Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Hazel Findlay is one of the best climbers in Britain and we are extremely proud that she is an Ambassador for Urban Uprising. You can imagine our excitement when she said she could help out at one of our sessions!
Hazel joined us at The Prop Store, The Climbing Academy's newest bouldering centre in Glasgow. Each session we run is carefully structured, using trained volunteers to provide personal development coaching, together with qualified climbing instructors. For this session, coaching was provided by Urban Uprising volunteer Ainsley Martin with TCA instructor Stu AKA Cobra. It is not every day that you get the chance to work with the first British woman to climb E9 and free El Cap…!
Bang on time, ten young people from High Park Primary School made their entrance. The school is just a wee walk from The Prop Store and is well known for providing a vibrant learning environment with great alternative development opportunities for vulnerable children. This group was quite typical of those we work with. For some of the young people, climbing felt natural and they were comfortable and confident. For others, it was very challenging, both physically and mentally. Each individual has their own challenges and goals – and as you'll know from your own experiences – the most inspiring moments are not always when someone nails a hard problem, but when someone has pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and overcome a mental barrier. This might be as simple as just getting on to the wall and going up a few feet – for someone with a lack of confidence and anxiety, this is a major achievement.
Hazel got stuck in, "it was so nice to see the kids playing and having fun in a climbing setting and yet also challenging themselves and pushing their comfort zones, physically and mentally. I do a lot of coaching, but mostly with adults, so it was really refreshing to work with kids. They had so much energy and had such a good time."
This session was what we call a 'Taste' session, where our aim is to introduce a new group to climbing and then agree dates, participants and aims for the next phase – a 'Climb' block. As the name suggests, this is a structured block of weekly sessions over 8 to 10 weeks where we aim to transform a young person from novice to competent climber, focusing as much on personal development as we do on climbing.
It was wonderful to watch Hazel with the young people – her friendly positive nature puts people at ease and encourages confidence. There was one participant who had a real fear of heights, and Hazel gently encouraged them up the top out boulder. Another soon had her showing them how to flag and control their movements. Said Hazel, "I think it's really important for young people to be connected to their bodies by doing sport. I think climbing is an especially good sport for kids because it can be as individual or group orientated as you like. Many children don't suit team sports. It's also mentally challenging in a way that many other sports aren't, which brings a lot of learning."
Hazel is a firm believer in the power of climbing as a tool for personal development and improving mental health. You can read more in her post here.
Climbing can elicit lots of feelings. In a debrief of the session, teacher Jamie reported a full gambit of emotional responses including nervous, happy, sad, angry, excited, confident and shy. We were delighted to hear one young participant sum up their experience simply with "I felt confident." We are aiming to run our Climb programme with the group and after this session, they are excited about that prospect.
Hazel became an Ambassador for Urban Uprising in 2018. "I've always been interested in organisations that get kids climbing who wouldn't be able to otherwise. I was lucky enough to have a father who climbs, but many other kids don’t have that. I'm also really interested in trying to make climbing more inclusive to people from all backgrounds which means alleviating the hard barriers to entry such as finance. Urban Uprising was an obvious charity to support in whatever way I could."
The challenges that a lot of young people face, whether it is economic or psychological are all interlinked and the problem of disadvantage is so entrenched in our society that it is sometimes hard to know how to start tackling it. We feel the biggest impact we can make is through developing those intangible but very powerful life skills. Developing the right mind-set and skills such as positivity, confidence, resilience and focus can help to empower young people to create a great future for themselves. Climbing is one of the best tools out there to do this.
If you are interested in following in Hazel's footsteps and becoming a volunteer for Urban Uprising, please get in touch and we can talk through the opportunities. Or if you are simply obsessed with climbing and want disadvantaged young people to experience the benefits, we would be hugely grateful for all donations.
Urban Uprising relies on the support of volunteers, fundraisers, donors and partners. Thanks again to Hazel, Ainsely, Stu and the TCA for the partnership we have with them that make these sessions possible.
Photo credits: Sam Scriven