Practice makes perfect.
And that's no simple mantra. Studies show that practice improves the brain's memory of most skills, especially the practice of multiple types of movements vs. just one. This variable practice shows better retention of each skill.
And tree climbing is no different. Though it may seem like a simple act to some, for professional arborists like me, competitive tree climbing is a sport - a physically demanding test of job skill, speedy problem solving and aerial nerve. And it involves not just climbing from branch to branch, but using ropes and safety equipment and proper practices that keep you and those around you safe while you work in the sky.
And I got a chance to put my tree climbing skills to the test on July 24th and 25th at the International Tree Climbing Competition Presented by Davey Tree at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill. I have competed in regional competitions for the past four years, but this is my first year making it to the international competition. And practicing a skill like tree climbing, especially in a competitive setting, is only going to make me better. That's why I compete.
I started climbing five years ago. My brother-in-law used to do it, and we were both on vacation and got the chance to watch an arborist work in a tree - climbing in the top branches. To me, it looked like the most interesting job. A year later, I had found my calling at The Care of Trees.
At this year's competition, I think I did well. But I didn't really practice this year like I should have. There was a lot of storm damage here three weeks before the competition so I was climbing more and doing more ornamental pruning. I was climbing every day, and I think that helped me. But what I learned from the other competitors at the ITCC who seemed to move more smoothly up the tree than I did is that regular practice in addition to on-the-job practice will make me even better. Even if I work six days a week, I want to save some time to practice.
The toughest part of the competition for me is secured footlocking - it is very physical and very demanding. You have to be very strong to footlock. It's basically where you climb 50 feet up a rope without touching the tree at all. A lot of arborists who do well at the competition are also rock climbers, so that helps them compete in the footlock.
Competing at something you love is a great opportunity. At the ITCC, arborists get together and learn from each other - it fosters a great feeling of camaraderie. We share ideas and tips and tricks and talk about our work. I had fun, met a lot of people and learned a lot. We all started doing this for different reasons and it's fun to share our experiences and network. I'm happy I can keep doing what I love and share it with my fellow arborists and the people who enjoy watching us climb.
View photos from the 2010 International Tree Climbing Championship Presented by Davey Tree, held at The Morton Arboretum.