It is a little known fact and something I do not broadcast publicly, but I have minor precognitive abilities that let me read your mind; if I tune in on the correct brain wave oscillatory frequency your thoughts become clear as a crisp autumn day. So, to answer your not-yet-posed question: yes, spotting in the gym is really important and you should never be afraid to ask for a spot or provide a spot to a fellow climber when asked.
How do I spot and why is it so important, you will ask in the very-near future. Allow me to elaborate:
Spotting is to bouldering what belaying is to route climbing and as such it is critical that, as a spotter, you are attentive and prepared to execute your duties and keep your buddy from breaking their neck. What is proper technique? How do I know when to spot? Fortunately for you the RJ1 varsity youth team has the skills to pay the bills when it comes to spotting and is here to show you the ropes (mixed metaphor, I know…) as it were.
On drastically overhanging terrain the focus is on the climber’s hips. On the steeps your body is more inclined to swing out when you fall, and a good spot at the hips makes it easier to redirect the falling climber than the typical shoulder spot. Notice Mike has his hands up with enough distance to allow Brenden to swing and his eyes focused on Brenden’s center of mass, not the cute girl at the drinking fountain or another climber elsewhere in the gym. Also notice that with the confidence of Mike’s good spot, Brenden is gunning for the send in proper style.
On less steep terrain the focus shifts up to the climber’s armpits. Again you will notice Max’s attention is on Kaden and not anyone or anything else. He is giving Kaden enough room to sag out from the wall without dabbing but is ready to support his torso and give him enough time to disengage his heel hook. Max is not trying to catch Kaden; he is merely trying to give Kaden enough time to get his feet under him in case of an unexpected fall.
Here Izabela and Amanda employ the power spotting technique. The power spot is used either to help the climber learn a move or allow a climber to skip past some moves in order to try others. Izabela is actually pushing Amanda into the wall, providing support at her waist so that Amanda can get a feel for the body positions of the crux sequence. Experienced boulderers apply the power spot often on hard projects, and it is not uncommon for climber and spotter to have a detailed system down. For instance, Amanda can say “give me five pounds,” meaning Izabela will push Amanda into the wall with roughly five pounds of force. When working a specific move with a power spot it is good to reduce the amount of weight taken on each attempt.
As with any form of climbing, how safe you are is largely up to you. It is your duty as a climber to request a spot if you feel sketched on a particular move or problem. Conversely, it is your prerogative to provide a spot when one is asked of you. As with belaying, communication between spotter(s) and climber is critical. Let your spotters know if you want a spot for a specific move or for the entire climb. Do not be intimidated to ask for a power spot; no one will judge you*. As a spotter, make sure the landing zone is clear and that others in the area are aware that your homie might be coming in hot. Like Captain Planet said: the power is yours!
* Okay, maybe some crusty old Traddie will judge you. Tell them to go climb a tower and carry on with your session.