Indoor Competition Climbing as a Context for Positive Youth Development

Barry A. Garst, Garrett A. Stone, Ryan J. Gagnon


Climbing as a competitive youth sport is rapidly expanding in both participation and popularity as it has transitioned from an unorganized recreational activity to a formalized sport with a national governing body, organized competitions, formal coaching, and team structure. In spite of this growth, little to no research has been conducted regarding indoor competition climbing as a developmental experience for youth. This study examined the contributions of indoor competition climbing to youth development outcomes based on qualitative responses collected from 623 parents and climbers (youth and adults) in late Fall 2014. Themes were constructed related to climbing as a youth development experience, including: holistic development; supportive relationships; confidence and self-efficacy; and sportsmanship and character development. Holistic development, which included growth in the areas of strength and health, cognition and mental conditioning, and social skills, appears to be a hallmark of the sport of indoor competition climbing. The identified themes mapped well to the 5Cs model of positive youth development (PYD), providing evidence for the existence of the 5Cs among youth who play sports. In response to calls for intentionality in youth programming, future research examining underlying programming, coaching, and parenting mechanisms that contribute to PYD is recommended.

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Copyright (c) 2016 Barry A. Garst

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