Touchstone Blog Archive
Thursday, July 28, 2011
  Vertical Velocity- Girls's Climbing Team
Vertical Velocity, the girls's climbing team at Berkeley Ironworks, began in late 2010 with only 6 girls but in a few months the roster maxed at 20 and a waiting list was started. The girls came from different schools in different part of the East Bay. Some had been climbing at Touchstone kids camps since they could barely walk, while some had never put on a harness. Regardless of their backgrounds or experience, they have all come together to create a fun and challenging group with an increasing presence at Ironworks.

Many gyms have teen programs, but Vertical Velocity is unique because it is only for the lady folk. The program was conceptualized by Annie, the mother of a middle school girl who was concerned about a growing trend for young women to become disinterested in organized sports and the benefits that team events can provide.

“When I was approached with the idea of starting a girls climbing team, I was a little nervous - a gaggle of middle school girls can be a little daunting!” said Coach Lauryn Claassen. “But the second it got going, I was hooked. It’s awesome to share my love for climbing with these girls, who have unlimited energy and enthusiasm. It’s like a self-perpetuating machine at this point. It’s so fun to see the girls improve day by day, week by week. They encourage each other, they push each other to try harder, and we’re definitely all having fun in the process.”

There are no weekly matches like a softball or soccer team, but aside from practice on Mondays and Wednesdays, Vertical Velocity has plenty of ways to grow and compete. Many of the girls will compete in the upcoming bouldering competition at GWPC, and a few are considering individually competing in local climbing comps in the fall. Hannah Le, who has placed nationally in USAC Youth Climbing Competitions, joined the ranks as an assistant coach this spring and has brought her skills and experience with her.

“I began climbing this year because my parents wanted me to do a sport and my friend invited me to try it out. Now I love climbing because it’s social but you are getting exercise at the same time.” Said 7th Grader Sarah B. “I’m sticking with climbing next year.”

“I love being on the climbing team because I get to problem solve with my friends and coaches.” Said 8th grader Alizie. “Climbing is great because learning one skill makes you a better climber. If I learn a new trick in soccer, it didn’t instantly make me a better soccer player. But if I learn one new move here, like how to mantle or flag my foot, I can climb harder right away. When I first started on the team I was really intimidated by the guys who would boulder in the overhung part of the gym. But after working on techniques and getting beta, now I can climb in the wave too!”

As the teams’ popularity grew, Sarah Gilchriese - vegan climber extraordinaire also joined the coaching roster this summer. Together, the three coaches keep things interesting; running mini technique clinics, helping the girls train, or setting up fixed lines so the girls can learn to rappel in the gym. The team has had sleepovers in the gym, bake sales, potlucks, speed climbing races, and plans to take a trip outside. There are some open spots on the team this summer, so if you are interested or want more information contact Lauryn at BIW.

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