Nov 02, 2015 1:00 AM

Author: Katie Cummock

ROPES course at University Neuropsychiatric Institute

At first glance, a towering structure made of wood and cables may appear to be nothing more than an extreme jungle gym.

But the structure on the east side of the University's Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) is actually a world-class ropes course.

Groups from both the community and the University come to the course for many reasons, said Holly Badger, who has been the challenge course facilitator at UNI for the past 12 years. 

"A lot of groups come for team building and communication," said Badger. "We are part of orientation for a few groups on campus, and coming to the ropes course jumpstarts the getting to know you process. For groups who are already working together, it helps to strengthen their understanding of each other as people, and as colleagues."

By the time groups are finished with the ropes course, they have a unique shared experience, said Badger.

Team cohesion, conflict resolution, problem solving, trust, communication skills, leadership skills, and self-esteem building are just some of the things that groups walk away with after they complete the course.

The acronym for the course is ROPES: recreation, observation, problem solving, experiential education, and self-esteem.

​"Encouraging groups to problem solve together is fun because some groups are still establishing how they are going to be as a group," said Badger. "We talk a lot about being respectful, and recognizing that everyone isn't the same."

Groups complete a goal sheet before coming to the course, and this background helps Badger and her team determine what activities will help them reach their goals. They also take into account how many people are in the group, and how much time the group has on the course.

"The activities are really sequenced, and we make sure everything builds on the goals the group stated," said Badger. "Some of the activities can seem scary and challenging, but we also have fun while targeting the goals."

But the groups coming in aren't the only ones with goals that need to be met.

"Our goal is to provide a really high quality, positive experience," said Badger. "Whether you climbed or you didn't, I want people to walk away thinking it was a cool experience and excited about what they accomplished, and what their team learned."

The course includes a collection of various elements constructed mainly of cables and wood. The elements are described as "ground", "low", or "high".

During the winter a few of the outdoor elements are removed, but if the weather cooperates, groups are on the course year-round. In case of inclement weather, an indoor gym with a climbing wall, a climbing net, and plenty of space for ground activities is available.

These different elements provide flexibility and diversity, and allow the course to meet the unique needs of everyone.

UNI's ROPES course hosts corporate teams, public school groups, church youth groups, sports teams, student body officer groups, at-risk youth programs, residential treatment facilities, and many groups within the University of Utah.

"We are really outcome focused," said Badger. "We care about your goals for your group, and what you want to get out of this experience."

Katie Cummock

Katie Cummock is a Communications Specialist with University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @katiecummock.

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