Joey Godici is the captain of the Western Washington University climbing team and worked to spearhead the call for progressive and inclusive change within their sport. Godici is a fourth-year and in April finished their last season on the Western climbing team.
Godici has climbed throughout their life on and off and started up again in college at the Wade King Student Recreation Center’s climbing gym.
The Western climbing team competes against other schools in the NC3 climbing circuit from around the surrounding states.
Dane Siegfried is the operations climbing wall coordinator at the rec center.
“Many other universities have teams and run NC3 competitions. UW, Oregon, Oregon State, Whitman College, Idaho, Portland State, Eastern, Central WSU are all in the mix. We are one of the original NC3 schools though,” Siegfried said in an email.
Climbing categories range from men and women to the recent introduction of nonbinary as a category. Godici was the one to push N3 competitions to open the third category for competitors. They worked behind the scenes, meeting with the board team and taking steps to advocate when they knew it was needed.
Godici identifies as nonbinary and transfeminine and saw the need for a more inclusive future for the N3 circuit and now pushes that future into the present. When they were first able to compete in their very own non-binary competition category, it made all the fight worth it.
“It was like, 'Oh my God, there's people like me in this community that are strong and awesome and excited and amazing people,'" Godici said. "Finding that community, I was like, 'Whoa, this is so, so nice.'”
They said the community formed at Western's climbing center presented opportunities alongside the sport itself. Godici spoke highly of the environment and community they see at the Western rec climbing center.
That environment is only improving as it continues to evolve with its competitors. As the popularity of the sport grows, the need for growth and expansion of the competition categories is needed to ensure the community continues to enhance its inclusion and safety.
“Find your community of climbers," Godici said. "Because that provides so much value to climbing and it wouldn't be the same without the community.”.
Paul Kalifatidi is one of the head coaches at Vital Climbing Gym in Bellingham. Kalifatidi has been climbing for around 15 years all over the United States.
“It's a very public sport, like all of your failures and victories are on full display, so a lot of people would say [they] struggle with that," Kalifatidi said. "You have to be honest with yourself, honest with the people around you.”
Kalifatidi said at the end of the night, four out of five of the people climbing at Vital are Western students.
Climbing is a well-loved sport at Western and is also inclusive and conscious of beginners. If students are interested in trying out climbing as a newcomer, they can set their fears aside.
“I think most people assume that you have to have climbing experience to try climbing for the first time," Siegfried said in an email. "That's absolutely not the case — we have so many beginner routes and our staff are eager to help get you started. Just ask our climbing wall attendant how to get started.”
If you care for a climb, with or without experience, the Western rec center climbing gym is a safe place for all to go and experiment with the sport and maybe even join the climbing community.
Avery Rossman (she/her) is an opinions reporter for The Front. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the gym or cracking jokes and laughing with her friends!