New health and fitness class climbs in popularity and size

Graphic by Jason Altshuler/Sagamore Staff

Graphic by Jason Altshuler/Sagamore Staff

Sofia Reynoso, Staff Writer

Balancing across slacklines, bouldering walls and repelling with rope: the rock climbing class has its share of adrenaline.

The rock climbing health and fitness class teaches students the basics of climbing while also opening a door into the supportive environment of the unique sport.

The class teaches students skills such as  belaying, making knots, and many others. Students learn to climb using a rope and how to be safe in the process.  Students also learn new techniques and moves that are helpful in certain rock climbing scenarios. At the end of the semester, there is a field trip to a rock climbing gym or an outdoor location where students can use their newly learned skills.

Health and Fitness and rock climbing teacher William Graham said his goal is to give students the tools necessary to be able to climb even after the class is over.

“I want you to be able to walk into my class and when you walk out at the end of the semester know everything you need to know about the rock climbing environment, like the lingo and the knots,” Graham said. “You’re going to look like you know what you’re doing.”

In addition, Graham said that as a health and fitness teacher, his goal is to teach students sports where they can take safe, healthy risks.

“The purpose is to help educate students on activities they could do after high school, because that is especially our job as teachers, to prepare our students to be citizens and to be healthy citizens of the community,” Graham said. “It’s a very healthy activity to do, and also it allows students to take a safe risk rather than an unsafe risk.”

Spanish and health and fitness teacher Liz Gorman said she, like many of her students, enjoyed unorthodox and non-team sports.

“I have always been an athletic person, but I was not  particularly drawn to some of the traditional team sports,” Gorman recalled. “I think there are a lot of students like that who want to use their bodies and challenge themselves and have fun but are looking for different options, so that’s great to be able to offer.”

According to senior Evan Paris, who is currently taking rock climbing, the class is tailored toward the individual needs of each student.

“Generally, the class has a casual ambience and students are given the opportunity to challenge themselves and set individual goals,” Paris said.

“The class is pretty relaxed. We mostly just work on projects or climbs that are hard for us so that they’ll take a longer time to complete,” Paris said. “He kind of just lets us climb and do it ourselves.”

Paris said many believe that to rock climb one must have incredible upper body strength, but in reality, balance is the real key.

“I think a common misconception about rock climbing is that you have to have a lot of strength and upper-body strength to be able to pull yourself up, but I’m definitely not the strongest person,” Paris said. “I think it’s more about balance and shifting your center of balance so that you can still be on the wall and still extend yourself to make moves. It’s more like a puzzle than anything else.”

According to Gorman, despite not being a team sport, rock climbing certainly has a social aspect that is essential.

“It is sort of an individual challenge and everyone else is there to support you in your challenge, as opposed to competing against you,” Gorman said.

Gorman also said that trust is an important aspect of in rock climbing and as a result, games incorporating trust are frequent in the class.

“You are literally trusting each other with your backs, and you have to learn to trust yourself to be responsible for someone else’s safety to be able to belay them,” Gorman said.

The class is a mix of experienced and inexperienced climbers and is taught to help all parties involved. Senior Will Guzman said that as an experienced climber, he can help other students in the class.

“If I’m more familiar with belaying or tying certain knots, I’ll help people and teach them to do that,” Guzman said.

Another group of students are those that have a fear of heights, and although this class may not seem like the right option senior Hayley Barnes said.

“There are people in the class who do have a fear of heights, but I think the class is welcoming in being like ‘it’s okay, you’ve got it; we got you,’” Barnes said. “Even if you don’t really want to climb the big tall wall there’s a bouldering wall so that you can kind of warm yourself up to scaling a taller wall.”  

Graham said teaching the rock climbing class has given him insight into the diversity of our school and that climbing is an activity that allows one to discover their place.

“I’ve learned that there’s a whole different array of kids at our high school which is awesome and there’s a place for everyone,” Graham said. “In a lot of cases, rock climbing allows them to find their place.”