Hanging by just their fingers and “dynoing” from one hold to another in an industrial area along Midway Road in Carrollton is Team Texas, the best indoor youth rock climbing team in the nation.
Kyle Clinkscales, 33, and six kids started the team at Exposure Rock Climbing Gym in 1996, when indoor rock climbing was in its infancy as a competitive sport. The team, the largest in the nation, now has 38 kids, ages 8 to 18. It has competed everywhere from Bulgaria to Ecuador.
Team Texas has held the national title most years since the title existed: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and is going for 2008 this month (although the team has already won part of the title in the bouldering series, low climbing that doesn’t involve ropes). What happened in 2006? While individual members competed, Clinkscales took Team Texas out of the running for the team title to give someone else a chance.
How does Clinkscales do it? He tosses the football. Asks how school is going. Doesn’t yell. And, perhaps most importantly, takes them on outdoor rock climbing trips around the country—as in riding in a van, cooking meals, 24/7 for weeks on end. Which is why, he says, they’re so good.
“That separates us from every other team in the country,” he says. “When you climb outside, travel thousands of miles without your parents, it helps them work together. It’s about something bigger than the ribbon. It’s about being part of a team.”
Early team member Ryan “Future” Roden, a Highland Park High School graduate and internationally ranked climber, is now climbing and traveling with Chris Sharma, the rock climbing equivalent of Tiger Woods. He’s doing exactly what Coach Clinkscales teaches all the kids: “Our motto is have fun, work hard, get better. If something we’re considering doesn’t fit into those things, we don’t do it.”