Reaching your summit

Reaching your summit

Brookes Climb

As part of our continuing coverage of UK Disability History Month, this week we are focusing on coaching and teaching and we are proud to highlight Brookes Climb. Located within the Oxford Brookes Centre for Sport in Headington, Brookes Climb is home to Oxford’s premier climbing wall. As a predominately individual sport, climbing allows for both physical and psychological development as the physical activity requires concentration and focus. This allows for climbing to be a great sport for individuals living with mental health conditions. Our climbing team work hard to make the wall a welcoming and inclusive environment.

The Manager

Richard Cole, our Climbing Centre Manager reflects upon the inclusivity of the sport, the positive impacts it has on the local community, and the future after the pandemic.

“Climbing is a sport of many (rock) faces. It can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities, either as a fun first time activity or within a climbing competition. All this can be achieved on the same wall on the same route and at the same time. Walls are covered in multi coloured holds that are set in a sequence of difficulty which can be either climbed at it's hardest or mixed to become much easier and the challenge can be the grade or just getting to 'your' summit.

Someone climbing on a climbing wall

Why has it become such an inclusive sport? Simple... It is an individual sport where each climber has their own individual goal, but attempted within a group or team who are all on their own individual journeys. That team will give nothing but encouragement and advice to help you reach your goal while at the same time you will be willing them on, in the same way.

Since opening, Brookes Climb has welcomed climbers of all abilities and disabilities. We have worked with a number of special educational groups, mental health charities, adult centres, school groups and community organisations including running a TeamGB Paralympic Rowing team building day.

Climbing allows individuals to challenge both their physical and mental strength in an environment which although may seem out of their comfort zone, is in fact a very safe and controlled space.

Brookes Climb will continue to encourage all abilities to use the climbing centre however, the present pandemic has made this difficult to facilitate group sessions. Once we are able to open group sessions safely again we will look forward to working with them again.”

The Instructor

One of our climbing instructors, Dez, knows firsthand the power of climbing for helping with Mental Health. Not only does he use climbing for his personal wellbeing, but he also works with others to share his passion and enthusiasm of the positive impact of sport and activity for Mental Health recovery.

How did you get into climbing?

“I was referred to the Coasters activity group whilst attending Restore (Mental health workshop) back in October 2017 to go climbing with the group. Coasters was set up in 1995 by Colin Godfrey MBE to help people with mental health issues through social engagement through sports and activities. My first session was on the 14th of November 2017 which kind of lit a fire beneath me. Within a matter of a few sessions, I knew I wanted to learn more about climbing and found myself giving advice to the other members of the group despite being new.

I expressed an interest in becoming an instructor after talking to Colin about it and when Mel (a current Oxford Brookes instructor) found out she told me she would be my mentor for my instructor journey. Colin and Mel definitely inspired me and fueled my desire to get qualified.

When I'm either climbing, belaying or watching, the majority of my mental health issues kind of fade away briefly. When I'm on the wall, nothing else matters other than how I'm going to get to the next hold in order to get to the top and when belaying, the focus is on keeping your climber safe.”

Someone standing in front of a climbing wall

How did climbing help with your mental health journey?

“Climbing, being an instructor and gaining employment has definitely given me some more confidence. I still battle daily with my mental health but these have all improved my outlook on my future for sure.

The release of endorphins from climbing, the sense of achievement after sending a route, and helping others enjoy and improve in the sport is something I try to share as an instructor for the Coasters climbing group and Oxfordshire Early intervention service climbing group (patients from the Warneford Hospital).

A group of people in front of a climbing wall

Whenever working, volunteering or just climbing by myself, I'm quite often in discussion with other climbers about the positive impact sport, and particularly climbing has on mental health.”

How did your personal experiences influence your approach to instructing?

“As a mental health sufferer myself, I try to keep things fun and try to adapt to each individual's needs. Some people don't like to be pushed but I always try to offer encouragement and advice to see if the climbers can go a bit further out of their comfort zone without being too pushy.

Some people only really climb for fun and aren't looking to improve their grades but as long as they are both safe and enjoying the sessions, then I'm hopefully helping them to manage their mental health better, like I have been able to in the last 3 years.”

If you're interested in trying out our facilities after lockdown please visit Brookes Sport for details about our facilities.