About two years ago I was phoned by a TV company who were in the planning phases of a TV show, about unearthing natural yet Hidden Talent. Unfortunately I was about to head to South America working, so after a long conversation, I handed them onto one of my MSc tutors, who specialises in the reasons why we participate in high risk sports, and thought no more of it.
Then last Autumn I got a days work through PYB to keep a camera crew safe whilst they filmed a secret individual who had been selected from the original group of people. She was being filmed on her first lead climb, and I got talking to the producer about the tests they employed.
Before I go onto the test for climbing attributes, I have seen Richard Bacon doing the rounds of the TV show promoting the series, and whilst the climbing element will be of interest to the us climbers. Far more uplifting is one story of a guy who was living in a homeless shelter who showed an apptitude for languages.
After nineteen weeks training they managed to get him to read, write and talk arabic fluently. Which is totally amazing, more importantly, they appear to have given this guy something more to live for, and a career as a translator. He was tested by the military who apparently have an interest in teaching people arabic, so they have devised tests to see which of there serving soldiers have that aptitude.
In climbing there are no such tests. However Tim Woodman has researched the personality types that are linked with risk taking behaviour. As such by reversing the proceedure, could you find who fitted the personality profile. If you’d like to find out a little of the psychology behind why you climb, I am sure there will be insights into this. You may even find out what Alexithymia is, and how that too can effect why you take risks. I have been using a lot of Tim research in a chapter of my forthcoming book, this chapter explores the science and psychology of climbing, in an attempt to poo-poo the idea that ‘because its there’, is a rediculous reason, although there are elements hidden in the curiosity of this statement by Mallory.
One of the other experiment they called upon when testing the group to find out if they have a hidden talent for climbing was used in a study to assess how anxiety effects performances. It is the basis of one of the theories behind performance catastrophes, or why some athletes ‘choke’ under pressure or a golfer who gets the ‘yips’.
I don’t know when the climbing will feature, but I am sure the first programme in the series will feature all the Hidden Talents they are covering. What this programme will show is some of the psychology of climbing and other sports and activities. I am quite looking forward to seeing it.
My one problem with the climbing part of the program, is that I can see most climber through self-selection to the sport have the attributes they cover. In that to choosing to climb you probably already have a reasonable fit to one of the broad categories of why people climb. However what is interesting is that this talent, trait or whatever you want to call it was hidden from the the people who eventually go onto develop and nurture that talent.
It is this nurturing part though that is most pogniant to the premise of the program. In that could any of us given 19 weeks ‘intensive’ training reach the same levels as the people featured in this program. The programme takes just one person using scientifically assessed criteria to match them to an activity, and present us through the magic of television, with a case that they have shown they have a ‘hidden talent’. Science though relies on double blind trials so how much is natural talent and how much is nurturing through training is going to be impossible to tell with this program, and I personally will be watching for how they frame the claims that they do.
The reason is I believe that especially with climbing, if someone wants to learn. Then you can certainly mould them through coaching to become a rock climber. As a climbing coach I would say that. It looks like being great entertainment and possibly informative show though, and thought you all might be interested. Its on at 9pm 24th April – TONIGHT!