August 7, 2013

Ropes course creates common bonds

Jessica Lane, Staff Writer,
The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — Being horizontally hoisted by a group of people through a tire is a great way to break out of one's shell.

The high and low ropes course at Canadian Valley Technology Center in Chickasha aim to build team building and trust between team members, Dallas Smith, CVTC ropes instructor said.

Leadership groups, sports teams, youth groups and others have all been through the ropes course at CVTC. There are several obstacles in the low ropes course, located to the south of the CVTC administration building.

One obstacle is a 12 foot tall wooden wall with a platform on the other side. Teams are first asked to come up with a way to get all their team members up and over the wall. The first person and the last person tend to be the most tricky, Smith said.

The teams are allowed to use just about any strategy as long as its safe. The obstacles may seem impossible, but there is a solution to each one, Smith said.

The goal is to get each team to brainstorm together and bounce ideas off of each other, Smith said.

The gauntlet, as might be deduced from the name, is a series of rope challenges including inclined ropes, ropes that connect to narrow boards that swing, a rope pulley and other rope acrobatics. To make things really challenging, sometimes two people will start at opposite ends and pass each other.

There is also the King's Finger, where teams must put a tire or hula hoop onto the pole and lower it to the ground without touching the pole itself. They are granted a certain number of times the tire or hula hoop can touch the pole.

"We give them a goal and if they can't meet it, we will make it a reachable goal," Smith said.

The Wormhole obstacle is a tire suspended by rope about five feet off the ground. The team must pass each member through the tire without touching the tire.

The idea behind the Spiderweb is similar, but instead, there is a "web" made of rope. Each space in the web is called a "portal" that team members are passed through without touching the surrounding rope. However, the Spiderweb has a sticky rule. After a portal is used, it cannot be reused to pass another team member through.

At first it's easy, Smith said. But there are "portals" that are harder to get through than others.

"The question is, is it better to do the easiest one first or last?" Smith said.

Smith said that the feedback he gets after the rope course is mostly participants saying they had a good time. However, overcoming fear may be the most rewarding aspect.

The ropes course has helped participants conquer their fear of heights by taking a step and then one more step. However, participants have been able to address other fears through this one step at a time process.

"Teachers will say, 'I've never heard that kid speak in class before,'" Smith said.

But, it's hard to go from zero to hoisting a teammate up over a wall or placing one's trust--literally--in the hands of others.

Smith said the teams will start with a few games that work as ice breakers and de-inhibitors to help the teams get used to having someone else in their space.

For the high ropes course, participants climb the high ropes while tethered. Individuals only have to go as far as they are comfortable with, and those who do not wish to climb the ropes themselves can instead be supportive of their fellow teammates.

The cost of the ropes course is $360 for the first 12 participants and $10 for each person thereafter for a maximum of 20. For just one element, the cost is $180 for the first 12 participants and $10 thereafter for a maximum of 20.