Imagine yourself 40 feet in the air, perched on wires and your goal is to cross to the other side without falling. You’d think you were in an episode of ‘The Real World/Road Rules Challenge.’
Now mix in the condition that you cannot hold on to anything else except your teammates to get across. The challenge becomes communicating with your teammates and moving as a group through this 360-foot obstacle course.
Built a little over a year ago, the Odyssey Course, located in the fields of the Anteater Recreation Center, is the largest ropes course west of the Mississippi. It has two levels and eight different challenges. Part of the Team Up! program at the ARC, it is a tool for groups to practice their teamwork and leadership skills.
Team members are equipped with helmets and strapped into harnesses. They climb up a giant net to where their first challenge awaits them. The ropes course facilitator instructs the team that the rules for the course are that they can only hold on to each other to get across. It is up to the team to come up with strategies on how to cross the course together.
Teamwork is the focus of the Odyssey course. ‘Traditional rope courses do a good job of providing an individual challenge. We wanted something different from that. Our Odyssey course is team-focused. In other words, it is the efforts of the team that will create the successes,’ said Bill Jacox, director of Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Adventure Program.
‘What it takes [for] group to succeed in the tasks we give them on the ropes course is no different than what it takes for a group to experience success in their workplace,’ Jadox said. ‘In a totally different environment and under the guidance of a skilled facilitator, groups are able to discover and expose some of their group dynamic and practice new strategies. The whole point is that, at the end of a Team Up! program, the team is able to carry forward some valuable learning to assist them in future challenges, beyond the ropes course.’
Although admittedly scared up in the air, Jessica Chou, fourth-year literary journalism major, had a positive experience. ‘I feel like it gave us a chance to hang out, laugh, and give each other a hand. I felt very proud when we helped each other out and gave words of encouragement,’ Chou said.
Some Team Up! alumni experience a growth within themselves. ‘It helps you realize you can get through things you didn’t realize you could,’ said Karen Cortez, third-year history major.
The Team Up! program’s goal of developing teamwork-skills in participants seems to have been met. ‘Now it’s easier for me to ask for help. It forced [me] to trust people who [I] don’t necessarily hang out with that much,’ said Eliana Olivarez, third-year sociology and Chicano and Latino studies double major.
At the last platform, team members can traverse a 120-foot zip line. At the end, the groups sit in a circle to reflect on what they have learned in the challenge. One of the facilitators said that the role that each team member played up in the air, whether it was leader, follower, problem solver, or encourager, mirrors the role they play in day-to-day life.
Team Up! encourages building trust, self-confidence, problem solving skills and creating bonds with your group up but also gives participants a chance to look within themselves to discover their strengths and limitations.