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Young and Female: An Athlete Self-Reflection

Written by Pinnacle Sports Ambassador, Clea Hall

I remember going to the 2016 Australia Youth Nationals, my first Youth Nationals. I was so engrossed in the ability of Australian climbers- especially the Junior climbers. They would be doing moves that I didn’t even know the name of. They always seemed so composed. They would saunter up climbs that I couldn’t even pull onto. Although, I couldn’t help but notice that there were only 5 female Juniors.

It is common knowledge that during adolescence the rate of females in sport drops dramatically. In every sport. Our bodies develop into child-bearing female bodies with a higher body fat percentage. We put on weight. We start to perform worse in our sport. The movements that we knew so well start to become foreign to us. It is a difficult process to go through especially when you were once considered one of the strongest youth athletes. It all takes so much more effort than before.



On top of that, this developpement generally falls during the most academically taxing years. Of course all bodies are different- some may go through this developpement in Grade 11 or 12, others during university. Nonetheless, all of these academic stages consume our time and energy. The obvious choice between spending our energy in a sport that we’ve gotten worse in or pursuing a high ATAR or Commendation. The latter seems favorable. After all, it is in human nature to continue what they are good at.  

This past year has been one of growth. Near the end of last year, I was diagnosed with EILO (Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction) which in simpler terms means the closing of my airway during sport. Additionally, I learnt that I was iron deficient. So, as everyone does for the new year, 2023, I made some goals. I wanted to ensure that any health complications would not get in the way of my training and performance. I started seeing specialists- a personal coach, nutritionist, and sport psychologist. I was developing my learning of the human body and what it could do. Although, I had gained 10kilos of weight.

Participating in a weight-based sport means that many female athletes to still be performing at a weight that they are more comfortable with will turn to reducing food. Although, with my nutritionist I was aware of the impact that it would have on my current and future body. I stuck with it. The extra weight meant that I had to relearn many movements. I definitely felt as if I had regressed. But, I love this sport and wouldn’t give it up for the world. To keep my motivation up I focused on the positives. In the past year, I have seen my power and strength measures increase exponentially. I have gotten a lot better at dynamic movements- laché, paddle dynos and moon kicks. I felt a little unprepared for the competition season in this new body, but I had done all the training I could. 

I had a rough start to the competition season. Missing out on finals in the Olio release competition. Missing out on finals at the Youth A Female category at the Youth Boulder Nationals. Not remaking the Australian Youth team. It is a difficult pill to swallow knowing that your performance has gone down because of something you cannot control.

I remember crying after many of those competitions with my coach on the phone. There was one thing that she said that stuck with me- “Will you let this beat you?”. I thought about it for a moment. After every ‘bad performance’, even though I was completely disappointed, I would always reply ‘No’. Even if I don’t perform well in competitions this year because of all the changes my body is going through, I will never stop climbing. I love this sport too much. If I perform badly in competitions for one or a few years, it will not change my motivation and ambitions. Doubt only starts becoming an issue if you let it take over. 

So, to all those female young guns, ‘Will you let this beat you?’ 


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