I’ve been doing some interesting work lately, coaching the talented young kids of Scotland up at the wall in Aviemore and lecturing to non-climbers in Dumbarton. It’s funny how hardly any of the locals know that the rock is more famous these days for its climbing than its castle. It’s always a challenge trying to encapsulate the appeal of climbing to a very mixed audience with who have never seen anything like it before. What do you tell your non-climbing friends about climbing and why you do it? You can see what the Dumbartonians thought in this review of the show. Next up I’m going to be talking to sport science, medical and health promotion delegates from all over the world at a big conference in Glasgow soon. What to tell them?! I’ve just been preparing my talk today and it reminds me that you always feel more understanding yourself of a subject when you try to explain it to someone else.
I reckon that the powers that be in sport and health promotion would do well to take a look at the ‘long tail’ idea that business is taking to more and more. Trying to focus all the resources on a few sports that are very specific (even if they are popular like football) is akin to the situation in offering products in business. If your business offers something that caters for everyone and pays attention to the ‘niche’ it can reach a much wider audience. Governments are trying to do just that sort of task – get EVERY kid off the couch and off the road to an unhealthy life and early grave. Yet they focus on such a narrow range of sports, and mainly sports that are very specific activities (i.e. have one mode).
As a kid my experiences with sport at school were almost entirely negative and my PE teachers did nothing but compound my hatred of it, but now I’m a semi-professional athlete (I always say that with tongue slightly in cheek, but I suppose I am when it comes down to it). There were a few reasons why but the main ones were the imposition of rules and the drowning of creativity in school sport. And also I wasn’t ready for competition as a kid. I think many kids are the same. Climbing is often attractive to young folk because of the freedom to explore so many avenues within it – competitive or non-competitive, team or individual and in many different situations. So there is something there to suit many personalities.
Anyway, I could rant on, but I’ll save that for the lecturing. Time for more ice…