Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Coach Knows Best (or does he?)

This past weekend, my first to the Red since November, was one of those wet, cold, gray weekends where most sane people just stay inside, drinking hot chocolate and playing Trivial Pursuit. A group of us from the Shortbus instead decided on another trivial pursuit... bleak weather cragging.
Anne Skidmore, an incredibly talented photographer from New Hampshire, and crew, had come to the Red in search of steeper rock. Anne wanted to shoot photos while down, and I was happy to play tour guide. Armed with years of paying no attention to the weathermen, we were able to transform 3 drizzly days into some of the most fun cragging I've done in a while. Dry rock, dry climbing, soaked ropes and damp belayers. Throw in a few comical redneck gumbies (who may very well someday be the next Kauk and Bachar), and it turned out to be a golden weekend.
On day 3 we headed to The Sanctuary, an incredible wall of mostly hard 12's and 13's, to shoot Jesus Wept, a classic 12d. I bolt to bolted to warm up and hang the draws, and settled in for the belay while Yasmeen went to work, figuring out the moves on what would be her hardest route to date. The routes 3rd crux is a devious little pocket sequence, which can be approached two distinct ways: girl way and boy way. I opt for the girl way, backstepping and flagging so that I'm climbing static and in control, and relayed that beta to Yasi. While trying to work out the subtleties in body position to make the moves the girl way, she busted through the more powerful, boy way, to clip the draw above, and lowered to try it my way a few more times. I could see that it just wasn't fitting her, so I suggested she try the deadpoint again, and she reverted back to the boy way, sticking the move every attempt (a move I've never stuck).
6 or 8 months ago I'm not sure I'd have made that suggestion, believing that my most efficient way was THE most efficient way. Recently though, I've watched my daughter ignore my beta and come up with her own way, only to be more proud of her for figuring it out even with me telling her there was a better way. Different bodies fit into the moves of these puzzles differently, and as a coach/trainer/whatever, all I can do is make suggestions based on what I know of THAT climber. Its up to them to decide if my way works, or if they were right to begin with.
Yasi tied in for her 2nd go, with Anne hanging above shooting photos. Barely sticking the first crux move, she held it together and moved on to the first rest. In the 2nd crux, she changed her beta on the fly, opting for a balancey layback rather than a powerful lockoff, and pulled through to the big rest. We've trained and trained and trained recovery, so we both knew she had a good chance of sending, as she'd basically get to the 3rd crux, 75 feet up, mostly fresh. Throwing the more powerful deadpoint, screaming like a kung fu master, and with shouts of encouragement from across the valley, Yasmeen reeled in the little pocket, pulled to the jug, and finished off her hardest send yet... in only 2 tries. Its gonna be a good year.

3rd crux of Jesus Wept. Brad Combs
DEFINITELY doing it the hard way.
Photo: Scott James

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Good Footwork Is SOOO Yesterday...

Perfect temperatures...mid 50's, partly sunny, no wind. I could have been sending my dream projects. Instead I drove 4 hours roundtrip to a youth comp in a GYM in the middle of OHIO. Where? A gym. In Ohio. Yes, I know. I call my team "Shortbus" for a reason. I obviously drive the squatty little fucker.
ANYWAY... while I was there watching 84 or so young humans who don't have the first clue who John Gill or Ron Kauk are, more or less Muir or Salathe, I found myself paying attention. Ok, maybe not. I didn't actually need to pay attention to notice the complete lack of footwork and body positioning in todays young climbers. "Complete" might be an exaggeration. There were at least 6 climbers there who had a clue.
Now, I help train several people, including my 11 year old daughter. I push footwork and balanced body positions like a steroid dealer in a major league baseball locker room. I yell more about feet than anything else, except maybe people saying "Take!" on redpoint attempts. In fact, I'd be willing to say that my 11 year old, and a guy I'm training who's been climbing less than a year, have better footwork than 90% of the kids in this comp. These kids weren't all 12... many were 16-18.
I saw the same scenario over and over and over... strong kid with steel tendons ignores a backstep, stays frontal, and throws to a crimp. He manages to stick it, control the swing he created because his foot was off the wall long before he hit the handhold, even though the footchip is at about knee level. He nearly kicks a hole in the wall, apparently trying to knock the foothold off the wall in retaliation for it not letting him stand on it. Then, unarmed with the knowledge of how to match feet, flag, and reach while in control, He throws the OPPOSITE way that he's pushing, doing a tasmanian spin off the jug he just did a 2 foot dyno to. I admire the desire to make things more difficult while in the gym... but this is a little ridiculous.
I blame it 100% on the "coaches" (and I use that word VERY lightly). I heard so many coaches say "NICE!! Great job!", or "Way to go for it!". Bullshit. "Terrible! That sucked!". "Way to look like you were having convulsions in the air!" "Nice job denigrating the entire beauty of this sport!" I mean, I realize that some of these kids are 9 or 10... and in those cases the coaches should be flogged. Now, I don't yell at my daughter that way... because I don't need to. I taught her early on to stand on small feet. Not to constantly readjust feet. She learned balance, how to match, how to backstep, how to dropknee. Dropknee? Yes, its still legal. However, you wouldn't know it to watch a youth comp.
Kaitlynn won today, pretty handily. She won't win them all, and she's cool with that. She's proud of where she's at... and so am I. What I'm most proud of is that the skills she's displaying will make her a better rockclimber... indoors, outdoors, wherever... and one that looks like she knows what she's doing. If the rest of these kids continue to listen to their "coaches", then Kaitlynn will look even better.
And I swear to Jim Bridwell, if I ever hear another 12 year old kid say "So how hard do you climb?", I'll.....

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS is your National Champion. An interview with Alex Johnson

We'll start with the basics: Please state your name, age, and hometown(s) for the record.

Alex Johnson, 19, Hudson, WI. For the record.

You’re only 19? Shit, I feel old. You’re a Midwest girl, but you're in Colorado now. Can we still claim you, or have you become one of "them"?

I am, and will always be, from Wisconsin. Although tomorrow I am getting new plates and my license changed, please, claim all you want.

You shocked everyone by winning the Vail World Cup Comp, and continued your roll at this year’s Nationals. Do you buy your steroids from pro baseball players, or do you just get them off the mean streets of Fort Collins?

Fort Collins is definitely not the place. They’re much more available in Boulder. They have organic, too.

So why bouldering? Can we expect you to do some "real" hard climbing in the future?

Bouldering because I am afraid of lead falling. But I am not against sport! There’s just more of an abundance of boulders in Colorado than cliffs.

Which female climber has influenced you the most?

Lately it’s been Kelly and Lisa. I grew up climbing with guys, though. Shout out to Brian Camp.

You coach youth climbers, right? Which young female climbers do you see with the most potential?

Past tense on coached, unfortunately. The kids I worked with are Minnesota-bred. There are a bunch of strong kids in MN! Some of them were at the Youth Nationals. Everyone better watch out.

You're a role model now. There’s a young male climber, who's pretty damn strong, named Alex Johnson, also from the Midwest. Have you thought about suing him for the rights to the name, as it applies to climbing?

Do you really think I’m a role model? I’m pretty sure he’s from Chicago. The first time he appeared, people thought I registered myself in the wrong category. It hurt my feelings that they thought I was that dumb!

Of course you’re a role model… take your recent trip to Bishop as an example. Besides a couple of V9 flashes, you made impressive sends of "Evilution" (to the lip- V10), and "Mystery" (V12), which you called your hardest yet. A little birdie told me it wasn't all about the climbing while in Bishop.... care to elaborate?

I’ll pass on the elaborating for now, but this birdie seems to have been getting around! Thanks on the props, and I’m returning to Bishop March 12th.

V13. What does it mean to you... and when will we see it go down?

Hard As Shit; and when Puccio does Nothing but Sunshine.

I've been trying like hell in my songs to create a rivalry between you and Alex Puccio. What would it take to get you two to wrestle or kickbox or something? Who would win?

Wo pony, speak of the devil! I would get my ass kicked, I’m a horrible fighter.

What we all really want to know is... have you ever kissed a girl? Tongue?

Have not, and probably never will, sorry. Something about girls grosses me out. No offense to any girls.

I’m not grossed out by girls. I've heard you don't like ice cream. You're aware that means you have an unfair advantage over the rest of us when it comes to strength/weight ratio, right? What are your vices?

You mean besides the unfair advantage I constantly hear about by being taller than everyone else? I should be unstoppable now! Ice cream hurts my teeth. I have a horrible addiction to Taco Bell and Cherry Coke. I may need an intervention soon.

Mmm…. Meximelts. So you're also a badass pole vaulter. I was a pole vaulter! Think you could get me a date with your teammate who won the Conference Meet?

I WAS a pole vaulter, and not really a badass one. I think you may have mistaken me for my teammate and one of my best friends, Lauren, who is currently single. She’ll be in Vail for the World Cup, I’ll introduce you.

You’d be my new favorite person. So who's your favorite middle aged white climbing rapper? Your answer to this question will determine how I make you look in this interview...

Well you of course! Silly. Have you met Dan Dewell? MC Boondoggle! Maybe you could do a duet. Odub featuring Boondoggle!

I’m down. Hook it up. One thing though…George Michaels? I mean.... George Michaels??? Please explain yourself before I show this video....

One of the most amazing songs to sing and dance along with. You can’t disagree. Come on, I’m my mother’s daughter, I grew up with all that kind of music! So fantastic.