Campbell hopes to help rock climbing program reach new heights
After serving as an assistant under Elliot Gaunt for the past five seasons, Tyler Campbell was officially named Gaunt’s replacement as Head Coach of Liberty University’s rock climbing team last week. He will oversee tonight’s open tryouts for the team, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the LaHaye Recreation & Fitness Center.
Campbell, who graduated from Liberty with a degree in biblical studies in 2013 and has been with the team since it began in 2015, works fulltime as a supervisor for Student Accounts in the Student Service Center. He is looking forward to engaging student-athletes in a sport he has developed a passion for over the past 12 years in Lynchburg.
“I never really saw myself having the opportunity to be in this position and the Lord made it happen,” Campbell said. “I am excited to give everything I have to train the team, interact with them, make them better students, climbers, and adults. I want to really pour into them and make myself available to them in any way they need, to serve them and help them grow as individuals and athletes.”
Campbell, who grew up an hour away in Roanoke didn’t do any climbing before arriving at Liberty.
“I was very big into the outdoors in high school, but I was mainly into backpacking,” said Campbell, who spent weekends hiking multiple sections of the Appalachian Trail with friends. “In college, I chose to focus on climbing and invest in it and developed a really solid friend group through the sport.”
Campbell is looking forward to the tryout as an opportunity to build on the foundation of the program. He hopes to finalize a roster of 30 student-athletes, as many as 15 male and 15 female climbers, over the next two weeks before selecting a seven-man and seven-woman travel team.
“We do normally have a strong amount of returning athletes and everyone on the team last year will have to try out again this year,” he said, noting that prospective climbers will be given a two-hour time window to complete as many of the hardest boulder problems or routes before turning in their scorecards at the end. “We won’t make the decisions immediately. Travel decisions made based on how committed people show themselves to be and how much they’re progressing.”
He is working on developing a schedule of competitions for 2021-22, after the team has had limited opportunities to compete inter-collegiately over the past two seasons due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Flames and Lady Flames are in the Mid-Atlantic Division of USA Climbing’s collegiate section. That region includes programs from Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
Liberty has a distinct advantage over other colleges and universities.
“There are a lot of colleges that have clubs for climbing, but we are one of the few schools that offers a fully funded club team,” Campbell said, noting Virginia Tech and Virginia have very active student-run club teams. “Our facility is very, very good. It’s not huge, but it’s top of the line in every way.”
He is eagerly looking forward to building the program up over the next few seasons.
“We do want to get back in competitions and get started on the right foot, even though we’re getting started a little later than usual,” Campbell said, noting that collegiate climbing competitions don’t normally start until October or November. “I want a bunch of people to come out (to tryouts) and for them to be excited, too.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer