YCS: Scottish Talent Squad eligibility – Mountaineering Scotland position statement.

The following position statement has been produced to outline Mountaineering Scotland’s concerns regarding the YCS rule change (below) made this year by GB Climbing / BMC. As a result, Mountaineering Scotland are seeking views from the youth competitive climbing community as to how we move forward in the best interest of our athletes and the future of the Youth Climbing Series in Scotland.

Rule change

‘1.2.8 YCS competitions can be entered by athletes of all age categories who are members of the England Regional Talent Squad, England Talent Squad, Scotland Development Squad, Scotland Talent Squad and Irish Youth Squad.’

Summary of the GB Climbing position

  1. The change was made by GB Climbing in response to feedback from parents who felt it was unfair that athletes in the new England Talent Squad (and previously in the GBNDS) who did not get to compete internationally, were excluded from competing in a domestic comp with their peers, when it could support their child’s development.
  2. A number of the athletes who would have been excluded would benefit from participation at the YCS especially at the lower age groups.
  3. It is important, not just to gain training on the blocks / routes, but for young athletes to gain more experience of the management of being in a competitive environment.
  4. The YCS in England has evolved and morphed into a very competitive youth event and is no longer purely a grassroots comp particularly in London and Yorkshire where the standard is very high. The YCS provide events from which athletes with future potential can now seek selection to the pathway.

Mountaineering Scotland perspective and position

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The Level of competitor competing

The previous ‘Talent’ level of athletes that were identified lying between the ‘mid-tier’ YCS and able to compete for the GB Team was the GB National Development Squad. This was disbanded by BMC and in its place, we have both the England and Scotland Talent Squads. Our concern is in relation to these National Squad level athletes which are climbing/competing at a higher standard to that of the Scotland Development Squad and England Regional Talent Squad athletes but are now eligible to compete in the YCS. Our concerns are:

How we select our squads

We select our Scotland Development Squad from our YCS rounds and our criteria states clearly that our Scotland Talent Squad members are not allowed to take part in the YCS and are selected from the National and British comps (as are the BMC England Talent Squad members).

Pathway blocker

If we allowed the Scotland Talent Squad members to compete in the YCS this has the potential to act as a blocker to those pre-Talent Squad level athletes competing in the YCS (at Youth A and Youth B). If all Talent Squad athletes can compete at the regional YCS rounds, they would likely take the available places which may make selection of the SDS more difficult.

Unfair Grand Final

Allowing England Talent squad members to attend the English / Welsh YCS would therefore mean that in the YCS Grand Final Scotland Development Squad level athletes would potentially be competing against England Talent Squad level athletes.

Pre-Talent competition experience and opportunity

The YCS in Scotland is targeted at athletes at the Mid-Tier, pre-Talent level. From our perspective, the standard/difficulty of YCS is not relevant to the Talent Squad level athletes (England/Wales or Scotland). Although the YCS has grown over the years and the standard has increased, it would make more sense to put the grade level higher for selection to the Nation Talent Squads, so ensuring due separation.

YCS setting

Another problem concerns the setting required at the rounds. We aim to provide a high-quality competition experience and feel it would be difficult (and possibly more expensive) to route set for categories where we potentially have new-to-competition climbers at one end, and National Talent Squad athletes at the other end, competing in the same category.

Athlete Burnout and InjuryThere is the potential for athlete burn-out if the competitors are encouraged to attend too many competitions, spread across the whole year. Training phases to link into the various events would be more concentrated and could potentially lead to a higher incidence of injury. This is particularly true of finger growth plate injury in the maturation ages up to 17yrs old (particularly Youth B and Youth A categories). ClimbScotland wants to adopt an athlete centred approach where individual health and wellbeing and the prevention of injury is a priority.

Competitions for Talent SquadScottish Talent Squad athletes’ focus should be in competing at the 4-Nations and Junior British Championship events. This gives a total of 10 events throughout the year and excludes mock comps delivered by The NGBs. In addition to this, there are a variety of competitive climbing experiences delivered through third parties such as walls and squad programmes at walls, as well as ‘Open’ international competitions that they can attend which would be much more beneficial from a developmental viewpoint.

Talent Squad Competition Schedule for 2024

127-28 JanEnglish Boulder
217-18 FebWelsh Boulder
323-24 MarchIrish Boulder
423-24 MarchScottish Boulder
54-5 MayIrish Lead
618-19 MayWelsh Lead
71-2 JuneScottish Lead
822-23 JuneJBLCC’s
927-28 JulyEnglish Lead
1012-13 OctoberJBLCC’s

What does this mean for the pathway in Scotland?

Given the purpose and standard of setting of YCS in the Scottish Competition pathway, we are concerned that it is not at an appropriate standard of difficulty and that talent athletes would get limited relevant ‘competition experience’ from participating.

Alternative proposals to support Talent Level Athletes in Scotland

  1. Talent Squad athletes will have the opportunity to attend the setting days for regional YCS rounds. This will provide athletes with the unique opportunity to be part of the testing process for competition route setting.
  2. On the Sunday after the YCS regional round, the routes/blocs will be available for talent squad athletes to try/train on as part of their talent coached programmes.
  3. Talent squad athletes may (on an exceptions basis) be allowed to enter the YCS series by prior agreement if it is deemed to be beneficial to the individual as part of an agreed performance development plan.

Questions for consideration

  1. Do we accept the rule change as it has been proposed by the BMC / GB Climbing and review the impact of this change at the end of the competition series?

  2. Enter into discussions with GB climbing about developing and adopting a separate set of rules for the YCS series in Scotland which are better aligned to our performance pathway?