What has Climbing Ever Done For You?
What has climbing ever done for you? For me, the short answer is: a lot. It didn't just help physically or socially like you might expect; climbing likely saved my education. I did not like school, and I was simply not very good at it. Climbing didn't teach me long division or how to place a comma, but it gave me motivation, confidence, and most importantly placed me in the company of people who valued education. I still have trouble spelling and memorizing things, two skills that would have helped me a lot early on in my education. Many of my difficulties were likely due to being dyslexic, but honestly, I never got tested to confirm that. It turns out it is much easier to change how much you care about your education when the people around you put a high value on it.
Before middle school, I had picked up some bad habits from terrible teachers. In 4th grade a teacher used me as a pin cushion; if she was having a bad day she would take it out on me. She wholeheartedly felt that I was stupid and unable to learn anything: when I did my homework, I had obviously cheated and was required to stay in from recess to redo my homework, if I didn’t do my homework I had to stay in from recess and finish it. What did this teach me? Why bother doing homework to begin with. I don't know that I ever entirely broke that habit. Fortunately, the next year my teacher was more supportive and helped build my confidence back up, but it wouldn't last for long. I had another cruel teacher in middle school, but this one didn't single me out; she was cruel to all students. I would have her for many classes throughout middle school.
Through middle school I had been a skateboarder, and let me be honest and say I was terrible at it. Skateboarding is a great sport and I still love to watch people who are good at it, but it wasn't for me. I started skating to fit in with my friends, and it was more a social event then an athletic one. Many of my friends that skated were also having school troubles, and very few cared about school. I had gotten into a bit of trouble and barely passed any of my classes.
In the seventh grade I was introduced to climbing during a summer camp. I enjoyed it but didn't climb again for some time. After 8th grade my parents took me to try out a climbing class for my birthday. Even after my first day of climbing I was hooked I looked forward to it all week. Shortly after my first session I started going in more often. It did not take long for the coach to notice me and invite me to the youth team. My parents now had a bargaining chip to motivate me to do better academically.
On the youth team I was surrounded by people who took their education more seriously than I ever had, and they were good students. They not only gave me another perspective on school, but they also encouraged me to do better. Finding something I was fairly good at boosted my confidence, an important ingredient that enabled me to become a better student. I didn't become a straight A student, but I managed a few A's and didn't fail anything in high school. That was a big improvement for me.
Climbing gave me aspirations; I wanted to open my own gym. This motivated me to try and get a college education, something I had not really considered prior to this dream. I aimed for a business degree, but it didn't take long for me to realize that opening a gym was outside of my budget. I wanted to leave the business program, but didn't know where to go. One night at the gym, an older friend of mine, Rick, spoke to me about computer science. It's embarrassing for me to admit now, but at the time I literally knew nothing about it. I didn't even know what a programming language was, but I went home and downloaded a C++ compiler and started in on a chain of tutorials. After about a week of doing this and talking to Rick, I decided to switch my major to Computer Science.
I ended up finishing with nearly straight A's from the CS program at the community college and transferring to a 4-year college where I did pretty well. I was the first official president of the OSU Indoor Rock Climbing Club where I helped expose mores students to climbing. I graduated with a Bachelor's, and am now a software engineer for a major tech company.
It's hard to imagine where I would be today if it were not for climbing. I hope that by sharing this story I can encourage students not to give up on their education and motivate parents to keep finding ways to inspire their kids to succeed.
Written by Orbital Athlete Nick Edward