Whether you're looking for a team event for your office workgroup, are a team coach, are a Scouts leader, or are fulfilling another role in which you aim to unite a group of individuals, rock climbing may be the perfect team-building exercise for you to consider!
Many rock climbing gyms understand the sport's value as a team-building endeavor and run programs or specials specific to larger groups. Some gyms even go as far as to run Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts-specific events. If you decide to book a group climbing event, you may want to know what the individuals in your group will take away from the event and how it can strengthen their bonds with each other.
Here are four ways rock climbing is excellent for team building to convince you to invest in the experience.
4 Ways Rock Climbing is Great for Team Building
1. Challenge by Choice
At its core, rock climbing is an individual sport. This also means it is a challenge by choice. While the goal of team building is to foster connection and trust among individuals, it is also about learning to respect the choices and limits of others. While climbing, no individual has to go beyond what they are comfortable tackling. Encouragement from others (more on that in #2) may help an individual try harder or push beyond their mental limitations. However, a group member may find they are better suited in a cheerleader role through the experience and opt to climb little but cheer on and support their teammates.
2. Rampant Encouragement
Rock climbing fosters a very encouraging and uplifting community. Even if you're only venturing into the sport for a specific team-building event, your group will find yourselves in an upbeat and optimistic environment. And, if a team member opts not to climb due to injury, fear, fatigue, etc., they can always encourage their peers. Because rock climbing is very individualistic, it is easy to get trapped or overwhelmed by your mental blocks. Having others cheer your own reminds climbers that they aren’t alone and can empower them to unlock new potential.
3. Required Communication and Trust
While bouldering may require a spotter to spot your landing, it's much easier to perform in isolation. On the other hand, top-roping and learning to top-rope are genuinely team efforts. Rope climbing requires at least two people: One person belays and one climbs. There is a learning curve of trust and communication for new climbers and new belayer/climber pairings.
First, for new climbers, there is learning to belay. Some people pick up the skill faster than others, which presents a great opportunity for a fast learner to help someone struggling in the group.
Second, the climber and belay must administer safety protocol before scaling the wall. The Climbing Wall Association issues official safety check commands, but the belayer and climber can also communicate that each is ready with their dialogue. Additionally, the belayer needs to check the climber's safety knot, and the climber needs to check the assembly of the belay device. Each of these steps requires clear communication and the ability to politely but effectively communicate any set-up errors to the other person.
Lastly, there is the act of belaying and climbing. For a new pairing, each individual must trust that the other will pay attention while belaying to keep them safe. While building trust may take a few climbs, that trust will increase over time. Usually, this is most evident in safety checks. Many first-time belay/climbing partners will double and triple-check each other's knots/device set-up. Or the climber will never fall into the rope, only weighting it when they've clearly communicated to their belayer that they would like to lower. But, with time, the check time becomes shorter (still safe but silently communicated), and the climber will take falls without hesitation.
4. Reading Routes and Figuring Out the Beta Together
There is a reason that there are boulder “problems” and top-rope “routes.” Each is a problem you must solve or a route you must navigate to succeed. How you solve the problem or navigate the path is the “beta.” There is always an intended beta and an alternative beta to climbs. While the intended beta is how the setter wants the moves to flow, there can be infinite alternative betas depending on the climber’s strengths and size. If someone is stuck on a move(s), talking with another person and brainstorming ways to complete the climb can be incredibly helpful! Often, they might have a beta that you didn’t even consider, and vice versa!
Teamwork does make the dream work! While rock climbing may be a stepping stone toward that larger dream of team bonding, it is the perfect activity to facilitate trust, communication, and respect for others. With trust, communication, and mutual respect, a team is likely to succeed. So, call up your pupils, peers, staff, or whoever is on your team, and tell them you all are going rock climbing!
Let us know below if you have any additional thoughts, comments, or questions about rock climbing and its team-building potential!