With sport climbing now being a part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games, all over the world there are talented young climbers training hard – with dreams of making the big time. Friday night at Urban Climb West End, and Tuesday nights at Urban Climb Milton,  is where you’ll find a team of Brisbane’s best and brightest young rock climbers – The Youth Squad.

Where it started…

The Urban Climb Youth Program has, for a long time, offered a huge variety of kids classes – catering for kids as young as 5, up until 18. All Urban Climb youth programs have the goal of helping motivated, young climbers realise their potential. The Youth Squad, distinct from Urban Climb’s other programs, was formed at Urban Climb West End in 2013. The program recognised the need to assist the most committed climbers in honing their technical and physical abilities, with a focus on high-performance climbing. Since that time, not only have a bunch of Australia’s best rock climbers emerged from this program, but so too have many talented coaches. In fact, many former members have gone on to coach, and give back to the program.

It’s about values

Dan Gordon, a long-time Head Coach of the program, explains the process that allows for admission to the program.

“There’s a 6 monthly ‘Trial Day’ which allows the Spiders to be put through their paces on a number of routes and challenges. It’s partly a ‘test’, but really it’s more of a read from 3 coaches, based on not only the athletic potential of the climbers, but their values and their commitment to their development.”

It’s not really about grueling sessions and discipline. It’s about recognising motivations and goals in certain young climbers, and Urban Climb providing the vehicle for these climbers to achieve their goals. And the achievements to date have been substantial. Urban Climb has produced multiple National and Youth champions in bouldering and lead climbing. Including Sam Bowman – who graduated from the program to become current Head Coach of the squad. Most recently, Urban Climb had more representatives at the 2017 World Youth Championships in Innsbruck than any other climbing facility in Australia.

The future of the program is bright – with a commitment to the continued development of the athletes, through providing the highest quality training facilities, and ongoing investment in the quality of their coaching.

Some special achievements…

In 2018, the Youth Squad has grown to 15 of Australia’s best young rock climbers – aged from 14 to 19. The training schedule that the Youth Squad Coaches lay out, is built around the competitive sport climbing calendar. Featuring a state titles in both lead climbing and bouldering, which culminate in national championships and, ultimately, in international competition. The squad periodise their training – focusing on specific components of rock climbing technique and physical attributes that are required for upcoming competitions.

The Urban Climb Youth Squad members have had a fantastic year to date. With a dominant showing in the State Championships, and a series of category victories at this years Australian Youth Climbing Championships. None more so than Alexander Cvetkovski, who rode momentum from a victory at the Queensland State Lead Championships to go on to take national first in Youth A bouldering and lead climbing, with second in speed. Alex’s performances this year have earned him a chance to represent Australia at the 2018 World Youth Championships in Russia.

Onto the world stage…

Reflecting on the chance to go to Russia, Alex is excited, but not without reservation. “I’m sort of nervous because, you know, it’s Russia!” While this years Youth World Championships will see Alex compete in Moscow, it’s not his first international event: “I competed in China in 2016 – in lead, and Austria was last year, but this year is the first time that I’ve made the [Australian] bouldering team.”

When asked how international rock climbing competitions compare to Australia alternatives, Alex suggested that the style – and difficulty – of the competition routes is key. “It’s really interesting trying the best of the best climbs. These are the hardest it’s going to get. Really. It’s so different. The climbing style is really powerful there.”

If I climbing with not so motivated people, I just don’t find myself trying as hard as I do with people who have the same goals as me.

Training for competitive rock climbing is no joke. With a regular 3 day training cycle of 2 days on – 1 day off – Alex and his team mates are committed to a serious workload in an effort to chase their climbing goals. Alex’s team-mate, Flora Froese, who’s also had a fantastic competition season to date, talked about the importance of climbing with motivated team mates, “I think, for me, it’s really important. It motivates me. If I climbing with not so motivated people, I just don’t find myself trying as hard as I do with people who have the same goals as me.”

And as Alex says, “It’s not all about how hard you train. You look forward to seeing your friends at climbing. It’s great. It’s making sure you’re always going to be motivated to come back to the gym.” Alex will be accompanied by his team mate Jessie Ruffini as they represent Australia at this years World Youth Championships.

For more information regarding the Youth Squad, see here.

Alex and Jessie will be departing for the Youth World Championships at the end of the month. You can support Alex’s trip via his GoFundMe page here.


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