Employing educated rock climbing instructors, while necessary for such a specialized activity, can be quite a challenge.
However, at Auburn University this has not proven to be enough of a deterrent from offering rock climbing to students. Staff are taught a foundational level of rock climbing skills to get them off the ground.
“All of our pro-staff [members] have a basic understanding of rock climbing and how to instruct the basics,” said Scott Dirksen, the assistant director of campus recreation at Auburn University. “We have two professional staff members who help manage the climbing wall, and at least one of those staff members has a professional certification and lots of experience in climbing, instruction and risk management.”
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the campus rec department trains current student staff members who are already involved in the climbing programs. In the end, they make the students rock climbing instructors in lieu of hiring specialized instructors.
“We hire specifically from our climbing community,” said Russell Hobart, the assistant director of climbing programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The more experience the climbers have, the more I can direct them from that context.”
No matter how you choose to assemble your rock climbing staff, it’s important to have them well-trained. A group of educated rock climbing instructors will help enhance students’ experience and lower their risk of injury.
“We have one general training for wall staff so we’re all on the same page,” said Hobart. “After that, we have monthly trainings to help on specific issues or new activities.”
It’s also important to train your rock climbing instructors in the most effective teaching methods. “Rock climbing can be an in-depth and initially overwhelming subject to teach,” said Dirksen. “The biggest challenge we face for our instructors is pedagogy. How do they convey the right amount of information to someone who is completely new to the sport? We don’t want to overwhelm a beginning climber.”
Keeping students engaged is the main focus of any campus rec activity, and the ability to present engaging rock climbing programming starts with your instructors. According to Dirksen, the best and most educated rock climbing instructors are the ones who constantly practice climbing.
“A good instructor is someone who climbs themselves,” said Dirksen. “Make sure your instructors don’t get burned out, but are taking the time to improve their skills and climb.”
If you’re hoping to take your rock climbing program to new heights, or just get it off the ground, look to the quality of your instructors. Well-trained and educated rock climbing instructors will elevate students’ enjoyment of the activity.
“A good instructor provides just the right amount of information for the student to be safe and successful so they come back and continue to learn,” said Dirksen.