Home Campus Facing fear: how the Ropes Course helps people grow

Facing fear: how the Ropes Course helps people grow

There’s no growth in the comfort zone.

Everyone’s heard it.

The growth that comes from challenges — more than just an adrenaline rush for thrill seekers — is what the BYU-Idaho Ropes Course strives to give.

Completed in 2020, the ropes course is located above the university in the upper fields. It boasts a continuous belay system, allowing each participant to move through the course safely and quickly. It can hold up to 60 people at a time.

“The ropes course contains three levels,” says the official website. “Each more challenging than the previous level. The bottom level had moderate challenges and the top level is the most difficult.”

Situated around the course are many different team-building activities including a giant rope swing, a wall climb and a 40-foot pole climb.

Wooden structures around the course for different team building activities
Wooden structures are placed around the course for different team building activities. Photo credit: Jake Hess

While impressive, what sets the ropes course apart isn’t the facility itself; it is the focus given to each individual participant.

Everyone, of course, is different. For some, getting to the top is relatively easy and exciting. For others, even trying the first level seems a bit too much.

“We as a staff are really mindful of those people,” said Sarah Child, a senior studying recreational management. “If we notice that they’re nervous, then we’ll talk them through things and help them out.”

Child explained that the staff works to help each participant find a perfect place between being just enough of a challenge to make them uncomfortable, and yet not so much to be completely overwhelming.

“Taking them through that process step by step and being there is really cool to watch,” Child said.

Child once helped a girl who did not think she could make it farther than climbing up the first ladder. They spent a few minutes on the first platform and then they talked and watched the sunset until she felt ready to try an obstacle.

A poster hanging right by the entrance.
A poster hanging right by the entrance of the ropes course. Photo credit: Jake Hess

“She took one step,” Child said, smiling. “She ended up doing a few different obstacles.”

Jason Thornton, the ropes course manager and outdoor advisor, has seen and heard many stories like this.

“Every month I sent out a survey, and I asked for inspirational stories,” Thornton said. “I got a lot of stories about students who didn’t think they’d be able to get off the ground, but ended up jumping off the top and having fun.”

Every member of the staff strives to help participants realize they are capable of much more than they think.

“That’s what we’re all about — trying something new, challenging yourself — and I’ve seen people come out here and really overcome a lot.”

Information on the ropes course can be found on the website.

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