Jeremy McDougall is the Head of Recreational Programs at Boulderz. Since joining Boulderz, Jeremy has developed his role and the recreational programs into well-structured and valuable lessons that benefit the instructors and participants. We asked him how he started climbing and why he finds the Boulderz community so special. Read on to find out more!
How did you start climbing?
I attended a team-building exercise with my then-employer in Hamilton focused on learning to belay. It was love at first climb! I quit my job two months later to work at a climbing gym.
And how did you end up at Boulderz?
I worked at a few gyms around the GTA. Then I met Andrew (McBurney) when I started teaching a course with him through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). After that experience, I moved to join him at Boulderz!
In your opinion, what is the best thing about Boulderz?
I really like the community at Boulderz, and the focus on building that community. In some climbing gyms there can be social cliques. I like that Boulderz focuses on fostering a community where everyone climbs together or can climb together if they want to.
How do most kids find out about Boulderz?
Most people find out about us by word of mouth. They will attend a friend’s birthday party or sign up for a PA day camp with a friend. Then they find out they love it and join one of our recreation (rec) classes. Some kids in the rec program eventually move into the competitive teams (through tryouts). We have also started an advanced rec program to build skills for kids who would like to try out for the competitive team.
Why is it important to you to offer rec programs for kids at Boulderz?
It’s something that most of us didn’t have as kids ourselves. For example, I played a lot of different sports, like basketball and baseball, but nothing ever stuck (and I was never introduced to climbing). There are still very few gyms in Ontario that offer rec programs for kids, so our programs are in high demand.
How do you hire the right staff to work with kids and teach them about climbing?
It really comes down to passion. If you love what you’re doing and you want to introduce others to your passion, typically you’ll be a good instructor. Many of our current instructors started here in the rec program and moved on to the competitive team, and now they are excited to pass on their love of climbing to others.
How do people find out about the adult rec program?
Similar to how the kids do, it will often be word of mouth through a friend. Or some people saw a movie about climbing and want to try it, or like me, went to a team building event! There are not a lot of facilities that offer the adult programs that we do, so again, we are filling this gap in the industry. We offer intro classes at both locations, Mommy and me (Mommy Rok) at Junction, and Classic Rok and Hard Rok at Etobicoke. Soon we’ll be offering
Classic Rok at Dupont as well. In Classic Rok we focus on beginners and building basic skills, proper foot holds, reading a route properly, and warming up and cooling down. It is mostly bouldering, with some rope climbing. Hard Rok focuses on more advanced climbing.
What do you do when you’re not climbing?
I climb! That’s honestly what I do for fun. I really enjoy climbing outdoors whenever I can, but I am not into ice climbing (!) so I like to travel south whenever I can when it gets too cold here. I also enjoy visiting other gyms. I view routes like art, so it’s fun to get out and check out other people’s “art work.”