conference sessions

The 2022 CWA Summit conference program provides a platform for learning best practices, sharing successes, and collaborating on challenges. The lineup is being developed, and we will add additional sessions below as they are confirmed. Sign up to be notified when more sessions are announced!

Management & Operations

Humanizing Leadership Teams: Using Authentic Voices to Build Honest Narratives That Resonate With Your Community | Jeffrey Shor & Lillian Chao-Quinlan, Sportrock Climbing Centers


Description: When your community envisions your brand, what do they see? Do they see a corporate logo, an industrial space, t-nuts and plastic grips - or do they imagine the faces of the people that make it all possible? If you asked your community to tell your brand story, what would they say? In this session, learn the importance of humanizing your leadership team from Sportrock Climbing Center's Director of Marketing, Jeff Shor, and Sportrock's President, Lillian Chao-Quinlan.

Learning Objectives:

  • Laying the groundwork; encouraging your team to lean into personal passions

  • Vulnerability; a most powerful tool of connection

  • Crafting authentic messaging and overcoming insecurities

About the Presenters: Jeff Shor is the Director of Marketing for Sportrock Climbing Centers in the Virginia / Washington D.C. area. He has worked in the climbing industry in various capacities for almost 15 years. He has an educational background in branding and graphic design. He has interests in digital art and photography and frequents the slam poetry open mic circuit. He is just as at home at the crag as he is in the gym. His home crag is the New River Gorge in “wild and wonderful” West Virginia!

Lillian Chao-Quinlan is the President/CEO and principal owner of Sportrock Climbing Centers, one of the first commercial indoor rock climbing gyms in the country. Lillian uses her platform to pursue her passions of lifelong learning, building community, and climbing. During her tenure, Lillian and her team have completed multiple facility expansions, hosted national level competitions, and offers a space for people and organizations to explore their potential through rock climbing. Lillian has been climbing for over 20 years and enjoys traveling the world climbing.




When Gym Owners Unite: A Case Study in Collaboration | Michele Lang, Insight Climbing & Movement; Alice Kao, Sender One; Doug Cosby, Inner Peaks; Michael Lary, Source Climbing Center


Description: This session will explore two unique ways gym owners have come together over the past two years to collaborate - strengthening both the industry and their own organizations. In the first study, attendees will learn about how a group of individual gym operators across the county have come together to share ideas, information, and solutions. The second study will share how gyms in CA and WA built coalitions for each state to have a greater voice through the ongoing challenges of COVID and beyond.

Learning Objectives:

  • Demonstrate benefits of collaborating with other gym owners in and out of your market
  • Provide ideas to help attendees coordinate state/regional coalitions of climbing gym owners
  • Present a meeting structure and tools for creating your own groups
  • Provide an opportunity to meet other facilities interested in benefitting from collaboration




The Importance of Cultivating Community | Eli Klarman, New Orleans Bouldering Lounge


Description: New customers visit your gym because they're excited about climbing, but chances are that your long term members are there for the relationships as much as the routes. Building a strong community equates to a strong membership base and is the foundation of your brand and your business. Core community members are dedicated to your gym in ways that typical fitness members are not, and when you're managing those relationships well, they will stick with you through challenging times, provide key feedback to improve your gym and business, and help you to attract more new customers. In this session we'll discuss what it means to cultivate community in your gym and strategies for creating meaningful relationships with your customers and members.

Learning Objectives:

  • Why community is important to your gym and brand

  • Converting day users into long term members

  • Community engagement and cooperation

About the Presenter: Eli Klarman is the founder of New Orleans Boulder Lounge and was behind envisioning, planning, opening, and operating the gym. His love of climbing, and the healing and growth that it provided, inspired the creation of a climbing gym in New Orleans. Cia Blackstock leads the direction of NOBL, overseeing the business operations and guiding the growth of the staff, programs, offerings, and community.




Marketing Lightning Talks + Solution Room | Scott Rennak, Climbing Business Journal & Reach Climbers; Curran Lemp, Momentum Indoor Climbing


Description: In this fast-paced marketing session, hear two different perspectives on marketing from seasoned professionals in the industry. First, Scott Rennak will present his top five marketing tips and tricks you can implement at your gym right away. Then, discover how companies build ‘fanatical followings’ from Curran Lemp, who will show how some of Utah’s most successful enterprises have built fanatical cultures amongst their customers. Following these presentations, jump into a solution room discussion to brainstorm marketing ideas in small groups.

About the Presenters: Curran Lemp has 15 years of experience in the climbing industry and currently runs Momentum’s Millcreek location in SLC. His broad base of experience includes guiding, youth coaching, routesetting, customer service, operations management, and facility construction. He has participated in the evolution of indoor climbing as it has matured and he aims to share his perspectives on the cultural nuances of climbing gyms and their parallels to other wildly successful organizations.

Scott Rennak has been promoting indoor climbing since 1997 when he bought Climb Time of Cincinnati and started what would become the American Bouldering Series. Since then he has helped hundreds of small businesses grow including climbing gyms and manufacturers. He is currently Publisher and Owner of Climbing Business Journal and offers consulting services through Reach Climbers.




Supply Chain Disruption Panel Discussion


Description: This session will dig into the pandemic’s disruption of the supply chain and how it has affected the indoor climbing industry, including startups, existing businesses, and expansion. We will provide an update on the state of the pandemic supply chain and discuss its continued impact on climbing gym retail programs and planning.




Retail Solution Room | Todd McCormick, Keystone Climbing Consultants


Description: Participants in this solution room will break into small groups to discuss retail operations with a focus on sustainability, inclusivity, and accessibility. We will brainstorm ways to make climbing gym retail operations more sustainable, as well as strategies to offer a selection of products that meet the needs of diverse climbing gym user groups. Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will gain ideas for the product selection of their retail shops to promote climbing as an accessible and inclusive sport/activity.
  • Participants will gain ideas for the layout of their retail shop to make it shoppable for all users of your facility (thinking about ADA requirements).
  • Participants will gain ideas to run a more sustainable retail shop, both in product selection and internal policies to minimize/reduce waste.
About the Moderator: Todd McCormick is the sole owner and operator of Keystone Climbing Consultants, helping gyms become more efficient in their retail operations. Todd holds degrees in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and in Math Education from the University of Kentucky. He has been an avid climber for 17 years and has been managing gyms, guiding new climbers, and working in outdoor recreation ever since.




Better Data for Better Outcomes Lightning Talks | Elric Kline, Brooklyn Boulders; Cassim Ladha, Griptonite


Description: It’s easy to fall into the trap of data overload when we have so much information about our businesses at our fingertips. But how can you sort through the data you have and actually make an impact on your gym’s performance? Join us for a round of lightning talks with three different perspectives on how you can use data to improve your business. Learning Objectives:

  • How are climbing gyms using data to make good business decisions?
  • How do you collect data in a way that’s useful and doesn’t cause overload or distraction?
  • What are the most useful KPIs for climbing gyms to pay attention to?
Lightning Talk 1: Business Intelligence: Working Smarter with Data | Elric Kline, Brooklyn Boulders Description: At Brooklyn Boulders, data analysis improves outcomes at every stage in the customer journey, supporting climbers from their first time on the wall into a lifelong passion for the sport. When it comes to retention, we are focused on the formation of healthy habits, including proactive injury prevention and recovery. This presentation will touch on the following topics:
  1. How data (that you already collect) can predict likely injuries before they happen
  2. How automated intervention strategies can reduce risk for injury-prone climbers
  3. How cutting-edge technology may help diagnose climber mobility and force-application issues, further improving data-informed interventions and injury-prevention strategies
About the Presenter: In 1995, Elric's very first job was at a small climbing gym in rural PA. His education detoured through math and philosophy (B.A. Moravian College, 2001) and political science (M.A. Lehigh University, 2004; A.B.D. Ph.D. Rutgers University, 2010), while his career detoured through political campaigns in upstate NY. He’s always loved climbing, and happily his career came full circle: he is currently the Director of Data Science & Engineering at Brooklyn Boulders, where he has worked since 2016. Lightning Talk 2: Growth, Retention, Engagement | Cassim Ladha, Griptonite Description: We present an approach we developed that will make sense for any size climbing gym. It’s designed to solve the simple issue of retaining new customers and increasing the visit frequency of existing customers. Using over 2M data points gathered in the UK from over 50 gyms in a 6 month period, we can now say what works, what doesn’t, and for who. About the Presenter: Cassim's technical background stems firmly from engineering. After leaving academia, Cassim pursued a career in medical sensor research and contributed to several trials on human movement disorders. More recently, Cassim started their own company and enjoys bringing an interdisciplinary approach to innovate on the sport they love; climbing.





Startups & Business Formation

How to Finance a New Business | Paul Bosley, Business Finance Depot


Description: The first half of the session will explore how to prepare your application for underwriting. The second half of the session will review all of the financing options available in the marketplace today. Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how to prepare to submit your application for financing
  • Learn various financing alternatives available today
  • Learn key considerations from lenders to approve a financing application
About the Presenter: Paul Bosley has been self employed for over 40 years. He owned, operated, and sold a chain of fitness centers and moved into financing. Paul studied accounting a Broward College and the FAU with a concentration of Business Valuation. Paul has served as a SCORE volunteer for over a decade. Paul founded Health Club Experts.com LLC dba Business Finance Depot in 2006 and the company has grown to provide financing to the fitness, franchise, and RV park and campground industries.





Legal & Risk Management

Assumption of Risk & Insurance Claims | Will Jorgenson, Monument Sports Group


Description: The premise of this session will be the implications of the assumption of risk. These include the general risk management practices in a climbing gym (the inherent risk of the sport, signage, orientations and training), and the risks agreed on by the climber through written agreements. The discussion is to touch on general theory, as well as examples presented through open forum discussion and mock trial arguments.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the basic premise of assumption of risk and indemnification

  • Discuss the potential advantages or issues with assumption of risk based defense in a claim scenario

  • Discuss general risk management practices to bolster assumption of risk in a climbing gym




Creating a Culture of Personal Responsibility | Lor Sabourin, The Warrior's Way


Description: Gyms struggle with creating a safe environment to minimize accidents and liability while allowing members to take risks. Instructors have a limited amount of time with members in formal gym instruction: an orientation session, basic belay and lead climbing lessons. Gym members take risks regardless of whether gyms want them to. Thus, gyms need to find ways to give members the tools so members can manage their risks.

Attendees will learn how to manage risk and optimize member experience with tangible take-away tools to implement immediately into their gym systems. We will discuss the Warrior's Way model of risk-decision making and how to teach climbers of all abilities to take responsibility for their own learning and take appropriate risks.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn to create a culture that empowers climbers to take appropriate risks based on intelligent risk management

  • Learn tangible tools for teaching climbers about risk management

  • Discuss the common "problem areas" in risk management and how to address them

About the Presenter: Lor is the Training Leader for the Warrior’s Way, an organization that uses climbing-based mental training to optimize human performance and mental health. Lor believes that climbers learn best through experience, so they love to convert “big picture” mental training concepts into tangible drills and activities that athletes can practice in their training sessions and everyday lives. Lor’s work is trauma-informed and explores how an athlete’s life outside of climbing can influence their ability to stay committed to the stresses of the sport and focus during key moments. Lor is currently pursuing a Masters degree in mental health counseling with an emphasis on somatic therapy and adventure-based counseling. In addition to their work in the climbing industry, Lor also volunteers with LGBTQ+ youth in crisis. When they are not coaching, Lor can be found exploring steep desert splitters and limestone roofs in the desert Southwest.




Industry Practices Committee: Update & Discussion | Garnet Moore, Climbing Wall Association


Description: Join this Long Table Discussion to meet the CWA's Industry Practices committee! This group is working hard to revise the current publication in order to provide better guidance to assist climbing wall operators in developing policies, procedures, and practices for the management of their facilities. You will be given a list of discussion topics ahead of time, so come prepared to share your thoughts as you get to “sit at the table” with some of our industry’s leaders. You will have a chance to send your questions in advance – sign up for the CWA newsletter to stay informed! Learning Objectives:

  • Introduce the CWA’s industry practices committee
  • Present the new approach to the industry practices document
  • Learn about new trends and concerns from audience members
  • Discuss feedback on the current industry practices from audience members





Finance & Business Expansion

Financing for Climbing Gym Expansions | Spencer Richman, Shaker Rocks LLC and American Financial Network, Inc.


Description: Learn from the unique perspective of a presenter who has 34 years of experience in commercial financing as well as 4 years of experience as an indoor climbing gym owner! This session is designed to give gym owners a better understanding of the types of financing that may be available for existing gyms who may be looking to open additional locations. We will also touch on financing options for new gyms opening their first location.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn both the BENEFITS and PITFALLS of using SBA financing (and a couple of the most common SBA financing programs applicable to our industry)

  • Learn about traditional bank financing and what those banks typically can and cannot do and what they look for

  • Learn about alternative non-bank financing including commercial equipment leasing and real estate leasing (and real estate sale-leasebacks)

About the Presenter: Spencer Richman is the founder and President of American Financial Network, Inc., a 34 year old commercial equipment leasing and financing company based in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the co-founder (with his wife, Annie) of Shaker Rocks, a 17,000 square foot indoor climbing gym located in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He loves exploring new outdoor climbing destinations!




Business Growth & Expansion Panel | Moderator: Joel Graybeal, Triangle Rock Club


Description: In the second year of this panel, we will continue the conversation started in 2019 to provide a glimpse into the challenges, successes, and the future of multi-gym operations. We will convene some of the industry’s most respected multi-gym owners and executives who have successfully scaled one startup venture into several facilities. The discussion will touch on phasing, ground-up builds, acquisitions, competitive dynamics, and non-traditional facility types. There will be time at the end for Q&A.

About the Moderator: Joel Graybeal is Managing Partner of Triangle Rock Club (TRC), a network of state-of-the-art indoor climbing and fitness facilities with four NC locations and one VA location. Joel initially came into the business as a customer in 2007 and inquired about taking an intro to rock climbing class. He was in TRC’s first ever intro class and was quickly hooked. In time, he was smart enough to end his banking career and join TRC’s ownership team in 2012. A 25-year banking veteran, Joel graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in aerospace engineering.




Process: Standardization and Documentation for Scaling your Business | John Pilkington, Grasshopper Climbing


Description: This session will help climbing gym managers and owners document and standardize the processes that make their gyms successful. When a process is documented, standardized, and successful, the success is repeatable. This pertains to climbing gyms as it pertains to any restaurant, grocery store, accounting firm, or taco cart. Business leaders who are disciplined in understanding successful processes and recognizing processes that are not successful add both financial and cultural value to the business. Learn Objectives:

  • How to develop and map a process
  • How to document the process for scalability
  • How to prove and standardize the process for successful implementation
  • How to refine the process over time
About the Presenter: With 20 years in manufacturing, John is an expert in process engineering and management. Specializing in Chemical Processes related to manufacturing, John has worked with several regulatory agencies creating processes that meet manufacturing standards (such as ISO, NADCAP, EPA, FAA). Creating and following processes within our businesses allows for accountability for our employees and cliental, while also creating rapid scalability of our operations.





Program Management

Rethinking Event Sponsorship: How to Create Sustainable Partnerships | Chloe Mandell, Mandell Experiences LLC


Description: This session is a must for managers or staff working with brand partners on events (or otherwise). Gone are the days of gold, silver, and bronze level sponsorships and logo soups on a T-shirt. In this session, Chloe Mandell will offer fresh strategies, simple steps, and real-world examples that can help get you dollars for your events and satisfied brand partners eager for more. Chloe will demystify what brands are looking for, the dollar value of those deliverables, and the implications they have on your event planning team. Join for a session packed with information that can serve you in any relationship even outside of events - and bring your questions for a robust Q&A session at the end.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how to approach event sponsorship strategically and with confidence – 5 simple questions to ask at the beginning of any event

  • Learn a new approach to “sales” – 4 steps that result in motivated brand partners

  • Learn how to properly deliver on a sponsorship and maintain brand partnerships post event

About the Presenter: Over the past decade, Chloe Mandell has worked with dozens of climbing gyms, organizations, and brands, giving her a unique understanding of how decisions are made and what gyms and brands want. Since 2011, Chloe has directed or consulted for such climbing events as Psicobloc, Portland Boulder Rally (The Circuit), The Hang (Earth Treks), ProLo (Momentum), TriState Bouldering Series (The Cliffs), Woman Up (Touchstone), Inside Out Challenge (Access Fund), and she is the founder of CompCalendar.com




Inside Out: How Gyms Can Support Conservation and Stewardship | Moderator: Dana Caracciolo, Doylestown Rock Gym / Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance of Climbers


Description: There is no question that the growth of indoor climbing is creating more outdoor climbers. The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic has likely sped up this process due to the mass closure of many gyms. The goal of this session is to share examples of how gyms are supporting conservation and stewardship as well as creating responsible outdoor climbers. Participants will be exposed to a variety of tools and resources in hopes that your gym can become a better ally. Together we can work to unite our gyms and our crags.

Learning Objectives:

  • To share how gyms are supporting conservation and stewardship as well as creating responsible outdoor climbers

  • To provide gyms with resources and tools that can be used to institute new strategies or strengthen current efforts

  • To help gyms better understand the challenges of LCOs (local climbing oragnization), the Access Fund and other advocacy groups

About the Moderator: Dana Caracciolo has been involved in the indoor and outdoor rock climbing industry for over 25 years. She holds a B.A. in Outdoor Recreational Leadership from Prescott College. She currently manages two indoor rock climbing facilities as well as serves as an expedition leader, technical trainer and team building facilitator. In 2020, Dana was part of a group that founded the Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance of Climbers (EPAC) and now serves on the board.




Strategies to Train and Retain Great Program Staff | Pat Brehm & Bix Firer, Headwall Group


Description: Training and retaining great program staff in climbing gyms can be challenging. It is also essential for program quality and consistency. This session will use experiential tools to show how using scaffolding, assessment, and mentorship can effectively train your program staff. Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will understand and apply concepts of scaffolding, assessment, and mentorship to program staff training.
  • Participants will learn how to apply these concepts to build a full cycle training program.
  • Participants will leave with practical planning tools for program staff training.
About the Presenters: Bix and Pat of Headwall Group have worked with climbing coaches and programmers across the US and Canada to deliver amazing programming to young climber. We teach coaches how to apply best practices of experiential learning to youth climbing programs. We help climbing coaches and instructors leverage their climbing expertise to create well rounded, goal oriented climbing programs. Our approach is experiential and participants learn by doing, guided by expert facilitators with a passion for education and rock climbing. We have trained hundreds of coaches and advised gym owners in building effective training programs.




Progressive Programming Workshop | Nicole Brandt, Cypress Roots Consulting


Description: Progressive programming goes beyond traditional gym programming to support all levels of customers within core, support, and adjunct programs. This workshop is built around discussing what progressive programming entails, followed by a round of lightening talks from different industry perspectives. We aim to discuss what progressive programming looks like from an industry level, regional level, and gym level. It concludes with a solution room to brainstorm ways to optimize your programming for your customers, location, and gym size. Learning Objectives:

  • Understand your gym’s why behind offering programs.
  • Learn how core, support, and adjunct programing can support all levels of customers.
  • Address training needs for programming staff and career coaches.
  • Gain tools to reduce friction between operations and programming.
  • Understand how programming supports the overall needs of the facility.





Routesetting

Humanizing Leadership Teams: Using Authentic Voices to Build Honest Narratives That Resonate With Your Community | Jeffrey Shor & Lillian Chao-Quinlan, Sportrock Climbing Centers


Description: When your community envisions your brand, what do they see? Do they see a corporate logo, an industrial space, t-nuts and plastic grips - or do they imagine the faces of the people that make it all possible? If you asked your community to tell your brand story, what would they say? In this session, learn the importance of humanizing your leadership team from Sportrock Climbing Center's Director of Marketing, Jeff Shor, and Sportrock's President, Lillian Chao-Quinlan.

Learning Objectives:

  • Laying the groundwork; encouraging your team to lean into personal passions

  • Vulnerability; a most powerful tool of connection

  • Crafting authentic messaging and overcoming insecurities

About the Presenters: Jeff Shor is the Director of Marketing for Sportrock Climbing Centers in the Virginia / Washington D.C. area. He has worked in the climbing industry in various capacities for almost 15 years. He has an educational background in branding and graphic design. He has interests in digital art and photography and frequents the slam poetry open mic circuit. He is just as at home at the crag as he is in the gym. His home crag is the New River Gorge in “wild and wonderful” West Virginia!

Lillian Chao-Quinlan is the President/CEO and principal owner of Sportrock Climbing Centers, one of the first commercial indoor rock climbing gyms in the country. Lillian uses her platform to pursue her passions of lifelong learning, building community, and climbing. During her tenure, Lillian and her team have completed multiple facility expansions, hosted national level competitions, and offers a space for people and organizations to explore their potential through rock climbing. Lillian has been climbing for over 20 years and enjoys traveling the world climbing.




When Gym Owners Unite: A Case Study in Collaboration | Michele Lang, Insight Climbing & Movement; Alice Kao, Sender One; Doug Cosby, Inner Peaks; Michael Lary, Source Climbing Center


Description: This session will explore two unique ways gym owners have come together over the past two years to collaborate - strengthening both the industry and their own organizations. In the first study, attendees will learn about how a group of individual gym operators across the county have come together to share ideas, information, and solutions. The second study will share how gyms in CA and WA built coalitions for each state to have a greater voice through the ongoing challenges of COVID and beyond.

Learning Objectives:

  • Demonstrate benefits of collaborating with other gym owners in and out of your market
  • Provide ideas to help attendees coordinate state/regional coalitions of climbing gym owners
  • Present a meeting structure and tools for creating your own groups
  • Provide an opportunity to meet other facilities interested in benefitting from collaboration




The Importance of Cultivating Community | Eli Klarman, New Orleans Bouldering Lounge


Description: New customers visit your gym because they're excited about climbing, but chances are that your long term members are there for the relationships as much as the routes. Building a strong community equates to a strong membership base and is the foundation of your brand and your business. Core community members are dedicated to your gym in ways that typical fitness members are not, and when you're managing those relationships well, they will stick with you through challenging times, provide key feedback to improve your gym and business, and help you to attract more new customers. In this session we'll discuss what it means to cultivate community in your gym and strategies for creating meaningful relationships with your customers and members.

Learning Objectives:

  • Why community is important to your gym and brand

  • Converting day users into long term members

  • Community engagement and cooperation

About the Presenter: Eli Klarman is the founder of New Orleans Boulder Lounge and was behind envisioning, planning, opening, and operating the gym. His love of climbing, and the healing and growth that it provided, inspired the creation of a climbing gym in New Orleans. Cia Blackstock leads the direction of NOBL, overseeing the business operations and guiding the growth of the staff, programs, offerings, and community.




Marketing Lightning Talks + Solution Room | Scott Rennak, Climbing Business Journal & Reach Climbers; Curran Lemp, Momentum Indoor Climbing


Description: In this fast-paced marketing session, hear two different perspectives on marketing from seasoned professionals in the industry. First, Scott Rennak will present his top five marketing tips and tricks you can implement at your gym right away. Then, discover how companies build ‘fanatical followings’ from Curran Lemp, who will show how some of Utah’s most successful enterprises have built fanatical cultures amongst their customers. Following these presentations, jump into a solution room discussion to brainstorm marketing ideas in small groups.

About the Presenters: Curran Lemp has 15 years of experience in the climbing industry and currently runs Momentum’s Millcreek location in SLC. His broad base of experience includes guiding, youth coaching, routesetting, customer service, operations management, and facility construction. He has participated in the evolution of indoor climbing as it has matured and he aims to share his perspectives on the cultural nuances of climbing gyms and their parallels to other wildly successful organizations.

Scott Rennak has been promoting indoor climbing since 1997 when he bought Climb Time of Cincinnati and started what would become the American Bouldering Series. Since then he has helped hundreds of small businesses grow including climbing gyms and manufacturers. He is currently Publisher and Owner of Climbing Business Journal and offers consulting services through Reach Climbers.




Supply Chain Disruption Panel Discussion


Description: This session will dig into the pandemic’s disruption of the supply chain and how it has affected the indoor climbing industry, including startups, existing businesses, and expansion. We will provide an update on the state of the pandemic supply chain and discuss its continued impact on climbing gym retail programs and planning.




Retail Solution Room | Todd McCormick, Keystone Climbing Consultants


Description: Participants in this solution room will break into small groups to discuss retail operations with a focus on sustainability, inclusivity, and accessibility. We will brainstorm ways to make climbing gym retail operations more sustainable, as well as strategies to offer a selection of products that meet the needs of diverse climbing gym user groups. Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will gain ideas for the product selection of their retail shops to promote climbing as an accessible and inclusive sport/activity.
  • Participants will gain ideas for the layout of their retail shop to make it shoppable for all users of your facility (thinking about ADA requirements).
  • Participants will gain ideas to run a more sustainable retail shop, both in product selection and internal policies to minimize/reduce waste.
About the Moderator: Todd McCormick is the sole owner and operator of Keystone Climbing Consultants, helping gyms become more efficient in their retail operations. Todd holds degrees in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and in Math Education from the University of Kentucky. He has been an avid climber for 17 years and has been managing gyms, guiding new climbers, and working in outdoor recreation ever since.




Better Data for Better Outcomes Lightning Talks | Elric Kline, Brooklyn Boulders; Cassim Ladha, Griptonite


Description: It’s easy to fall into the trap of data overload when we have so much information about our businesses at our fingertips. But how can you sort through the data you have and actually make an impact on your gym’s performance? Join us for a round of lightning talks with three different perspectives on how you can use data to improve your business. Learning Objectives:

  • How are climbing gyms using data to make good business decisions?
  • How do you collect data in a way that’s useful and doesn’t cause overload or distraction?
  • What are the most useful KPIs for climbing gyms to pay attention to?
Lightning Talk 1: Business Intelligence: Working Smarter with Data | Elric Kline, Brooklyn Boulders Description: At Brooklyn Boulders, data analysis improves outcomes at every stage in the customer journey, supporting climbers from their first time on the wall into a lifelong passion for the sport. When it comes to retention, we are focused on the formation of healthy habits, including proactive injury prevention and recovery. This presentation will touch on the following topics:
  1. How data (that you already collect) can predict likely injuries before they happen
  2. How automated intervention strategies can reduce risk for injury-prone climbers
  3. How cutting-edge technology may help diagnose climber mobility and force-application issues, further improving data-informed interventions and injury-prevention strategies
About the Presenter: In 1995, Elric's very first job was at a small climbing gym in rural PA. His education detoured through math and philosophy (B.A. Moravian College, 2001) and political science (M.A. Lehigh University, 2004; A.B.D. Ph.D. Rutgers University, 2010), while his career detoured through political campaigns in upstate NY. He’s always loved climbing, and happily his career came full circle: he is currently the Director of Data Science & Engineering at Brooklyn Boulders, where he has worked since 2016. Lightning Talk 2: Growth, Retention, Engagement | Cassim Ladha, Griptonite Description: We present an approach we developed that will make sense for any size climbing gym. It’s designed to solve the simple issue of retaining new customers and increasing the visit frequency of existing customers. Using over 2M data points gathered in the UK from over 50 gyms in a 6 month period, we can now say what works, what doesn’t, and for who. About the Presenter: Cassim's technical background stems firmly from engineering. After leaving academia, Cassim pursued a career in medical sensor research and contributed to several trials on human movement disorders. More recently, Cassim started their own company and enjoys bringing an interdisciplinary approach to innovate on the sport they love; climbing.





Coaching & Training

Climbing Movement Progression: Moving Beyond Three Points of Contact | Heather Reynolds, Heather Reynolds Coaching & Consulting


Description: Movement is a learned skill and learning efficient patterns early encourages the progression of climbers. Introducing various climbing movement skills ideally happens at various stages of the climber's progress. Programs that provide an opportunity to develop and consolidate the skills reduce the potential for that dreaded plateau in performance or the even more dreaded injury. Being able to offer climbers programs and opportunities to learn effective execution of movement skills is an essential ingredient to keeping climbing interesting, challenging, and inspiring.

Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will understand the importance of learning efficient movement early and the value of the athlete development model.

  • Attendees will gain a common language for climbing movements.

  • Attendees will design a program designed to introduce intermediate level climbers to compression style movements.

About the Presenter: Heather Reynolds, MS. kine, is a licensed kinesiologist who has studied climbers for over twenty years. A consultant in the industry since 1995, Heather has work with the CEC to develop the Athlete Development Model, with CWA to develop the CWA certification program. A route setter, a coach, an educator and a gym coordinator and manager.




Don't Talk, Just Listen: A Framework for Cultivating Self-Awareness and Interpersonal Communication Skills in Coaches | Alex Bridgewater, Climb Strong


Description: Good coaching, whether that be for yourself, adults or youth, begins and ends with communication. Good communication begins with your ability to connect with the one(s) you are holding a conversation with. This lecture is going to cover the ways in which you can strive for a healthy and positive conversation with yourself and your athlete(s). In the context of this lecture when we refer to the athlete, we are referring to both youth and adults. We will cover everything from positive self-talk and self-reflection guides; to what we say and how we say it to our athletes. We will discuss the negative side of conversation and the pitfalls you may fall into when in challenging discussions with yourself and your athlete(s). How we communicate with ourselves or our athlete(s) has the possibility to lead to a negative or positive feedback loop. One in which the athlete is led on the path of success or the path of struggle. What we say to ourselves matters. What we say to our athlete(s) matters. How and when we say those things matters.

Learning Objectives:

  • Leave with tools, prompts, and guides for self-reflection.

  • Gain an understanding of when and how to implement those guides into your life and conversations with your athlete(s).

  • Know how to use them as a tool for reflection and adding value to your conversations and not reading them off like a prompt.

About the Presenter: Alex has been coaching with Climb Strong for the past 5 years and has been the coaching manager for the past 2 years. Alex has worked with athletes across all disciplines of rock climbing and all levels. Alex has spent his career climbing everything from indoor competitions to Big Walls in the Alpine to short sport routes in Lander, Wyoming. Alex has also spent the last three years developing the Climb Strong coaching curriculum and mentoring the coaches within.




Fundamentals of Training Program Design | Steve Bechtel, Climb Strong


Description: Good programming is the foundation of successful training. This lecture will cover planning everything from a single training session up to sketching out one to four year programs. We'll cover the pros and cons of various structures of programs and how to integrate successful climbing with a demanding training plan. We will cover cycling of training loads, and training for varying aspects of the sport, including integration of the demands put forth by preparing for competition events and big trips. This session covers program design for individual athletes as well as teams or groups. Learning Objectives:

  • To educate about simple steps for creating effective training programs for teams and individuals.
  • To provide a clear framework for understanding how to fit effective training into various life schedules.
  • To break down how to train for each facet of fitness, regardless of the tools available.
About the Presenter: Steve is the founder of Climb Strong. A climber of 35+ years, Steve's established nearly 500 new routes across the globe, from grade VI big wall climbs to 25-foot routes on his home crags near Lander, Wyoming. An exercise science graduate of the University of Wyoming, Steve has been studying climbing training methods since his teens. Steve opened Elemental Performance + Fitness in 2002 - a gym in Lander, built around the training needs of high-level climbers.




Rock Climbing Injury Prevention | Dr. Jared Vagy, (DPT) Physical Therapy


Description: This session is for coaches and climbers who are interested in learning about how to prevent injuries in rock climbing. You will review the most common climbing injuries and learn a systematic framework to prevent and rehabilitate them. Mobility, strength, and movement exercises will be covered and by the end of the session you will have a greater understanding of how to climb injury-free.

About the Presenter: Dr. Jared Vagy is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who specializes in treating climbing injuries. He is also a professor at the University of Southern California, the number- one-ranked Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the country. He lectures internationally on the topic of preventing climbing injury. Dr. Jared Vagy has published numerous articles as well as two books on the topic. His most recent book, “Climb Injury-Free” is an Amazon #1 best seller in the rock-climbing category. As a DPT in clinical practice, he has completed an additional one-year residency program in orthopedics and a one-year fellowship program in movement science, totaling 9 years of concentrated study. He is a Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.




Professionalization of Coaching Panel Discussion | Steve Bechtel, Climb Strong; Nicole Brandt, Cypress Roots Consulting


Description: The Professionalization of Coaching Panel is built around addressing the significant issues and benefits surrounding the emerging field of coaching in the sport of climbing. We aim to discuss coaching from both an industry level and gym level. Our hope is to raise the bar on the professional opportunities and pathways from prospective coaches entering the field to coaches already making a living coaching climbers. With a responsibility to our craft, we expect to cover coach development, the minimum coaching foundational skillset at an industry level, education and mentorship, compensation, insurance and liability concerns, and what kind of value a gym can expect from having a true coaching staff. About the Presenter: Steve is the founder of Climb Strong. A climber of 35+ years, Steve's established nearly 500 new routes across the globe, from grade VI big wall climbs to 25-foot routes on his home crags near Lander, Wyoming. An exercise science graduate of the University of Wyoming, Steve has been studying climbing training methods since his teens. Steve opened Elemental Performance + Fitness in 2002 - a gym in Lander, built around the training needs of high-level climbers.




Simple Strength Training for Youth Teams | Dr. Tyler Nelson, C4HP


Description: This session is designed to teach youth coaches how to test and program for youth athletes while using appropriate loads for each athlete. It is challenging to coordinate strength training into youth teams and in this session I will demonstrate how coaches can do this effectively and very simply. With minimal equipment we can run athletes through these strength tests and use the same principles to train throughout the season for better performance on the wall. The use of similar metrics will be used to document individual fatigue of the individual athlete so as to reduce injury risk and overtraining. Learning Objectives:

  • Teach youth coaches how to assess 4 important qualities of their youth athletes. (Whole body strength, pulling strength, finger strength, contact strength)
  • Demonstrate to coaches how to run a youth team through these metrics pre-season, mid-season, and post-season to track training response.
  • Use the testing metrics as a simple way to add supplemental strength training to youth programs without hardly any equipment.
About the Presenter: Tyler Nelson has his own strength & conditioning business and rehabilitation clinic in Salt Lake City. While earning his doctoral degree, he completed a dual program Master’s degree in exercise science. He is certified as a strength & conditioning specialist through the NSCA and has been climbing for 17 years. His expertise in human physiology and a cutting-edge knowledge of strength and conditioning techniques will help us understand training for climbing in the 21st century.