Overcoming obstacles builds team spirit

Robert Lewis

Students participate in a rope swinging obstacle on the WSU Challenge Course. The course is offered to campus clubs and organizations on request starting in the spring.
(Photo by Weber State University)

May through September, Weber State University offers a Challenge Course for athletic teams, corporations or organizations looking to build confidence, cohesion, group participation or leadership in their members.

Weber State’s website states Challenge Courses provide an educational experience requiring a combination of creativity, physical involvement, teamwork skills and individual commitment. Also, the Challenge Program can be tailored to benefit the mission of any group it serves, such as academic classes, clubs, student organizations, residence life groups, sports teams, faculty/staff development groups, corporate groups and civic and community groups.

There are 10 different elements on the Challenge Course. Some physical elements include a wall to climb, ropes for people to swing onto small platforms, a large platform for a group to balance on and cables for individuals to make their way across.

Hayley Prine, the coordinator of adventure program and challenge course for the Outdoor Program, said the chosen elements depend on the group’s goals.

If a group wants to work on team cohesion, the challenge course is adjusted to have them do everything together. If an organization wants to develop leadership skills for an individual, an element like Vertical Web will be used instead.

It requires an individual to suggest strategies for success, assess failures and make alternate plans based on past experiences as they send each team member from one side of the element to the other. Each time, a new route or method is chosen for each member.

Prine said completing an element can boost confidence in an individual or many as a group.“It isn’t a strength issue,” Prine said. “A lot of it is working together as a team that tries to make something happen.”

Participating individuals attend a debriefing session once they complete the course. At the debriefing, group leaders pick out the learning objectives.

Prine said individuals can take what was gleaned from the elements and translate that experience back into work, sports or different areas of their lives.

Freshman Ula Chamberlin is on the woman’s basketball team at WSU. She first heard about the Challenge Course through her basketball coach, Velaida Harris.

Chamberlin said Harris wanted the team to go through the course to develop aspects that relate to basketball, such as teamwork, chemistry, cohesion and communication.

Chamberlin said the team went through different obstacles that were challenging. One was a giant platform like a teeter totter for up to 12 people.

According to Chamberlin, it was difficult because everyone was a different weight, and you had to start with an even number of people on each side. Once the platform was balanced off the ground, they had to move, rotate and not let it touch the ground.

“We tried a few, failed at a few, but finally made it work at the end as a team,” Chamberlin said.

After going through the course, the group of basketball players debriefed. Members learned that communication was key, everyone had their own thought process of what would work, everyone needed to put in their own ideas, and that people need to speak one at a time.

Finally, the players learned that everyone needs to come together and figure out what’s the best option for each other to make the group successful.

“I think the challenge courses helped the basketball team’s communication,” Chamberlin said. “I do … because that’s what the coaches get on us every day about in practice, and that’s truly what helps you in the game.”

Individuals interested in the Challenge Courses can call 801-626-7905 for a quote or email [email protected] for more information. Courses are by reservation only and start in May, weather dependent.