Blog: Why were Regionals “so easy”?

Apr 24, 2023

During the Regional events held this weekend in both Surrey, BC, and Kanata, ON, we received a lot of feedback on the difficulty of the qualification boulders, with some feeling that they were too easy, and questioning why this differed from experiences in the past.

We would like to clarify that the level of difficulty of the qualification round was intentional. This was the mandate we gave the routesetters. We understand that some participants may want to understand why, and we would like to provide an explanation.

The last time CEC held Regional events was pre-Covid. The main complaints we received at that time were two-fold:

  1. All participants in the Regional events automatically qualified for nationals. If there is no “cut down,” what is the point of having Regionals in the first place?
  2. The lower-ranked athletes were having a terrible time – the problems were so hard that many of them weren’t even able to start, resulting in a lot of tears.

The way to address these two complaints was through the concept of “Meaningful Competition.” The Long Term Development model explains that

“Athletes need to train and compete according to training-to-competition ratios that develop skills and fitness while preventing injury and burnout. The quality of competition and the timing of competitive events need to serve the needs of the participant, allowing them to test the stage-appropriate skills they are developing.”

Each competition an athlete attends should be meaningful and focused on the stage of development of said athlete. Overtraining and Over-Competing are real issues that lead to injury, burnout, and drop out from sport altogether.

We recognize that we should have provided this context prior to the event, to set expectations appropriately. We apologise for the delay in posting this explanation, and will work on ways to provide education more proactively to our community.

Pre-Covid

The large field of athletes with a very wide discrepancy in skills and competencies were all attending Regionals. routesetters were told to “challenge the top.” The same participants were then all selected for Nationals, where the routesetters were told the same thing – “challenge the top.” This created positive experiences for the top athletes, and negative experiences for the lower-ranked athletes. As a result of these negative experiences, many athletes chose not to attend Nationals, and we heard some contemplating whether to quit altogether.

CEC looked at this issue and determined two solutions:

  1. Let’s shrink the field so that the difference in skills between the first ranked athletes and the last ranked athlete isn’t so large
  2. Let’s add MEANING to our events, a focus of intention

Fast-forward to this past weekend

The first change we implemented was to create various Qualification Pathways to direct all participants to the most meaningful competition for THEM individually.

  • The High Performance Athletes were qualified directly to Nationals, with a message that they were NOT allowed to attend Regional events
  • Same was done for the Top 5 athletes in BC, AB, ON, and QC
  • Youth C athletes were invited to Regionals, but are not invited to Nationals
  • Everyone else was asked to attend Regionals, where the Top 15 athletes, based on final results, would be invited to Nationals

This has the impact of reducing the discrepancy between the first ranked athlete and the last ranked athlete in the FIELD of Regionals Participants, and creating two separated Top Tier and Low Tier of athletes for Regionals and Nationals.

The second change was to give our routesetters a different mandate. We asked them to set the Qualification Boulders in a way so EVERY PARTICIPANT would get at least a zone. Of course, that meant that for the Top Tier, the boulders were too easy. But that same tier got to be challenged in Finals, and will get challenged again at Nationals – while the Low Tier had only ONE opportunity to have a POSITIVE experience.

I am extremely proud of our routesetters. This weekend, with 378 participants, the setters achieved the required mandate 376 times! That’s a 99.47% success rate to what we asked for, and we would like to commend them for doing such a fantastic job with such a difficult ask.

The athletes who may have said that qualification was too easy were then served with a challenging set in the Finals. The setting mandate for finals was to challenge the top tier, and once again, our setters delivered. Only 2 athletes out of 120 achieved 4 tops, everyone else reaching a maximum of 3 tops. That’s an impressive success rate of 98.33% for our setting teams!

In conclusion

Behind the numbers, graphics, and results lies the most important piece of the equation – the participants. Last night, one parent told me: “This was the first time my 16 years old daughter didn’t cry during a competition.” We believe that the mental health and enjoyment of our participants is the most important part of our sport. For us, this feedback was priceless. For our athletes to compete, have a positive experience, and come back to the sport, well, this is why we do what we do.

And for those who didn’t feel challenged this weekend, I have only one thing to say: Get Pumped Up for Nationals!!!

Sincerely
Christiane Marceau
Your Executive Director

PS: if you have other questions you would like answers to, please feel free to email me at ed@climbingcanada.ca, and I’ll be happy to write this kind of post more often.

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