A Monks Life

By Kenny Stocker

Seeking simplicity and clarity through adventure, explorers find peace and inspiration in the natural world.

To support our small article on the British Youth Climbing Team we invited Alan and Beth Monks to tell us what life in the team is like for a father and daughter partnership.

The athletes perspective..
Beth Monks: would buy Yosemite if she had the cash

AK- How or why did you get involved with the Nottingham team?
Beth- I climb at Nottingham climbing center once a week and have done for a while. I met lots of people from there and we all started climbing together. I am not part of an official Nottingham team who are coached at the wall but I climb a lot with the people in it.

AK- What are the benefits of being involved with the team?
Beth- I’m not really in a team as such in Nottingham but I climb with lots of people from Nottingham. The climbers who go to the Nottingham Wall are all very friendly and the atmosphere very supportive.

AK- How important is the competition circuit?
Beth- The competition circuit is great fun and motivating. I find it helps me improve my grades by a huge amount. I use the competitions to build on my climbing experience, to make friends and to excel.

AK- How important is it for you to win?
Beth- It is important to me to do well even if I don’t win. I like to feel I am improving so that I know that the hard training has paid off.

AK- How often do you train?
Beth- 5 times a week but not all climbing.

AK- How important is it to have a coach?
Beth- My dad, my coach is very important to me. Without him I would not be climbing to this standard. He motivates me to get on with my training when I really don’t want to. He’s always coming up with new ways to build on my climbing that help me a lot however hard they are.

AK- Is it difficult to balance training with school, friends and other interests?
Beth- Yes. It can sometimes get hard but I actually do get quite a good balance. School work comes before climbing (although I have been lucky lately to not have too much…soon to change!) Climbing comes before most social activities I would like to do. But usually I can fit it in. It all works out (usually) but I have learnt that in order to climb as I am, I can’t do everything.

AK- Climbing is an individual sport, what role does a team environment have in this?
Beth- Climbing in a team is great as everyone has their different ways of doing things and you can pick up tips from everyone. A team environment helps make friends, climb better as maybe you feel you wish to beat them and gives you someone to give you tips.

AK- How do you measure your personal standard?
Beth- Usually by what grade I am onsiting. Sometimes though it is how I do in a competition. So how much I have improved from the last and how I can improve. I can compare myself to others and see what they are doing to be as good as that.

AK- What goals have you set for yourself? and how do these compare with those set by your coach?
Beth- My goal is get to the final of international competitions and these are the same as the goals set by my coach / dad. I think these are realistic and I have been close this year to achieving this.

AK- Do you have any involvement with the British Team?
Beth- Yes I am a member of the Junior team and I go to the training with them as well as international competitions and trips. I enjoy being in the team very much as I have such a good time on trips, making friends and improving.

AK- Would you like to compete on an international stage?
Beth- I do! I’ve just been to China for the World Championships. Competing in such an event is an amazing experience. I love it!

AK- How aware are you of other climbers in your category in Europe?
Beth- Very.. as I have been competing internationally and watching how they do. I made some very good friends from the other teams and I email them and find out about what they do to train.

The parents perspective..
Alan Monks: Beths dad and compulsive climber

AK- Do you climb yourself?, are you competitive with your child?
Alan- I do climb myself but would never dream of competing with Beth.
Well ok that’s not entirely true its just getting a lot harder so I need to make sure the advantages are stacked in my favour and that I take out medical insurance so I can afford the physio bills. I always find that choosing technical Gritstone slabs works well when competing against Beth.

AK- Do you know your ‘nuts’ from your ‘friends’?
Alan- Yes. I only really started sport climbing with Beth and Alison so prior to that all my climbing was all ‘Trad’

AK- Do you take on the role of coach or do you leave that to the team?
Alan- Beth has input from the British Team Coaches who suggest training ideas. This however, is not a regular input due to the distances involved so I do take on the role of coach. Its not always easy to balance that with being a parent.

AK- Why competitions? friendly rivalry, social activity or your child wants to be world champion?
Alan- This is the question I always ask her. I think it is a combination of the above plus the opportunity to travel to and meet people from all over the world.

AK- Do you know the people training the team? how much are parents encouraged to be involved?
Alan- Don’t know. Beth regularly climbs at Nottingham but not really as part of a team.

AK- Climbing is a multi-faceted activity, and the UK has a strong tradition in traditional climbing. Is it inevitable that your child will want to push the boundaries on the more dangerous side of the sport?
Alan- No its not inevitable. I believe the more committing aspects of the sport e.g Trad Climbing, Alpine Mountaineering and Ice Climbing can be learnt safely with a long apprenticeship. These aspects are certainly the most rewarding sides of the sport. The biggest dangers are peer group pressure. Other climbers lacking relevant experience telling you to ‘go for it’ and that you will be alright. Going to university can be a particularly dangerous time. I broke my arm at the Roaches on the freshers meet. Luckilly Beth has a strong sense of self preservation.

AK- Are your holidays arranged around climbing activities?
Alan- No of course not. My wife just wouldn’t tolerate it. Bringing up our daughters with such a narrow range of experience! How could I?
Mind you we do seem to be very lucky and end up at places with lots of sun drenched rock. Arco was particularly good this year. I’m just hoping that the island in Greece we have booked flights to in October has some rock to play on. I’ll pack my gear just in case!

AK- What’s in it for you? Do you like to sit back and watch your child or has it opened up a new world of experiences and destinations that also satisfy your tastes?
Alan- A very stiff neck from too much belaying particularly at competitions
A heavy fuel bill
Large doses of abuse from Beth when I send her up something that’s ‘too hard’
A very good belayer when I want to climb outside
The experience of doing competitions was new and last year I entered the BICC which was great fun. Beth watched and realized that it is a lot more nerve wracking watching than doing it

AK- Is your kid an obsessive climber?, how difficult is it to get them to concentrate on other activities such as study?
Alan- No she’ s not but I am. I get withdrawal without regular climbing and get very bad tempered. The climbing doesn’t distract her from study but the constant need to communicate on MSN with climbers she has met from all over the world does.

AK- What advice would you give to other parents who have kids constantly hanging from the door frames?
Alan- Build them a climbing wall in the garage, loft or cellar. Saves having to mend the door frames and you can use it yourself.

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