Have you ever thought about making the leap from recreational to competitive climber? Mesa Rim youth coach and competitor Jordan Romig shares some of his experiences—and advice—about participating in the up-and-coming sport.
Jordan Romig was 12 years old when he decided to compete for the first time. The Iowa native had trained diligently for years and felt confident that he had built the skills and strength he needed to be a worthy competitor. He was right. Romig fared well and often took the top spot at his local competitions. After achieving some success, he transitioned to divisional and national championships, which he says was an eye-opener due to the higher skill level of the competitors there.
We talked to the resident comp climber and Mesa Rim youth coach about his comp experiences and what you need to know before entering the exciting world of climbing competitions
“The greatest challenge I face with competing is learning to trust my training and be confident.”
Mesa Rim: You had a good amount of success competing locally. What was your experience like when you went out for bigger comps?
Jordan Romig: The competitions then were very different than they are today, especially in such a flat part of the country where the sport community is smaller and less developed. I was pretty good in local competitions and usually won, but I quickly realized how isolated I was when I started competing at the divisional and national level.
MR: Can you give a rundown of the comps you’ve participated in?
JR: I’ve participated in countless small local competitions. In my last year [as a youth] I had the opportunity to compete internationally for speed climbing at the 2014 Youth World Championships in New Caledonia and the 2014 Youth Pan American Championships in Mexico City.
MR: Do you still compete now that you’ve aged out of the youth division?
JR: Since finishing my youth career, I’ve competed in three Open (adult) Bouldering Nationals and just did my first Open Sport / Speed National this spring. I also competed at a deep-water soloing event in 2015 called Psicobloc Milan.
MR: What is one thing you wish you’d have known before you started competing?
JR: I wish I had learned how to climb smarter and manage my nerves going into competitions. However, this is an ongoing struggle for a lot of competitors—especially in youth. It is part of the process of competition since you can’t really replicate the pressure felt at these events.
MR: What is one of the greatest challenges you face as a competitor?
JR: The greatest challenge I face with competing is learning to trust my training and be confident. I routinely underperform at competitions because I get nervous or overwhelmed by the pressure. I’ve only recently been able to turn that pressure into a motivator rather than a hindrance.
MR: What first steps should a would-be competitor take?
JR: A good starting place is local comps. Gyms usually host fun competitions where you can try out the experience. Getting into competing is a lot easier for youth, given there is a national organization that coordinates events with gyms from the local level up through the national events. Unfortunately, the beginner level competition scene for adults is not very big and is much less structured.
MR: Any other advice for aspiring competitors?
JR: Get exposure. Find some local competitions and start learning the format and level of competition. Once you know the lay of the land, it’s all about training.
Are you a young climber who has interest in competing in this year’s USA Climbing Youth Sport and Speed National Championships in Kennesaw, Georgia this summer? Check out Mesa Rim’s 3-day Championship Sport/Speed Climbing Intensive, which offers athletes a chance to level-up their skills and get comp-ready.