In the second in our series about setting up a women’s climbing group, guest writer Lorna Potter discusses how she went about setting up Bristol Women Climbers. She talks about what you might need to think about and what you’ll need to do. It doesn’t have to be just one person either. If you know someone else who is keen, you can do this in a pair or small group.
Practical steps to set up a women’s climbing group:
1. Do you have the capacity and skills to run one?
Ideally you’ll need enough climbing experience to help mentor new climbers and have enough time to attend weekly sessions, update social media page(s) for the group every couple of days and reply to messages regularly. It would be helpful if you’re familiar with your local climbing community and can come up with ideas for extra events too. But it’s also good to start small! I’d suggest starting with weekly climbing meets and if the group is popular enough, then you can look into expanding to further events.
2. Decide what you want to do
How regularly do you want to hold group sessions and what day/time? Weekly sessions work well, with weekday evenings being the most accessible time for people. I’d suggest asking your chosen wall which evenings are quieter and if suitable, choosing that for your meets.
3. Ask your local wall(s) for help
Although you could run a women’s group without assistance from the wall you’re using, it would be very helpful to have their support. I’d recommend contacting any suitable walls in your area, explaining your idea and seeing if they’re interested. If so, see what help you can negotiate. Ask about the possibility of free or cheap coaching (with a female coach if possible), discounted equipment hire, discounts on courses etc. If the group proves popular you’ll be doing a fair amount of advertising for the wall and hopefully bringing in some extra customers, so you have something to offer in exchange for their support.
4. Set up the group infrastructure
Create posters to advertise the group and set up social media page(s) and an email address.
5. Promote the group!
Share the info about your group as widely as possible and ask the wall you’re working with to do the same. Post on suitable social media pages (e.g. local climbing community pages) and ask Womenclimb to share your group info, talk to other female climbers and encourage your female friends to give it a go if they’ve never tried climbing before. Social media and word of mouth are two of the best ways to promote a group.
6. Build relationships with the local climbing community
It’s been wonderful to see so many people from the local climbing community coming forward to support Bristol Women Climbers. TCA and UCR have consistently provided support for our weekly sessions and also donated prizes for our competition, along with Ellis Brigham and NessYoga (Yoga for Climbers classes run by an awesome local climber). Building positive relationships within the community is a key part of running a successful group, so make sure you start networking.
7. Keep up the psyche!
As well as running weekly sessions, if the group is popular enough, try organising other climbing and social events to keep things interesting and continue building up the energy and psyche within the group. Increasing the feeling of friendship and community will help to keep people invested and grow the group too. With Bristol Women Climbers we’re in the process of getting group t-shirts printed, starting to hold monthly social pub meets and planning our first group trip climbing abroad.
The basics of setting up and running a women’s group don’t need to be complicated. You can keep it as simple as you want. It’s up to you whether you want to grow your regular sessions and expand the group outside of them, but if you do, there’s great potential for a large, successful, rewarding community. Give it a go and see what happens!
Thanks to Lorna for this brilliant run-down of her experience. If you have experience or information to add, just comment below.
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