Should You Implement Spotting in Your Climbing Program?
Spotting is a safety technique used in bouldering or Traverse Wall® climbing where the climber is not climbing very high and a belay system with safety ropes is not being used. In spotting, a non-climbing partner follows near the climber and redirects the climber’s fall, ensuring they fall on the safety mat versus the floor or ground. Deciding if you would like to incorporate spotting in your climbing program is an individual decision. Many educators and climbing wall supervisors support having spotters to enhance safety, engage more participants and increase the social-emotional benefits of climbing. Other educators and supervisors do not implement spotting because they feel it does not enhance safety and they would prefer to engage participants in other ways. Carefully consider the pros and cons of spotting to help you make your decision.
- It doubles the number of participants. Your climbing wall can only hold so many climbers at one time, so this is a great way to engage more participants.
- It enhances the safety of the climber when proper technique is used.
- It increases the social-emotional benefits of climbing through trust building, leadership and social interaction between the spotter and climber.
- It is a transferable skill outside of the school/camp/park & rec setting. Spotting is the protocol used when climbers are bouldering outside and in bouldering gyms.
- Spotters are not engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
- It does not enhance the safety of the climber and could endangers the spotter when the spotter uses improper technique or when climber is much larger than spotter.
If you decide to use spotters, it is essential that your participants have the necessary maturity level and that they have been properly trained in the techniques and role of the job, as outlined below:
- The spotter’s role is that of redirecting the climber’s fall onto the safety mats, especially head and neck.
- The spotter does not attempt to catch the climber or stop the fall. Any attempt to fully absorb the fall of a climber can result in injury to the spotter as well as to the climber.
- As the climber moves, the spotter should extend arms towards the climber’s hips/torso and follow along, keeping a total focus on the climber.
- If the climber falls, the spotter should direct the climber’s fall onto the safety mats.
- In addition, the spotter offers reminders of the safety rules, encouragement and motivation.
Spotter’s Position and Form:
- Stand about 18″ from climbing wall
- Legs apart, knees bent
- Raise arms up, slightly bent at elbows
- Palms face out & fingers pointed upward
- Hands cupped, with thumbs tucked in
You can also incorporate communication between the spotter and climber that is similar to the communication that is used in top rope climbing between the belayer and climber.
- Climber: “Spotter Ready?”
- Spotter: “Ready.”
- Climber: “Climbing.”
- Spotter: “Climb on.”
- Climber begins climbing.
When climber wishes to stop climbing:
- Climber: “I’m done.”
- Spotter: “Climb down.”
- Climber climbs down and climber and spotter leave the climbing zone.