am looking forward to learning more about myself and how best to deal with the stress of competition. Competing is fun!



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