In only a year Great Wall Climbing has seen the number of kids participating in their youth programs double to approximately 40 kids, and the interest is continuing to grow. Their next six-week youth session gets underway on Nov. 1, and Jesse Redden, the head coach of the Great Wall youth programs, is expecting another strong turnout.
"Weve got a lot of kids back from last year who brought their friends, others who say theyre bringing their friends next time. Its just growing exponentially for whatever reasons," said Redden.
"We get a lot of kids who try climbing at the outdoor wall during the summer, or come here for a birthday party or one of our play and eat programs, and they want to come back.
"We usually just ask them if they like climbing trees and playing on the monkey bars, and if the answer is yes then its a go, and the kids just get hooked."
Over six weeks, the kids learn the basic knots, belaying techniques, and how to be safe, responsible climbers. The coaches also help them to learn a variety of skills, such as body positioning, balance and weight transfer, while developing their strength and endurance.
"Theres a progression there thats amazing. Some kids start off and can only get halfway up and then stop because theyre tired or theyre scared or whatever. Come back in a few weeks and the same kids are climbing right to the top, and moving on to the vertical wall and the harder stuff," said Redden.
"Its fun, its always a challenge, and I think the kids get really excited by doing stuff they didnt think they would ever be able to do. The progression is fast. It can take years to get good at a sport like soccer, but for kids theres an improvement almost every single time they come out.
"The kids you see in gymnastics and dance and swimming, and you know theyll never forget it. They may lose some muscle if they dont do it for a while, but the balance and coordination will always be there for their whole life, and you get those kinds of things from climbing as well."
Most of the kids who take part are between 10 and 12 years old, a time when they are discovering individual sports and branching out more says Redden. Even so, the program takes kids as young as five, which make surprisingly good students.
"Thats the age where you spend all your time on the monkey bars," said Redden. "Its also natural for us to want to climb, we still have that natural climbing instinct in all of us, and its good to get in touch with that before we squash it down with fear as we get older."
Climbing also requires trust, says Redden. The kids are supervised at all times, but also know they need to trust the person belaying them, as well as be trusted by the people they belay.
"We play a lot of games and fool around a bit, but the kids know that they have to be responsible as well," said Redden.
The youth climbing programs run from Monday to Thursday in the afternoon. The groups are: Ages 5-7 (Monday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.); Ages 8-10 (Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.); Ages 10-12 (Tuesdays, 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.); Teen Girls (Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.); and High School (Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.).
The cost is $110 for children aged 8 and up, which includes six guided sessions and unlimited gym access and equipment rentals during the six week period. Kids aged 5-7 are $60 each, and have the same access.
Pre-registration is required so drop by the Great Wall Underground in the Sundial Hotel building between noon and 8 p.m. daily. The programs run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 17, then breaks for winter. The next program will get underway in the spring.