Parents & Carers Guide to NICAS

As a parent or carer you might be a climber yourself, or you might have no climbing experience. Either way, you’ll want to make sure your young person is happy, safe and inspired by NICAS sessions: and that’s exactly what coaches at our centres do!

Here’s some tips to help things get off to a good start…

Where can my child climb?

Use our Find a Centre map to find your nearest NICAS accredited centre. It might also be an option for your child to climb with their school, scout group, youth group or as part of their Duke of Edinburgh award. Contact these groups directly to see if they are already connected to NICAS, or contact us if you need help

What equipment will they need?

To start with: nothing! Any extra equipment needed for sessions can usually be hired from the climbing centre. Over time, you may want to invest in some basics such as climbing shoes and a chalk bag, and perhaps a harness and belay device for roped sessions. Clothing wise, it’s a good idea to ensure your learner wears comfortable clothing such as tracksuit trousers and a t-shirt. Clothing should allow learners to move freely but not be so baggy that it could get caught on anything. Ensure that any jewellery is removed and long hair is tied back; again this is to avoid it being snagged during a climb.

How much will it cost?

Climbing is often competitively priced compared with many other sports. At the start, you don’t need to buy any special kit, though you may wish to over time. Learners on our schemes are required to purchase a logbook to record their progress, and these are provided by the centre that registers the climber. Logbooks are not subject to VAT and prices include the cost of any certificates awarded. Some centres ask the learner to buy the logbook separately, and some include the logbook within payment for a course of lessons. The cost of sessions is set by each accredited centre, not by NICAS, and may cover your entry fees, coaching costs, and use of equipment like climbing shoes or harnesses. Your centre might give you the opportunity to buy badges as you pass each level – ask your centre if they stock them.

Why do the NICAS schemes?

Our four National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes (NICAS®) are an introduction to climbing and provide a gateway to learning more about the sport. The key aim is to provide a safe introduction to climbing for young people by using artificial climbing structures (i.e. indoor climbing walls). Those who are keen to progress through to the higher levels also start to look wider and learn more about the history, ethics and styles of both indoor and outdoor climbing. The nationally-recognised scheme also helps to standardise the teaching and coaching of young people in an engaging manner. All involved, the climber, parent and coach, can easily monitor and record skill development and progression through the sport.

With logbooks to work through and certificates for achievement, the schemes give candidates a great start to their climbing journeys. At the first session, some climbing centres provide learners with a NICAS Participation Certificate to show some of the skills mastered and welcome them to NICAS.

Find out more about the Benefits of NICAS.

How long does it take to do the schemes?

There is no maximum duration or expiry date for any of our schemes: every learner can take as long as they need to meet the course requirements.

What are the benefits of climbing?

Climbing has so many benefits, that we have another page about the benefits of NICAS. In summary, climbing offers great health benefits, both physically and mentally. It offers something for everyone; young people who aren’t into team sports or seen as “sporty” often really love what climbing offers! Our schemes also give climbers the opportunity to learn about safety, equipment, grades, belaying, warming up, training and progression, as well as the many other positive aspects of becoming a climber. Combine this with life skills: trust, communication, team work, self-confidence, awareness, risk management and understanding limitations, and it quickly becomes clear why climbing is an amazing sport. There is a huge amount of learning and development that takes place at the climbing wall.

How safe is climbing?

By its nature, and in common with other sports, climbing brings some risks; however, these risks can be identified, managed and minimized: this is fundamental to the principles of our schemes. We teach risk awareness and risk management from the very beginning of each scheme, and specifically focus on injury prevention as part of the syllabus at higher levels of NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering.

In fact, climbing and bouldering on artificial walls has relatively few accidents each year compared with other popular activities such as football, rugby and hockey.

NICAS promotes a safe climbing environment by only allowing qualified coaches to deliver our nationally recognised and accredited schemes. We check our accredited centres to ensure that everyone running our schemes continues to meet our requirements.

How do I help my child?

Your child is learning to find their own path in climbing. You can encourage your child to take advantage of the opportunities available on the scheme. Help them think about the benefits of learning and working in groups and undertaking activities that our schemes offer, with like-minded individuals.

There are amazing social benefits of climbing and bouldering. As parents and carers, you can also get involved. Here are a few ideas to support your child and to help them develop:

  • Get them to the wall on time: it seems simple but if they turn up late and flustered they are not in the right mind-set.
  • Practise knots: in the early stages of NICAS Climbing, knot tying is the biggest hurdle and takes the longest to learn. The main knot is the figure of eight – learn how to tie it. Most walls will hand out old lengths of rope for candidates to practice at home. Sophie Mitchell’s handbook “The Beginners Guide for Climbers” includes a piece of cord so knots can be practised.
  • Your child has a logbook so go through it with them and see how they are progressing.
  • Most walls will offer an “Introduction to climbing” or “Learn to Belay” type of course. If you take time to learn the basics it means that you can bring your child to the centre outside their NICAS sessions and allow them to practise and consolidate their skills.
  • We also recommend taking a basic coaching course. The BMC FUNdamentals of Climbing workshops are a great place to start. FUNdas1 is aimed at basic movement and working with children so is ideal for a parent wanting to get more involved.

Parents who are more involved are more able to provide just the right balance, not only to facilitate enjoyment but also to challenge the child to continue to grow and develop their skills as they begin their pathway in climbing. Climbing may even become a family activity for years to come.

Useful Links