The driving force behind an athlete can be the love of competition or purely for the love of the sport.
For Spokane native and Gonzaga University professor Phil Sanders, rock climbing has been his favorite sport and pastime since he was a middle schooler.
Sanders is the head climbing instructor at Wild Walls Climbing Gym in downtown Spokane, the same place he took classes when he was a kid. Rock climbing called out to him because none of the traditional sports did.
“It is such a natural part of how your body wants to move and it is a good way to learn things about your body, understand how you move and what it takes to do these type of things,” Sanders said.
What started as doing something just for fun turned into so much more for Sanders. Sanders started teaching climbing classes at age 16. After graduating from high school he was given the opportunity to turn his passion for rock climbing into a full-time job and has not looked back since.
“I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else to be honest,” Sanders said. “I really enjoy climbing and really get a big thrill out of sharing climbing with people,” Sanders said.
Sanders said that being an instructor has shown him that he prefers climbing with other people over doing it on his own.
“It is different than your traditional workouts and it is pretty fun and adventurous as well,” he said.
On top of being a head instructor at Wild Walls, Sanders has been the instructor for all beginner and intermediate climbing classes at Gonzaga University since 2009. He teaches all of the GU climbing classes at Wild Walls and writes the curriculum for the climbing classes as well.
These classes for credit can be taken by any GU students whether they have background in rock climbing before or are just trying it out for the first time.
Sanders has had students take his rock climbing classes for all four years at GU. However, he recommends that all GU students take at least one semester of climbing.
When he started teaching, classes were approximately 30 students and now, after the popularity of his teaching has grown, he has around 150 GU students per semester.
Sander’s main focus when it comes to teaching is that his students are well informed about all the techniques and different ways to climb and that that they are safe. He said that rock climbing can be dangerous if climbers are not fully aware and prepared.
He teaches with a mix of auditory, visual and kinesthetic methods for all different learning abilities.
“When you are seeing a whole bunch of different lines of ropes, its hard to sometimes understand with only seeing it,” Sanders said. “Having all three methods helps a lot.”
Sanders stresses to all of his students to always ask questions if they are not sure on anything and to make sure safety is the priority.
Sanders teaches all of his students who come into Wild Walls with the techniques and methods that will prepare them to, not only master indoor climbing, but have success in outdoor climbing as well.
To Sanders, the two best outdoor climbing locations in the Spokane area are in Post Falls and Deep Creek.
For Sanders, rock climbing is a way of life and something that should be experienced by all. It is a way to not only get in a good workout, but have fun while doing it. Climbing is a passion of Sanders that he strives to share with each and everyone he teaches.