Editor’s Note: Unless you’ve spent your childhood in a tree house, were raised in a family of tight-rope-walking circus performers or been in the military, navigating through a ropes’ course can be an extremely scary adventure. Today, athlete Todd Robinson of Alpharetta,Georgia, a sales representative for At Home Medical, will tell us how he taught the ropes’ course from a wheelchair. Part 3 of a four-part series.
Question: Todd, how did you teach a ropes’ course from a wheelchair?
Robinson: That was a little challenging. To start teaching a ropes’ course at the psychiatric hospital, I first had to go to Project Adventure in Covington, Georgia, where they teach people how to instruct or guide ropes’ courses. To learn to teach the ropes’ course, you have to go through Project Adventure’s ropes’ course twice.
The first time, you learn what a ropes’ course is and how to teach it. The second time you go through it as though you’re a student learning the ropes’ course. So, I had to learn how to navigate it from the ground.
In a ropes’ course, you have low elements on the ground and high elements in the air. We rigged-up a pulley system to help get me off the ground. For instance, on the catwalk where you have to walk across rope 60-feet above the ground, I pulled myself up to the beginning of that element with the pulleys, transferred over to the catwalk and did that element with my feet dangling instead of standing on the rope. I just used my arms and moved along the two ropes used for hand rails. To finish the course, I had to at least attempt every element of the ropes’ course.
Question: How do you keep the participants safe in a ropes’ course?
Robinson: In each element, you’re belayed – meaning a person is on the ground holding the rope attached to your safety harness. Then if you fall off an element, the person breaks your fall and lowers you to the ground. So, even though the ropes’ course is very scary, because you’re off the ground, it’s still safe due to the harness with safety line that keeps you from getting hurt, even if you fall.
Question: How did you teach the course with two ropes?
Robinson: There was a small pine tree on our ropes’ course from which all the ropes generated. So, I could back-up my wheelchair to that tree, run the belay rope (safety rope) around the frame of my wheelchair and the pine tree and then back through my wheelchair where I had a harness. I still could have control of my students to keep them from falling. All I needed was the hand strength.
I was attached to the students on the rope, while they did the high elements of the ropes’ course. If someone slipped-off the high wire, I’d be able to break his fall and lower him down to the ground with the harness.
If they didn’t fall-off the high element, I could hold them, so they could get back on the ropes’ course. If they gave up or quit, I easily could let them back down to the ground.
Robinson: They had to trust me to make sure they were safe. When my students saw me hooked-up to the belay rope, they’d be nervous and hesitant. But after one student tried the ropes’ course, and everyone saw how securely I was tied to that tree, all of them wanted me to be their belay person.
Question: What was the best lesson you taught or learned on the ropes course?
Robinson: The kids knew that I wasn’t going anywhere, and that regardless of their weight, they couldn’t pull me or my wheelchair. We had a great time with the ropes’ course and taught a number of other team-building activities. I also taught everyday problem-solving and life-coping skills. I probably learned as much from my patients as they learned from me.
About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com