Even if you’re not best buds with your teammates, you need to learn how to get along on the field, because how well the players work together is a factor in any team’s success. One place where teams are tying up this always-important skill is on a ropes course.
Also known as a challenge course, a ropes course is “a series of fixed events that a person or team has to complete together,” explains Sylvia Dresser, executive director of the Association for Challenge Course Technology.
Of the two types of challenges—low and high courses—low courses are ideal for teams whose members need to become better acquainted with each other and learn how to work together. Activities for this type of course are low to the ground, and, Dresser says, “[they usually] have a particular scenario or metaphor attached to them, [as] the group [works] together to solve the problem.”
For example, the Spider Web requires group members to pass each other through holes in accordance with rules laid out by the course. “There [can be] a minimum of seven people actively involved in passing everyone through a hole, [while] other people encourage or spot those who are engaged,” Dresser says.
Noting that her college coach started each season with a ropes course challenge, Angie Akers, an AVP pro beach volleyball player and former University of Notre Dame standout, says, “[They] were always just so much fun and awesome, because you have to problem solve and do physical challenges, and I think [they] are a great way to bring everyone together.”
Another type of challenge is posed by high courses, usually built between 25 and 50 feet off the ground on utility poles, trees or in the rafters of a building. According to Dresser, although many high course challenges seem solitary—like the Burma Bridge, which requires you to walk on a cable suspended in the air, with cable rails along the sides—they do require support, trust and encouragement from your teammates. “The high elements tend to be a bit more individual,” she says, “but there is always somebody else involved, either on the other end of your belay rope holding you up and protecting your fall, or giving you directions and encouraging you.”
If you can stomach the height, high courses are great for sports that are partner-oriented, such as tennis doubles, swim or track relays or quarterback/wide receiver combos.
To find a ropes course in your area, search “challenge course” or “ropes course” online. Courses charge for teams to participate, but costs vary depending on location and type of course.