A friend of mine is an English and PE teacher. In a recent conversation he said the level of intelligence and resourcefulness that children have these days constantly amazes him. He could ask them a question and if they didn’t know the answer, they knew exactly where to go online to find the information. However, when it came to physical skills he said something to me that surprised me:
“Children these days are becoming ‘physically incompetent'”
Basic skills like throwing a ball, climbing a rope and hand-eye coordination were lacking in a huge number of his students. The days of being active by climbing trees, riding bikes and throwing a ball have been replaced with the stationary activities of computer games and portable electronics.
Rock climbing has been a passion of mine and my friends for the past 15 years. I have seen their children grow up rock climbing and I’ve seen first-hand the benefits in their growth and development . Rock climbing teaches children the following:
- Focus and concentration.
- Problem solving, both mentally and physically, as they make their way to the top of the wall.
- Strength and coordination.
- Reflective skills to help them learn from mistakes and embrace their successes.
- Team building and trust in their climbing partners.
Climbing requires you to use all your limbs, along with your mind, to navigate up a wall. It is unlike any other sport as you have to focus on so many things at once. It improves hand-eye coordination and gives kids a boost of confidence when they get to the top of a climb. However, climbing doesn’t always end in success and when it doesn’t, its a chance for kids to learn from their mistakes, to reflect on what they need to do differently, and to make that a reality through persistence.
In the controlled setting of a climbing gym, children challenge their fears and learn that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. Climbing fosters lifelong memories; whether it is a one-time experience on a school field trip, a birthday party, or the ongoing training with a climbing program.
The year I started climbing, a friend’s two-year old would patiently wait his turn just so he could hang off the rocks and pretend to be like his dad. Last year, father and son climbed the 700-meter tall Squamish Chief together. In my pre-med school days, I worked as a belayer (the person on the ground who controls the climbing rope) at a local climbing gym and witnessed the look of amazement and excitement in the eyes of a little girl trying rock climbing for the first time. A decade later, this girl now competes at an international level in and has traveled all over the world climbing. There are the kids who rush to the climbing gym after school several times a week to boulder and climb in junior climbing teams.
I’ve seen rock climbing bring together unlikely people and unite them in friendships that develop into a lifetime of adventures. I’ve seen climbing turn shy kids into confident and strong youth.
Children who climb are not only focused and determined, but they are confident in their bodies and confident in their actions. They are children who are far from being physically incompetent.
Dr. Robyn Land, ND