Friday, 28 March 2014

UK bouldering star in the making - the Nathan Phillips interview

Towards the end of 2013 I fired over a few questions to Nathan Phillips, the former GB Junior Bouldering Team Captain. The Q&A took place following a highly successful junior competition season, Nathan's last before moving up to the Seniors, when he'd claimed a gold in Laval, France. Read his thoughts on competing, climbing outside and what the future holds.

The Interview 

Tell us a bit about who you are.

I'm a keen boulderer from Huddersfield. I've been climbing since I was 6, so 13 years now. When I was younger I was always climbing on everything instead of using things the way they were meant to be used, such as goal posts. My dad took me to Huddersfield sports centre to try out climbing and I've been doing it ever since!

How long have you been competing for? What was your first competition and how did you do?

I've always loved competing! Ever since I entered the Youth Climbing Series at age 7. I can't remember where I placed, but I just really enjoyed it. I love the fact you can compete alongside other great climbers in your local area, country or even the world.

Had you taken part in international competitions before joining the GB Junior Bouldering Team?

I was in the Senior GB Bouldering Team for a couple of years before the Junior Team, as this is the first year there has been one. Whilst in the senior team I competed in The European Youth Bouldering Cup for 2 years. In my first year I only did one round and placed 8th. In the second year as I moved up an age category, I placed 10th overall.

Nathan competing at CWIF 2014

What's it like being a member of the team - training, traveling and competing together? What are your duties as Team Captain?
The team is like a second family to me. Everyone comes together and supports each other in training and whilst competing. The training days are really helpful and also good fun. We get to try out comp specific blocs in a competition format, which is really beneficial. We also get tips on how to train and when to train.

The trips are a really enjoyable experience. We are all relaxed and have fun in the lead up to the comp and then when it comes time to climb, the game faces are on. The main reason why the team is doing so well is because of the support we give each other, including the team managers and coaches.

As a team captain I do sometimes have to step in when I don't think someone is behaving in the right way but this is very rare as the team are so mature. I also try to help out management as much as I can without affecting my performance.

How do you feel the 2013 season went? What is your highlight?

The 2013 season has been amazing. We've had a list of great results throughout the whole team. In terms of my own performance. I started off not too well in Grindelwald as I had been ill for 3 weeks leading up to the competition. I put in the training and came back stronger and better than ever. I feel like I climbed well in all 3 rounds of the cup but the highlight by far has to be winning the last round. It was the best feeling I've ever felt.

What are your plans for next season? I'm told you're keen to compete in the World Cups? And will you continue to work with the junior team?

Yes! My first aim is to get selected to compete in the World Cups next year. This means putting a lot of training in over the winter and doing well at senior team training sessions. If I did make it to the World Cups, my aim would be to make a semi-final. (Gotta aim high).

Next year I plan to keep working with the junior team as a coach. There is so much talent in the team, and if I can help them progress in any way I would feel happy.

Enough on competitions - what's your CV like on rock?

A lot of people are shocked by this but I have never done any sport or trad climbing outside. I much prefer bouldering and trad doesn't really appeal to me at all. It seems unnecessarily dangerous... (don't get mad).

I've done two 8A's, Zoo York on the grit at Caley Roadside and Sale Gosse Assis in Fontainebleau. Other than that I've done a couple of 7c+'s and quite a few 7C's.

Favorite place to climb outside? Favorite boulder problem or route?

As everyone says... my favorite place to clime is Font. My favorite problem... hmm... maybe Magic Bus at Buthiers, Fontainebleau. I know it's not that hard but it is a really fun problem.

How do you find a balance between training for competitions and getting out on real rock? Or do the two complement each other?

It can be quite difficult sometimes. I find if I'm training and not going outdoors I get really strong but my technique suffers, and if I'm going outside but not training, my strength suffers. I have to try mix it up a bit and get out when I can but maintain my focus on training. As I work in a wall, I can train before and after work and get outside on my days off which seems to work for me.

Anything you'd like to add?

I'd just like to thank my sponsors, ROKT Climbing Gym, Scarpa, prAna, and Metolious.

Also thanks to Tom Greenall for taking on the role of Junior Team Manager in such a friendly yet professional manner.

Thanks to Euan Noble at ROKT Climbing Gym for funding my trips.