Three and a half years ago, this skinny 9 year old walked into our gym with his dad. He said he wanted to climb. He said he loved climbing trees. He said his mom told him our newly formed climbing team would be a good choice for him. I smiled politely (and maybe rolled my eyes just a bit) We signed him up for our climbing team. JohnPaul literally had no idea what he was getting into.
Seems Mrs. Seberger knew her son pretty well, however.
JP had found his soulmate. He became enamored with everything climbing. And if you also happened to like climbing . . . well you were instantly JohnPaul’s best friend.
I remember shortly after this, he walked up to our ProShop and purchased a quickdraw (a couple of carabiners with a strap between used in outdoor sport climbing). I asked JohnPaul, “What do you need that for? You’re not quite ready to go outside climbing yet” His response was one of the most honest answers I had ever heard: “I know, I just want to hang it on my harness so I look cool.”
Fast forward to 2019. JP proved that he is no poser. He not only fell in love with climbing, he became a student of the sport, and just last week, he qualified for and competed on USA Sport Climbing’s biggest stage: Youth Nationals. He finished ranked 32nd in the entire nation for his age category!
I caught up with JP a few days ago and asked him a few questions
Me: “What is it that you love about climbing?”
JP: “It’s like when you are on the wall, you don’t think about anything else but climbing. ‘Cause you’re on the wall, you don’t really think about anything … it’s more so, you’re just in the zone. And I really like that zone.”
Me: “Had you done any other sports before climbing?”
JP: “Oh yes, I tried almost everything . . . except football or iceskating.”
Me: “So what was it about climbing that got you hooked?”
JP: “Climbing was different for me. I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to win or to do good. It was all reliant on me and so, like when you send a hard route, it was like ‘wow, I really did that, all by myself’. With other sports you don’t really get that.”
Me: “Has climbing helped any other areas of your life”
JP: “Oh yea, for sure. It’s helped my confidence. I feel more focussed and more comfortable with friend and school. My dad works a lot with my focus and calm when climbing as well and that has really helped me keep calm on hard climbs.”
Me: “How often do you cilmb”
JP: “Six days per week.”
Me: “Wow! That is a ton! How do you stay motivated to climb that often.”
JP: “Ya, well I kinda learned after a while. What had happened, I kinda stopped for a while or slowed it down, and then realized that I couldn’t perform at the level I wanted , and I was just like, ‘that’s it, I’m done with that, I’m going to do whatever it takes to go world'” (one of JPs goal is to compete in the World Youth Climbing Championships). “And ya, some days I feel like a piece of goo, but like I have these things I call ‘stokes of the day’, like doing a hard move or working a route, and that keeps me going.”
Me: “What was it like competing in Nationals?”
JP: “It was REALY cool. One of my goals for the year was qualifying for Nationals, so when I did and I was there it was like a barrier that I had broken and just unleashed a whole realm of new possibilities of what could be done.”
Me: “So what are your long term goals?”
JP: “I want to be a sponsored athlete so I can climb full time. I want to go to World Cup for youth and hopefully the Olympics. I also want to do the Dawn Wall and Silence (both world class outdoor climbs).”
Me: “What kind of advise would you give to another climber chasing their goals?”
JP: “I would tell them, even on that hard days when you’re just not motivated, or you think ‘I don’t even think I’m getting stronger’, just realize that it is possible, that many people have broken those barriers so you should know that it is possible, and just try to stay psyched even when you aren’t psyched.”
So there you have it. JohnPaul really is a remarkable athlete and can hold his own against many of the best climbers at Bliss. We couldn’t be more proud of him. JP has demonstrated what hard work and focus can accomplish.
And now when he starts talking about being a climber and competing in the Olympics or sending the Dawn Wall, I don’t tend to roll my eyes and my smile is much more genuine.