Building a Team
By: Joshua Shoemaker
Last Thursday our FAN team went on an adventure in the Maryland wilderness. Our mission: Strengthen our team and come together as a family. We did this by participating in a series of team building exercises using a ropes course. It’s a great way to bring a group together and it’s become an annual event for FAN employees and volunteers.
It was already smoldering hot outside when we arrived so we knew this would be a challenging day. To get things started, we had an “icebreaker” activity on the ropes course where we had to get each team member through a hula-hoop as fast as we could. After quite a few practice trials, we developed a plan and a communication strategy that enabled us to achieve our goal and surpass our course leader’s expectations. We all quickly realized that we would have to collaborate, communicate and get physically closer to one another than expected if we were going to be successful. It definitely got us thinking as a team – and that was just the icebreaker!
The next activity was zip-lining – which proved to be more of a challenge to some than others. Several team members were hesitant to try this at all but with support and encouragement everyone was able to overcome their fears and conquer the zip-lines. We knew how frightening this was for several team members and we were all impressed by the courage they demonstrated. Ultimately, we all found zip-lining through tree tops exhilarating. Afterwards, the bravest members of our group walked through the trees on a tight rope while maneuvering around several obstacles. Staying balanced was hard and this was as much a mental challenge as a physical one. But our safety was never in danger because we were harnessed on to steel wires.
The biggest challenge of the day was a “lava pit” with three small wooden platforms strategically aligned across the center. We had to get our entire team across the pit by moving from one platform to another. The catch – we could only walk across one large wooden plank and one small wooden plank and we couldn’t speak to each other at all while crossing. It took a lot of planning, teamwork and even a few “casualties” but we all finally made it across. The lava pit taught us that our success as a team hinges on each of us playing our “position” within the team.
Finally, we ended our journey together on The Swing. The swing looked like something out of the circus – a trapeze-like structure or perhaps a human slingshot. Most team members were brave enough to attempt this gravity defying contraption. We were harnessed into two bungee wires attached to poles on either side of us. A rope, attached to the front of us, ran through a pulley and then down to our team members. When the team pulled the pulley, we were hoisted high into the air. At peak height, you pulled a lever that rocketed you backwards and even higher into the air. When it was my turn, I was determined to do it but I certainly had butterflies in my stomach. And when I was hoisting my team-mates into the air – well, I knew exactly how they felt and it was great fun to watch as their stomachs dropped from under them.
It was an amazing day and the results far exceeded all of my expectations. We drove over there as a group of strangers – silent co-workers sharing a van. We returned home as a rambunctious group of young people laughing and working together as a team. We learned to collaborate, overcome our fears and, most importantly, have fun while doing it. With FAN’s summer program starting the following Monday, we all knew that we could work together and overcome whatever challenges we faced. Bring it on! It’s going to be a great summer at FAN!