By Taylor Reed
Competition climbing in the United States will change – and soon.
On February 19, USA Climbing’s board of directors approved a large set of recommendations submitted by the organization’s Competition Task Force. These changes range from large to small and impact competition rules, season structures, competitive pathways and qualification standards. They will certainly affect climbing and training structures around the country.
USA Climbing will begin implementing the changes in the fall of 2020.
Changes for Youth
The board of directors approved large structural changes to the youth division. This division will now split into two competition tracks: a qualifying series and a recreational series. Young climbers 17 years old and younger who prefer a “fun, low-stress” atmosphere can now opt to compete in the latter.
In the qualifying series, climbers 11 years old and younger (Youth D) will no longer compete at the national championships. Instead, Youth D climbers competing at the regional championships will now qualify for a “climbing festival.” The festival will consist of “skills-focused competitions and workshops for athletes, coaches, and parents.”
The structure of the competition season for young climbers will also change. The youth bouldering season will start later and overlap with the youth sport season in January and February. Additionally, the entirety of the youth speed season will overlap with the youth bouldering and sport seasons.
Changes for Adults
The approved recommendations of the Competition Task Force include changes for adult competitors as well. The competition climbing season for adults will now consist of an expanded national cup series, in addition to the national championships and team selection event of past years. A recreational series may also be created for adult climbers in 2021.
In the past, the adult bouldering season typically took place apart from the adult sport and speed seasons, with its own national championship. Now, single events in the adult and youth divisions can involve all three disciplines, including adult national cup events. However, competitors are not required to compete in all three disciplines.
Other recommendations in the final report are less precise but suggest more changes are on the way. An increase in standards for qualifying events will have implications for routesetters, for instance. In addition, recommendations related to competition rules leave room for significant modifications, as USA Climbing seeks to align itself more closely with international competition rules. Finally, collegiate competitors can look forward to USA Climbing’s pursuit of climbing becoming a recognized NCAA sport.
If you are connected to competition climbing in the United States, the full 8-page document is worth a read. It also outlines USA Climbing’s reasoning and the benefits they believe will come out of these changes. It is unclear what will happen when, but the breadth and scope go beyond simple summary. The document outlining the approved recommendations can be found here.
Taylor Reed has been teaching climbing since 2005 and has coached athletes in both competitions at the international level and real rock (up to V13/14 and 5.14a). His approach to coaching uses research/data, creativity, and effective analysis techniques in order to tackle each individual’s unique challenges. Taylor is the Director of the Sportrock Performance Institute (SRPI) and runs the Beta Angel Project.