Team building skills rise in ropes course

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Published 2011-11-07T19:54:00Z”/>


Challenge CourseTasha Clark

While most students were in class listening to lectures and taking tests, 11 students were behind Yolo Hall in a different type of class, climbing five large wooden boards 30 feet tall using only ropes and a harness.

“I can’t do this,” said Casey Citek, a junior physical education major, to Omar Cuevas, a junior kinesiology major, while attempting to climb and keep balance.

“You can do it!” yelled the group below. Ten minutes later, Citek and Cuevas stood at the top of the final board ladder with barriers broken and comfort zones expanded.

Since 1998, a challenge course has been available to students and is currently offered to three kinesiology classes for outdoor education group development and risk management. The classes are called outdoor education for teachers, challenge quest and facilitating adventure experience.

The main purpose of the course is team-building, said Lee Shawver, a senior kinesiology major and director of the challenge course.

It creates a metaphor of climbing over barriers people may be facing in their lives, he said.

“The goal is to get students to go from ‘I can’t do this,’ to ‘I can do that,'”

Shawver said.

The rope course is different for every group, but they must all have some type of sequence, comfort and trust between them, he said.

Students can’t do the course individually, as these challenges require a team of at least 11 people, said Barb Cross, a professor of kinesiology.

“Groups are used to help support and encourage one another to take on a greater risk and do something they usually wouldn’t do,” she said.

The course creates a bond within the group throughout a student’s college career, Cross said. Because of budget cuts in 2008, the course was in jeopardy of being removed if more students didn’t enroll.

The kinesiology department wanted to add the course to general education, but it wouldn’t fit in any of the pathways, Cross said.

The course is open to students and groups who want to do a challenge.

The group of 11 students in the class completed a course called “Australian Belay,” where two students climb a tall ladder while the rest of the group is tied to them on the ground as support.

“It was hard,” Citek said. “There were no protective barriers around, and the harness was tight.”

Cuevas felt safe, because he knew classmates would catch him, he said. The challenge he faced was getting Citek to do it, making him a little nervous.

Although the rest of the group did not climb, they were actively involved.

A major aspect of the class is that students are challenged by choice, graduate student Christine Hood said.

The students in the class set up the course themselves and completed it by showing the faith and capabilities they had, she said.

Trust is the key word, said Hanna Flick, a senior outdoor education major. It gives the class confidence to do the work.

Course fees and budget cuts have made it difficult to get the word out to students, but the department wants many others to take advantage of what the course has to offer, Cross said.

“It’s a hidden gem not getting used to its full potential,” she said.

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<strong>Tasha Clark can be reached at</strong>

<em>[email protected]</em>


  1. The climb
  2. Learning the ropes
  3. The climb
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