Climbing's Great Hidden Benefits for Kids
There has been a lot of research, and a lot has been written, about the physical, emotional, and even spiritual benefits of rock climbing. (See https://www.theboulderfield.com/why-climbing_) We know it may be the best full-body workout in existence. We know it builds the right kind of physical strength. We know it’s an excellent cardiovascular workout. We know it can burn over 700 calories per hour. We know it can reduce the severity of depression. We know it increases the self-efficacy and self-perceptions of special needs kids. We know it can enhance brain and memory function, and certainly builds strategic planning capabilities.
But the hidden benefit? It is an easy, extremely rewarding, life-changing way to access a highly supportive community of high-tone, supportive friends. Too often, our society offers kids only limited opportunities to participate in a supportive community. The school experience itself is often too massive of a community for a child to thread his or her way into a supportive community. There are simply too many kids, too many parenting styles, too many conflicting values, too much bullying, all within a system that necessarily targets the greatest common denominator. Schools offer a limited menu of after-school activities (which, by he way, are constantly threatened with extinction from budget constraints). Our broader communities offer some more options in terms of traditional sports programs and activities, but we all know it’s the minority of kids that are suited to those. Add to this the fact their parents, through no fault of their own, simply don’t have the time to discover and then provide the support necessary to find the ideal niche for their children. Bottom line, kids are left without sufficient opportunities to be a part of a highly supportive community.
Enter niche activities that can be learned and often even mastered very quickly. That by their definition involve forming a collective to support the individuals within the collective. That demand fun as the essential element of everything they do. That demand respect and inclusion among the participants. That foster friendships. And that make each participant feel that are an important part of a greater whole. That make them feel stronger and more confident. Enter rock climbing.
I’m a parent of two climbers that started nearly 20 years ago when they were in their early teens. From the outset, what I observed in climbing, in contrast to what I had observed in years of their participation in soccer, baseball, and basketball, is the highly collaborative, supportive nature of the sport. Not once, in hundreds of competitions I attended and thousands of visits to climbing gyms across the country, did I ever see the type of negative parental involvement that often exists in most team sports. Not once did I see anything other complete support for fellow climbers, even direct competitors. Rather, I saw a massive community of friends, sharing the same interest, ways to improve, the same language, and the same degree of protectiveness around the positive qualities of the community. As someone who came from a traditional sports background, I was, many times, blown away by the strength and health of the community.
With respect to alternative activities and communities where kids can find a meaningful and rewarding place, I can only speak to climbing. And I feel so strongly about this that I partnered with one of my sons to build one of the best climbing gyms in the country, one designed and operated with a community focus and one that offers robust opportunities for kids. These include spring and summer camps, 12-week semester programs, field trips, recreational and competitive teams, and even birthday parties. Check out at www.theboulderfield.com and you might find the ideal community for your child, and possibly even you and the rest of your family!