Hiring trained climbing instructors, while necessary for such a specialized activity, can be quite a challenge.
However, at Auburn University this did not prove to be a sufficient deterrent to offer students climbing. Staff learn a fundamental level of rock climbing skills to get them off the ground.
“All of our professional staff [members] have a basic understanding of rock climbing and how to teach the basics,” said Scott Dirksen, assistant director of campus recreation at Auburn University. “We have two professional staff members who help run the climbing wall, and at least one of these staff members has professional certification and a lot of experience in rock climbing, instruction and risk management. “
At University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the campus recreation department trains current student staff members who are already involved in rock climbing programs. Ultimately, they make rock climbing instructors out of students instead of hiring specialist instructors.
“We’re hiring specifically from our climbing community,” said Russell Hobart, associate director of climbing programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The more experience the climbers have, the more I can lead them from that context.”
However you choose to build your climbing staff, it is important that they are well trained. A group of qualified climbing instructors will help improve the students’ experience and reduce their risk of injury.
“We have general wall staff training, so we’re all on the same page,” Hobart said. “After that, we have monthly trainings to help with specific issues or new activities.”
It is also important to train your climbing instructors in the most effective teaching methods. “Climbing can be a deep and initially overwhelming subject to teach,” Dirksen said. “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 beginner climber.
Keeping students engaged is the primary goal of any campus recreation activity, and the ability to deliver an engaging climbing program begins with your instructors. According to Dirksen, the best and most educated climbing instructors are those who constantly practice climbing.
“A good instructor is someone who climbs themselves,” Dirksen said. “Make sure your instructors don’t burn out, but take the time to improve their skills and climb.”
If you’re hoping to take your climbing program to new heights or just get it off the ground, consider the quality of your instructors. Well-trained and educated climbing instructors will increase students’ enjoyment of the activity.
“A good instructor provides just the right amount of information to keep the student safe and successful so they come back and keep learning,” Dirksen said.