San Marcos Academy – Why Use a Challenge Course?

By Harold Compton, Guest Blogger

San Marcos Academy – Why Use a Challenge Course?

Challenge courses are used frequently by businesses and schools to help their workers and students. But, if you have ever seen a challenge course in use, you might wonder why anyone would choose a challenge course for team building or helping self-confidence. Challenge courses look like a lot of fun for participants. One will hear a lot of laughing, squealing and yelling going on, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. So how is this helpful in team building or helping an individual’s self-confidence?

Challenge Courses – Helping Individual Self-Confidence

To begin with, most challenge courses operate on the policy of “challenge by choice” meaning the individual chooses the level of challenge they are willing to face. Participants are encouraged but are not required to accept the challenges. Challenge courses generally have a number of high elements, 20 to 30 feet above the ground. For many participants being on a cable that high off the ground takes them outside of their comfort zone and many express a fear of heights. The goal of using the high elements on a challenge course is to encourage participants to push themselves outside that comfort zone and in most cases they will find that they are capable of doing things they never thought possible. They also learn to trust their equipment and supporting members and therefore gain self-confidence. 

The overall goal may not be to have the individual complete the event, but rather to have them push themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of doing. I have seen individuals who were terrified the first time they approached an event, and it took a great deal of encouragement to get them to even climb the ladder. They did not complete the event that first time, but merely climbing the ladder improved their self-confidence so much that on their next attempt, they were able to complete it.

Challenge Courses – Helping Team Building

If you are asking why use a challenge course for team building, you are missing one of the biggest positive uses. Team building generally makes use of many more of the low course events on a challenge course that can include problem solving as well as teamwork. The first step for a group of participants is to evaluate the problem before them. Generally, the problem involves negotiating some physical challenge and requiring that all members of the team complete it to be successful.  This requires them to work together by identifying weakness and strengths in the group and developing a solution to overcome those weakness and maximize their strengths.

When running a group through a series of different events, I have noted that initially they do not work well together, but after their first event an evaluation is conducted on how they did. They normally are quick to point out mistakes they made and what they could do to overcome them, and on subsequent events, they slowly begin to work together as a team and their performance improves.  Because group members have to rely on each other during the event they come to develop confidence, not only in themselves, but in their other members. This is a feeling that can then carry over to the workplace.

Why Use a Challenge Course?

Challenge courses are much more than just a fun obstacle course or theme park.  Participants usually do not realize the benefit they have gained until much later. They seem to be more self-assured and get along better with co-workers and classmates. The next time you see a challenge course in use, remember that it is much more than just fun!

Visit our website to learn more about San Marcos Academy’s Challenge Course and how groups can rent it for their use.