The project “Staying safe in the world of youth climbing” is co-funded by the European Commission, under the Erasmus+: Sport Small Collaborative Partnerships programme. The project is implemented in partnership between five European mountaineering associations or climbing clubs: the Slovenian Mountaineering and climbing club Domžale (https://www.pdd.si/), the Czech Climbing club Atlas Opava (http://atlas.opava.cz/), the Croatian Climbing club Fothia (https://fothia.hr/hr/pocetna), the Hungarian Mountaineering and sport climbing federation (https://mhssz.hu/) and the Slovak Climbing club Horec Liptovský Mikuláš (http://www.hkhorec.sk/).
The project aims to encourage children and young people to participate safely in climbing, regardless of the form of climbing (sport climbing, bouldering, alpine climbing, etc.). The focus will be on the development of appropriate training for different age groups and on suitable approaches to teaching safety manoeuvres, also with the help of modern technologies. Climbing is an ideal sport for developing both motor and mental skills. The project will therefore also consider how to bring it closer to young people from lower social classes, who often do not have access to such activities, through volunteering and networking between climbing communities.
A key activity of the project is the implementation of five international exchanges, which will take place in all partner countries. Two of the exchanges will take the form of youth climbing camps, while the other three will take the form of consultations with experts from all partner countries. Through the exchange of professional experiences, in-depth discussions of problems and the search for solutions, we plan to develop new methods of bringing safe climbing closer to young people and to build on the international cooperation between the countries at the end of the project.
Duration of the project: 1.1. 2021 – 31.12.2022
Climbing is a broad term that includes bouldering (i.e. climbing on lower walls; instead of using a safety rope from above, injury is avoided using a crash pad and a human spotter), sport climbing, mountain climbing, ice climbing, traditional climbing and many other types. Climbing is becoming more and more popular in recent years all over the world. Through climbing, we are developing our bodies and motor skills and that is why practicing climbing at an early age can be especially beneficial for children. It allows them to build strength in their arms, legs and core, and helps with coordination, balance and stability. The other important aspect of climbing is the development of beneficial mental and emotional skills in kids of all ages. The methods used in climbing can help them learn how to solve problems, how to fight the feelings of fear and how to stay motivated despite failure.
Partners in this project come from very different countries, regarding natural resources and approaches to climbing. We want to formulate the necessary steps to increase the number of children partaking in climbing courses, the number of voluntary activities in climbing clubs, raise health and safety awareness of this sport and give youth the opportunity to get in contact with different local climbing cultures while starting to develop a strong network of European clubs and associations, whose main focus is climbing of the youth.
More specifically the main objectives of the current proposal are
I. to share good practices and work out new methods on:
- how to increase the number of children partaking in climbing, since a lot of them never get acquainted with this sport. If we want to build an inclusive system, we have to help the schools with introducing climbing to the children and help the climbing clubs with preparing the appropriate programmes for young climbers.
- how to increase the safety aspect for all types of climbing. Climbing can be a safe sport for children, but being adequately prepared and guided is paramount. That is why climbing courses for children have to have a special emphasis on the necessary knowledge for safe participation in this sport. The learning methods need to be different than those for adult climbers. It is very important for climbing instructors to have good guidelines while preparing technical content and training programmes for youth, regardless of type of climbing.
- how to design appropriate training sessions for children, which have to consist of carefully chosen exercises – warm-up, stretching, regeneration, taking care of injuries;
- how to increase the appreciation of the health benefits of climbing since it is a perfect sport for the development of the whole body and mind, and how to promote an overall healthy lifestyle – spending time outdoors, healthy eating;
- how to involve people from social layers who have no access to this sport. Climbing equipment can be expensive and it is important that climbing clubs try to involve children from the less fortunate financial background;
- how to increase the willingness to volunteer in associated activities, e.g. organizing competitions, helping in climbing gyms, bolting climbing routes, environmental activities, care for natural climbing areas;
- climbing competitions for children and how to motivate them to take part in such competitions on all levels.
II. to enhance networking between the Project Partners, associated bodies and other relevant associations:
We would like to develop a strong network of European clubs and associations, whose main focus is youth climbing. That way we can establish a tradition of working together and sharing good practices in the future. Climbing areas around Europe are very diverse, regarding everything from different rock (sandstone, limestone, dolomite, granite, …) to climbing rules and culture. With international collaborations, we can introduce different climbing ethics and help to raise ethical and environmentally conscious young climbers all around Europe.
The transnational meetings in this project will be a combination of youth climbing camps and smaller meetings of the professionals from Project Partners.
The first part of the project will be smaller transnational meetings, where the representatives of Project Partners will share their practices, experience, and knowledge concerning the above objectives, identify and work out a set of guidelines in these topics for future use, and incorporate said guidelines in the planning of youth climbing camps, which are a part of this project. These transnational meetings will be carried out in smaller groups. Participants will be members of the Project team, climbing instructors and local professionals. To maximize the impact of the project each meeting will revolve around one specific topic (detailed later in the project description) with one of the focal points being all Project Partners sharing their local experiences from their countries. Furthermore, by including Project Partners from different regions of Europe with different geographical features and sport-historical backgrounds, we will make sure that all topics will be addressed from several different viewpoints, opening the path to new and novel methods to be worked out. These smaller meetings will be built up from four subparts: 1) lectures, where local professionals will share their knowledge and practices with the participants, 2) fieldwork, where the local bodies will show their good practices on training and safety, 3) workshops for knowledge and good practice sharing among the participants, and future guideline development, 4) planning of youth climbing camps, where the Project Partners will discuss how to incorporate the received knowledge and specific topics into the youth climbing camps programme, which will represent the second part of the project.
The second part of the project will be transnational youth climbing camps. The participants will be young climbers, members of Project Partners. Since the camps will be organized in different settings, the topics and methods will vary. Camps will be built up from four subparts: 1) theoretical and practical lessons, where participants will learn about safety, climbing gear, technical maneuvers, local climbing ethics, first aid, 2) practical training – climbing, for learning new techniques and to get familiar with local conditions and to practice the maneuvers under the strict supervision of trained professionals, 3) additional physical training, where the instructors will try to teach the participants of safe and necessary exercises, required for good conditioning of the climbers, 4) workshops for encouraging socializing between participants from different countries. Chosen participants will be of different age and level of climbing, which demands good programme planning and also the opportunity to try and adjust guidelines, prepared on earlier meetings. The camps will provide us with a lot of practical knowledge and material to work with on later meetings and camps.
The project will disseminate a report detailing the information gathered during both types of transnational meetings, including future guidelines put forth, past experiences as case studies, local problems and their possible solutions, possible future contact points. This report will be available to be used and further developed in the future by all parties involved, while it will also be available online for future reference for any other parties.
The network founded during the meetings will make the base of a future network, and the collaborations built during the project will make sure that these objectives will also be addressed even after the project duration.
1. Safety aspects
As mentioned above, climbing is becoming more and more popular in recent years all over the world. That applies to different forms of climbing, from sport climbing to mountain climbing. With the growing number of climbers, the number of climbing accidents is also increasing. A cause for this is mostly insufficient training, recklessness, not being familiar with climbing gear and not being able to evaluate current conditions. While we are trying to educate older participants in all associated sports, it is even more important to dedicate our time and resources to raising good and responsible climbers from their young age.
While indoor climbing gyms are present in almost every country, there is a big difference in the accessibility of natural climbing areas. Alpine countries have a long tradition of rock climbing since they have all the natural resources. It is different for non-Alpine countries, where the climbing mostly consists of indoor climbing (sport climbing and bouldering) or rare visits to outdoor climbing areas. But since enjoying the natural climbing walls is mostly free with the added benefits of fresh air and tranquility, more and more climbers want to try themselves on natural rock climbing routes. Even though both indoor and outdoor sport climbing consist of mostly the same gear, it can, unfortunately, be a great safety concern if strictly indoor climbers visit outdoor climbing areas without proper additional training. That is especially true for children, who usually only climb indoors since it is easier for their instructors to maintain safety and order in the group. That is exactly why it is important to raise young climbers who know how to be safe in all the environments and to encourage them to participate in different types of climbing.
Climbing areas around Europe are very diverse, regarding everything from different rock (sandstone, limestone, dolomite, granite, …) to climbing ethics. Different rock also means a different type of protection and methods to participate in safe climbing. Since most climbers, especially young ones, only participate in local climbing courses, they lack the knowledge and information on climbing in other areas. This can cause two different scenarios, either they partake in unsafe practices because of lack of knowledge or they never try anything different and stagnate in their climbing development.
Thus the current project will address the question of how to effectively increase the safety awareness in young climbers, regardless of the type of rock and type of climbing.
2. Health benefits and increase partaking
Fortunately, more and more people realize that climbing can provide an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But the increasing number is visible mostly in people above a certain age (usually at the end or after any higher education studies are finished) and only in some social circles. Furthermore, most new climbers stay limited to indoor climbing (bouldering and sport climbing) since outdoor climbing requires extra knowledge and equipment. That is why it is important to emphasize the extra health benefits of outdoor climbing – being active on fresh air, discovering new areas in nature, learning about local flora and fauna.
Thus in order to increase the number of children partaking in safe outdoor climbing, this project will address two questions:
- How to increase the number of children that are introduced to climbing?
- How to show children and more importantly their parents, all of the health benefits and that outdoor climbing can be just as safe as indoor climbing?
3. Use of modern technologies
With the rising presence of technology in all areas of our life, we cannot deny that it can also have a great influence on climbing. While it is definitely not advisable to replace live instructors and live practices of climbing techniques, we can present some extra content with the use of online resources. Young climbers look up to older and experienced climbers and presenting them with climbing videos and blogs can help to increase their motivation, which is important for youth climbing competitors. By providing videos of already learned rope maneuvers, climbing instructors can help children to practice at home.
Thus the current project will try to address the question of online learning material and the benefits of using online videos as additional material in training.
With big differences in the accessibility of natural climbing areas (Alpine countries, non-Alpine countries) and in popularity of climbing in different parts of Europe, every national (climbing) association has its own climbing education system. We would like to develop a strong network of European clubs and associations, whose main focus is youth climbing. That way more focus will be given to the development of good practices and to creating opportunities for children from countries, where climbing is not an established sport.
The Commission for sports climbing of AAS (Alpine Association of Slovenia) is supervising everything regarding sports climbing in Slovenia. Since Slovenia is an Alpine country, mountaineering and climbing have always been a large part of national identity. The following numbers can confirm this: around 100 climbing areas, more than 200 artificial climbing walls (half of them in primary and high schools) and more than 50 registered climbing clubs.
Since education in climbing is rather well established in Slovenia, and there is a lot of climbing infrastructure, there is no evident lack of children partaking in climbing. But since climbing courses, regular training and climbing equipment are expensive, the sport is not available to those from poor financial backgrounds. This problem could be partially solved if climbing would be introduced as a part of the PE programme, but that would require a systematic change, including building suitable climbing walls in school gyms and regular education of PE teachers. What Slovenia can gain through this project is the knowledge on how to mobilize climbing clubs to offer more activities, available to children from poor financial backgrounds. That could be achieved through volunteering and organizing open climbing events and lectures. Most of those children that do have the opportunity to climb, do it mainly on indoor climbing walls since it is perceived as safer and less demanding. This project will help participants to develop practical knowledge, necessary for safe climbing in different natural environments and also help to formulate the necessary steps in the generalization of such learning courses.
Furthermore, the multi-national organizational cooperation, developed during the project, will further enrich and widen the current knowledge with the experience of the partners.
Traditionally climbing in Hungary was a minor sport compared to popular ball-sports (eg. football, waterpolo), but in the last decade climbing community and interest has been growing significantly. Although competitive climbing represents high standards in our country, climbing education of youth in a non-competitive level is relatively underdeveloped despite the increasing popularity. Therefore sharing good practice and knowledge through this program can ensure a more knowledge-based approach to reach the youth people already interested in climbing. Also the Hungarian community of climber instructors and PE teachers can benefit from experiences shared by partners. We are dedicated to introducing climbing as an official PE class in elementary and secondary schools by sharing guidelines with the PE teacher community, and showinfóg beneficial effects of climbing to development of children to decision-makers of the education system. This project also can help to mobilize and motivate children already familiar with indoor climbing to climb outdoors in a safe and sustainable manner.
Climbing in Croatia is growing more popular by the day. It has quite a long history which is known only in the climbing circles. But as climbing was listed on the Olympic Games, 2020, program it is becoming more and more popular, especially among the children. Croatia has a lot of outdoor climbing areas, but only a few climbing halls (only 3 in the main city, Zagreb). Education of climbing trainers for children is not jet standardized in all associations.
This program can help Croatia by sharing and creating one main program on how to educate children and youth in climbing. Clubs must send their children and youth on competitions so the climbing clubs in Croatia can get the funds and survive, so it is crucial to gain knowledge on how to separate competing from recreational groups. Also in Croatia almost all of the children climb indoors, so this is a great opportunity to learn how to motivate these children to try outdoor climbing in different areas.
Climbing in Czech Republic has a long tradition and it is still very popular, thanks to our special climbing areas with sandstone towers. Many artificial walls for climbing and bouldering were created in the last years in Czechia. The more people attend these climbing walls, the more people also want to climb outside or start to compete. And exactly in this point it is very necessary to give good practise to all new climbers, especially children and youth. Czech mountaineering association has many programs, how to educate in branches like – sport climbing (national team, coaches, instructors, system of education of new coaches and instructors), children climbing (supporting local clubs, competitions), traditional climbing (especially rules of climbing, creating new routes and areas), safety in rocks and mountains and of course nature protection. All of these information and aspects are necessary to share, for learning, for giving new points of view for others and for upgrading old information.
Climbing has a long tradition in Slovak history and these days when climbing was officially involved into Olympic Games it’s getting even more popular not only as a competitive sport but also as a hobby activity close to nature. Many “old” clubs who were established in the 90’s are now fighting with generation change and how to attract children and work with youth. Through the program sharing the best practice can help Slovak clubs to find out the answers for the most crucial questions about work with youth and improve the methodology and training provided by them.
This program is expected to bring ideas on how to involve youth into this beautiful sport and how to work with them in a safe way and bring the health benefits of climbing into their lives. The youth can build new relations which can be forged into friendships, business relations and lifelong climbing partnership. Participants will have a chance to travel abroad and get to know interesting places out of their home countries and meet with new cultures. During the camp organized in Slovakia participants will see other than the main attractions in Slovakia for climbing.