ASCL Opens Registration for 2021 Shortened Season

ASCL 2020 Girls Varsity Podium
The Girls Varsity podium at the 2020 state championships. While the 2021 season will be shorter, Executive Director Theresa Morris hopes―with strict COVID-19 protocols in place―the ASCL can “continue to open the door to young climbers wanting to learn the sport of climbing and do it in a competitive-friendly atmosphere.” (All photos courtesy of the ASCL / Theresa Morris)

Organizers around the United States are working hard to bring back competition climbing for youth competitors. Nationally, qualification events in USA Climbing’s Youth Bouldering series began last month, with recent alterations to the schedule due to the latest COVID-19 wave. High school climbers in Colorado will also soon have the chance to begin competing in the American Scholastic Climbing League (ASCL), which officially opened registration for its 2021 shortened season on December 1.

Typically running from October to February, ASCL competitions are scheduled to take place from March to May this season due to COVID-19. In addition, instead of competitions taking place at set times on single day events, the climbing will be spaced out over 5-day periods at the participating gyms. Athletes will be able to reserve times with the gym hosting the competition to climb pre-designated routes. An ASCL Regional Coordinator will select and mark the routes for the competition, with guidance from the routesetters at the hosting gym. Scoring will remain the same, with athletes needing a witness for their climbs and submitting their scores in the ASCL’s electronic scoring system.


Theresa Morris, Executive Director of the ASCL, identified a number of reasons for the changes in a conversation with CBJ. For one, schools that are strictly online will still be able to compete with schools that are in-person, so that athletes from a variety of schools will be able to participate. The format is also intended to allow gyms to continue operating as usual and maintain their COVID policies for capacity (all athletes and coaches will be required to follow the host gym’s COVID policies and the ASCL’s COVID-19 protocols). Morris did acknowledge the challenge will be coaching, since it will be difficult to coach a team’s athletes all at once. Teams of schools operating remotely may have more flexibility.

“While the format will look different than in years past, our philosophy of the climber against the route itself will continue to be the anchor,” said Morris. “The ASCL will continue to open the door to young climbers wanting to learn the sport of climbing and do it in a competitive-friendly atmosphere. Meaning, we encourage athletes to cheer for their competitor, share beta with them, support their successes and attempts all while competing alongside them.”

Boys Varsity Podium
The Boys Varsity podium last season. In addition to building comradery, Morris notes how scholastic climbing can also teach young climbers “how to be better humans.”

The Regular Season is tentatively scheduled to take place from March 1 to April 18, and the Regional Finals and State Finals are planned for April 23-25 and April 30-May 2, respectively (location to be determined). Last season, nearly 614 high school athletes were registered in the ASCL and 51 schools had teams. While this season will look different than the previous one and plans are always subject to change due to COVID, Morris is optimistic about moving forward with “flexibility, adaptability and patience” as the life-lessons for this season. Plans are even underway to expand the high school level and open a middle school division eventually.

“I’m going to steal a quote from Dave Meyer, the Western Slope Regional Coordinator and Head Coach for the Colorado Rocky Mountain School,” said Morris. “He says, ‘The world would be a better place with more climbers in it.’ I believe this to be true. Young climbers grow up to be the lawmakers deciding the future of our public lands; the leaders who bring compassion and empathy towards others―all others; climate and environmental activists and engineers; and, just kind people bringing positive vibes to the world. Yes, the ASCL teaches climbing and, more importantly, teaches us how to be better humans.”

Like many businesses and organizations, the ASCL is experiencing the financial challenges of this period. Donations can be made to the grassroots, nonprofit organization here.