Climbing high and giving back

May 11, 2023

As most members of the Class of 2023 know, I am a competitive rock climber and have been for almost all my life. I began climbing in third grade when I joined the afterschool program at MetroRock Climbing Centers in Everett, and I immediately fell in love with the sport and proceeded to make it my entire personality. I was obsessed with the rainbow-colored holds, the many staff-owed dogs roaming around the gym, and the idea that using my own volition, I could push myself to climb as high as possible.

Over the next few years, I gained both physical and mental strength, eventually moving up to the Training and Performance teams. My coaches, Kaylee, Scot and Alex, provided me with emotional support and created a positive learning environment; climbing was never anything but fun. My teammates and I built a tight-knit community and spent 12 hours per week training, trying hard and laughing together.

However, when I began competing in the USA Climbing Youth circuit in middle school, my attitude toward climbing grew negative. I put pressure on myself to always succeed (impossible in a sport where one falls all the time!) and compared myself to my teammates I so loved. I saw the successes of my competitors as a detriment to my own strength and cried at almost every competition.

Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, I considered quitting the sport. Luckily, I was able to turn to my coaches and work through the mental blocks I had built up in my head, and I began to enjoy rock climbing and competing once again. Today, I am at MetroRock whenever possible, and my teammates  and I explore New England together every free weekend, climbing both in gyms and outside on physical rocks.

At the beginning of Senior Spring Project, I found myself with an abundance of free time, as most seniors do. I had initially planned to spend it training at the gym and managing the front desk, where I began working last summer, but in March my head coach asked me if I was interested in working with the Climbing Club, which meets twice a week. The kids in the club, ranging from age seven to 14, are just beginning to get serious about rock climbing but primarily do it for fun, as I once did. I had never coached anyone before, but I jumped at the opportunity.

Coaching has allowed me to give back to the MetroRock community that has provided me with so much. I teach the Climbing Club not just about proper footwork and technique, but how to fail and try again, how to push yourself past your mental and physical limits. My coaches taught me these valuable lessons that carried me through high school, and it has been incredibly rewarding to instill the same wisdom in the next generation of rock climbers.

At a bouldering competition last weekend in Boston, several of the kids I coach came to watch the “big kids” climb. A seven-year-old named Allie watched wide-eyed as I ascended the wall, cheering for me as I reached the finish hold, and her mom told me how inspiring it was for her. This moment almost brought me to tears, and I thanked her for allowing me to coach her daughter. As my time on Team MetroRock sadly comes to an end and my teammates and I move on, I feel less heartbroken knowing that the younger kids get to feel the same joy and community I have been so privileged to.